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Once Upon a Time at Chatsworth.

Back at Chatsworth again...I just can't help it when it is on my doorstep! Spoiler alert - if you are planning a visit this Christmas to see the decorations this post has photos, not of everything, just a few of my favourites but if you would rather a surprise then stop reading now and go, visit and enjoy!

This years theme is "Once Upon a Time" so I expected lots of traditional fairy tales to feature, some did, but there were a few more unusual choices! What was really interesting, something that I don't remember being included before, some of the displays featured relevant items from the Chatsworth collection along side the trees and scenes.

Let's go with some of the traditional first - Cinderella, the Elves and the Shoemaker, Arabian Nights and the Princess and the Pea.

The Chapel room has to be one of my favourites at Chatsworth, especially at Christmas (every year I still scratch my head at how they manage to get such a huge tree in there) and this year it also housed Cinderella's magical pumpkin carriage.

The Elves and the Shoemaker was a great display. It had everything - beautifully decorated trees, a little projected animation of silhouetted elves making shoes and even a work bench. It also included several pairs of beautiful historical shoes.

I felt Arabian Nights was an interesting choice and apart from Aladdin, I don't really know any of the other stories but luckily this is what they went with, magic carpet and all. Sadly, it meant that this year the dining room didn't have its lovely table set for dinner and it made me wonder that in such a big room, whether they could have still incorporated both? The accompanying trees had a traditional feel with gold, blue and red baubles, with the addition of some grand beaded tassels, an interesting and really effective idea - time for a trip to the haberdashery!

On to the Princess and the Pea which included my favourite tree! I am a big fan of the traditional at Christmas but if you saw my last blog which featured homemade lobster decorations for my tree, you might realise that I like something a little weird too and this tree was full of PEA PODS! (and thankfully for my own tree, so was the gift shop).

On a side note, I'm going to mention the Beatrix Potter section. It certainly was very nice (although difficult to photograph) with hand painted images of the characters including Mrs Tiggywinkle and of course Peter Rabbit but it did make me think that they could have done a whole theme using these stories which have so much magical content and lovable characters, perhaps they will in future, wouldn't that be great?!

Now the less traditional - The Wizard of Oz, James and the Giant Peach and Charlotte's Web.

The Grand Hall was standing in for Oz, but unfortunately there was no sign of the tin man, lion, scarecrow or a yellow brick did have beautiful trees full of red slippers which looked lovely with the painted walls and ceilings behind.

James and the Giant Peach was a bit of a show stopping display. It was a clever use of the double height stairwell meaning you saw it from two floors allowing for different views. I loved seeing the beautiful botanical peach illustrations in an antique book from the house library next to it.

In the home, hallways can be a tricky one decoration wise. They are usually fairly small spaces and most importantly, tend to be the walkways through a home, so need to not be full of trip hazards and ornaments to get tangled in! If you want to decorate, keep everything out the way and make use of the ceiling. Charlotte's web was a lovely use of space with a simple but very beautiful design of fairy lights to look like dew covered spider webs draped over the sculptures.

And I'm going to end with this guy who actually greets you when you arrive - a giant snoozy dragon, who thankfully looked more friendly than scary and fiery like in the fairy tales.

The decorations at Chatsworth are always such a lovely way to start feeling festive and maybe get a few ideas for your own house, plus if you manage to get a crisp day, there is nothing better than having a walk around the garden after raiding the gift shop.

I so hope the use of artefacts becomes a much bigger part of future displays. Instead of just being the backdrop, the history of the house became part of the displays and I'm sure there are a lot of goodies to be seen. After such a wonderful "House Style" fashion exhibition last year, it seems a shame they couldn't have found a lovely princess style dress for Cinders this year!

R x


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