In need of some inspiration to get yourself started on your Christmas decorations? Now that we’re just a month away from Christmas, the shopping malls have lit up their festive lights and decor.

Christmas sales are in full swing as well. Before you head out shopping this weekend, take cues from how these 9 Singaporeans decorated their homes for Christmas in the recent years:

Seven colourful dwarfs alongside seven cabins with snow-capped roofs in a Woodlands neighbourhood are seeking their princess this Christmas created by resident Tan Koon Tat who live at Block 178 Woodlands Street 13. ST Photo

178 Woodlands Street 13

Mr Tan Koon Tat

Seven colourful dwarfs alongside seven cabins with snow-capped roofs in a Woodlands neighbourhood are seeking their princess this Christmas.

And their creator, Mr Tan Koon Tat, hopes that children can come dressed as princesses to complete the fairy tale.

A giant snowman, which lights up in the evening, along with six life-sized reindeer round off the elaborate festive scene in front of Block 178 Woodlands Street 13.

Christmas Decorations in Woodlands

It is the latest creation by the long-time Woodlands resident who has been putting up festive decorations in the neighbourhood for over 10 years during festive periods such as Deepavali, Hari Raya Aidilfitri and Chinese New Year. He pays for them out of his own pocket.

Mr Tan, a carpenter by trade, was putting the finishing touches to the dwarfs in his workshop in Sembawang when The Straits Times visited.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Mr Tan’s initial plan was to recreate the popular fairy tale Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs, along with a life-sized princess statue.

But after getting feedback from his neighbours, he decided to put his own spin on it and went with a rainbow-themed dwarfs’ village instead.

“I don’t want to get sued by Disney,” he joked in Mandarin. “But maybe children can wear their own princess outfits and pose with the dwarfs to take photos.”

Mr Tan said the elaborate set-up this year was significantly harder to make compared to last year’s “snow-capped” Christmas log cabin, as there are more pieces to put together. He started working on the project two months ago – longer than the two weeks he spent last year.

The rain over the last few weeks also hindered his progress.

2 Metre Snowman

For instance, he managed to set up the 2m-tall snowman, which has a mechanical head that turns. He had completed it a week ago but did not want the heavy rain to ruin his creation.

“The dwarfs will be the last pieces to be put up because they are a bit more fragile and I want them to look good on Christmas Day,” he said.

Mr Tan created the dwarfs from pieces from scrap wood, padded them with foam sheets and dressed them in colourful tops, boots and gloves.

Snow Machine for Christmas

As in previous years, he plans to switch on his snow machine on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. He typically puts up a sign with the exact date and time for neighbours to bring their children down to play in the “snow”, which is made of foam.

He has also bought around 200 Christmas headbands to give out to children under 12 years old in the neighbourhood. “Neighbours like the decorations and requested that I make it bigger and bigger each year, so I do,” he said with a smile.

Town Council Permission for Christmas Decoration

The Marsiling-Yew Tee Town Council grants him permission to do the set-ups.

Childcare teacher Lynn Ang, who lives in the same block, said she looks forward to seeing Mr Tan’s set-up each festive season.

“It’s fun to see what the uncle is up to and it also signifies a change of season. Christmas is usually the most elaborate and he has definitely ‘levelled up’ this year,” she said.

Mr Tan is not the only one spreading Christmas cheer to his neighbours.

A sled made out of a cardboard box and piping, along with a snowman and other ornaments greets residents at the eighth-storey lift landing of Block 722 Tampines Street 72.

Long-time resident Andy Lim Beng Huat, who runs an electrical works business, started planning for the Christmas set-up in early February, around Chinese New Year, reported The New Paper.

Mr Lim has already planned to re-purpose some of his Christmas decorations for the upcoming Chinese New Year next month.

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The centrepiece in Mr Mark Siow's spare room is a Christmas-themed retro television set. ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM
The centrepiece in Mr Mark Siow’s spare room is a Christmas-themed retro television set. ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Christmas Ornaments & Decorations

Mark Siow

Despite the lack of a snowy landscape or festive markets, the spirit of Christmas is still well and thriving in our tropical island-state. In Mr Mark Siow’s home, it is never too early to get started on decorating for Christmas.

Every November, the Christmas enthusiast stows away his regular home decorations and takes out his collection of Christmas ornaments.

Up go the snowmen – in various shapes and sizes – reindeer plushies, angel sculptures and snow globes filled with dreamy winter scenes.

Christmas decorations for living room

An entire display shelf in the living room is lined with a variety of Christmas figurines. Small Christmas decor items are also placed in his bedroom, spare room and on the kitchen table. He lives in a four-room flat in Marine Parade with his mother.

The assistant manager in a bank says he loves decorating. “It’s also the festive season and I want to do something special to celebrate it.”

He spends at least a day taking out the ornaments – they are bubble-wrapped and packed neatly in boxes when the season is over – and spends the next few days moving them around to get the look he wants.

Collected over 100 Christmas decorations

He estimates that he has collected about 100 decoration pieces over the past decade, when he first started doing up his home for Christmas. He previously lived in a three-room flat in the same area and moved in 2013.

The bachelor says: “Every year, I will add one or two new ornaments and replace old ones that are worn out. But most items are still in good condition since I bought them because they are of good quality and well-kept.”

Mr Siow, who also decorates his home for Chinese New Year, Halloween, Deepavali as well as for his niece and nephews’ birthday parties, looks for Christmas ornaments with unusual designs and colours.

Hand carried Christmas globe home

Sometimes, he picks up pieces from Christmas markets overseas and has snagged good buys at a post-Christmas ornament sale in Bangkok. He even hand-carried from Spain a 5kg musical snow globe that lights up. He says: “I saw it in a store and knew I just had to have it. It’s so beautiful and magical. “

His biggest piece is a life-sized, retro television set that lights up and displays a scene of a village covered in snow, with a train running through. It cost him about $1,000 and is the centrepiece in his spare room.

Ironically, he does not have a Christmas tree in his home as he says he does not have the space.

Instead, a small “naked tree” that has only branches and LED lights – decorated with some baubles – sits on the television console. Two brass trees – one is 0.8m tall and the other 1m – that were previously used in a window display for a clothing store, stand outside his home.

While the decorating takes a lot of effort, Mr Siow says: “Seeing the impressed looks of my family members makes it worthwhile.”

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Mr Steve Tai added a miniature train set with tracks to his Christmas village this year.ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA
Mr Steve Tai added a miniature train set with tracks to his Christmas village. ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

Christmas Train Set

Steve Tai

Every year since 2012, Mr Steve Tai has been building up his miniature Christmas village, which he sets up during the festive season.

From just three houses and a handful of figurines, the village – which sits on a blanket of cotton-wool snow and is lit with twinkling lights – boasts seven houses and 25 figurines.

This year, he also rolled out a new miniature train set with tracks.

Mini Christmas village decoration

He got the idea for a Christmas village when in 2012, a friend living in the United States posted photos of his family’s decor on Facebook.

“I was inspired. At that time, my youngest daughter was living in the US, so I got her to buy back some miniature houses to start our own Christmas village,” says Mr Tai, who is vice-president of new business at paints and coatings company Nipsea.

The father of three daughters, adds: “This year, we also added street lights, a customised village flag and snowmen that my second daughter and I made together.”

Building a Christmas train track

Setting up the village is a laborious task that typically takes three weekends. Mr Tai, a trained engineer, starts by designing the topography and lighting.

He says: “I first build the multi-tiered foundation with boxes before laying down ground lights and ‘snow’ using sheets of cotton wool. Having a multi-tiered foundation gives the village more dynamism and a more interesting look. It also allows each house to be better showcased.”

The village scene, which measures 1.2m by 2.7m, is placed beside their Christmas tree and the whole set-up sits next to the staircase on the ground floor of their three-storey terrace house.

Elaborate ribbons also adorn the bannisters – an idea Mr Tai picked up from watching YouTube videos.

Live Christmas tree decoration

When it came to decorating the tree, he says he relied on tips he picked up from the lead stylist at Tangs, from whom he has been buying Christmas decorations for years. “It’s all about layering – using multiple layers of lights and different textures on the tree in various depths to achieve the same richness.

He adds: “It’s also important to layer correctly. We use the matte-textured ornaments as the innermost layer, followed by shiny baubles that reflect light near the light sources.

“Larger ornaments are placed on the outermost layer and we top off the tree with ribbons and sequinned leaves that mimic snow-laden branches and foliage.”

Mr Tai says he spent about $1,500 on the tree and village, which have led to many delighted guests taking photos and asking questions about his efforts.

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Christmas decorations line the outside of Mr and Mrs Richard Lim's two-storey semi-detached house in Seletar Hills Estate. PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Christmas decorations line the outside of Mr and Mrs Richard Lim’s two-storey semi-detached house in Seletar Hills Estate. PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Christmas Snowman Decorations

Seletar Hills Estate

Anyone passing by the Lims’ home in Seletar Hills Estate during the festive season would probably stop in their tracks. After all, Mrs Audrey Lim, and her husband, Mr Richard Lim, have created a Christmas wonderland outside their two-storey semi-detached house.

There is Frosty the Snowman, which the couple made from styrofoam and wireand adorned with lights. A plastic ornament of Santa and a reindeer hangs from a tree.

An American-style mailbox post dressed in candy stripes – with a wreath embellished with glowing bulbs hanging on it – stands near the driveway entrance. A large blue-light ornament in the shape of a Christmas tree hangs above the entrance to the house.

Been decorating the house for 30 years

Mrs Lim, a piano teacher, says: “We’ve been dressing the house for Christmas for more than 30 years.”

She and her husband bought the house in 1991, but spent intermittent periods in the United States because of Mr Lim’s job as a pilot. They settled back home for good in 2010. Their younger daughter lives with them, while their elder daughter lives in Paris.

Christmas parties at Victoria Concert Hall

As a child, Mrs Lim says she used to attend Christmas parties at Victoria Concert Hall, which sparked her love for the holiday. “I’ve always liked the warm, fuzzy feeling of Christmas.”

During their time in the US, she noticed that “decorating the outside of the house was a big thing”. “One neighbour had an entire moving train – big enough for children to fit in -around his garden. It took him about three weeks to put up his decorations,” she recalls.

As a member of the Seletar Hills Estate Residents’ Association, she wants to bring that spirit to Singapore by starting a competition for the best-dressed house. In the past three years, about 10 houses on average participate each year.

“Some people may be reluctant to take part as outdoor lighting is harder to find than standard lights,” she says.

She adds that she does not take part as she is one of the judges and she has had “a head start”.

Still, she is heartened by the compliments from passers-by, who stop to take pictures or ask questions.

She is already thinking of what to do next Christmas. “We were thinking we could do candy-cane wire sculptures such as the ones we just saw at the Botanic Gardens.”

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At the Christmas parties thrown by Mrs Sharene Chen-Johandyputra, the table settings look like they come straight out of a Martha Stewart home decor book. Decorated with eucalyptus coin leaves, Kenyan roses, spray roses, pine cones and a sprinkling of Christmas firs, her dinner table is a picture of rustic elegance.
Table setting at a Christmas party thrown by Mrs Sharene Chen-Johandyputra.

Christmas Parties

Mrs Sharene Chen-Johandyputra

At the Christmas parties thrown by Mrs Sharene Chen-Johandyputra, the table settings look like they come straight out of a Martha Stewart home decor book.

Decorated with eucalyptus coin leaves, Kenyan roses, spray roses, pine cones and a sprinkling of Christmas firs, her dinner table is a picture of rustic elegance.

Chen-Johandyputra and her husband, who both work in the financial sector, has a daughter and a love of decorating. “Even in my teenage years, I’ve always liked making things pretty,” says the mother of a two-year-old girl.

She also runs a floral design and gifting company, Pastel Hues Design. She describes her signature style as “soft, dreamy and romantic”.

The festive season gives her the chance to organise dinner parties, where she combines her passion for decor with her love of hosting. She has organised two dinners this month and will have a more casual gathering tonight.

“If there’s an opportunity to host, I’ll do it. I love having flowers, good food and friends around,” she says.

Christmas table setting for $100

Even though it takes her only 45 minutes to set up, she says her guests often lament that the table is “too pretty to even touch”. Her table settings, which include flowers, napkins and tablecloths, cost between $100 and $120.

She cites Style Me Pretty: Living, an American lifestyle blog, as inspiration for her decor in general. To achieve the dreamy look, her go-to flowers include garden roses and peonies. “You need much more flowers than foliage for this look,” she says.

So, what are her decorating tips?

“Have a colour palette and theme in mind. It helps you to stay focused and consistent with the design you’re trying to build,” she advises. For example, her Christmas tablescape was designed with the theme of nature and rusticity in mind, so she used more foliage as well as red, green, white and brown colours.

She adds that fresh flowers can “add warmth and a touch of magic to the overall look”. Lastly, lighting is important. “Add some sparkle by using candles or fairy lights,” she says.

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White Nordic Christmas

Natasha Liok-Quek & Family

Dreaming of a White Christmas is one thing, but creating your own is another matter altogether. For her Christmas theme this year, Natasha Liok-Quek drained much of the colour from her home and turned it, well, a whiter shade of pale instead – she calls it a White Nordic Christmas.

As someone who celebrates the holiday season with family and friends in a big way, themed decorations are de rigueur in her household (last year the colour scheme was antique gold).

She did it when she was growing up and she’s doing it now that she’s married with three young children.

This will be a family Christmas celebration in her multi-generation home where the in-laws have self-contained living quarters – and their own Christmas tree.

Nordic Christmas Living Room

Over in her living room, the White Nordic theme extends beyond the tree decorated with white-feathered birds, white ornaments, delicate glass orbs and mini-chandeliers.

Still, Ms Liok-Quek describes her decorating style as “eclectic”.

For instance, there’s a floor-standing Chinese vase in a corner near the dining table but she improvised by wrapping it in cream-coloured linen layered with off-white tulle. The vase is filled with white-painted twigs hung with tiny, glittery ornaments.

Meanwhile, the dining table is decorated with silver-and-white glass objects such as angels and bird-shaped candle holders.

“I tried to tone it down to blend in with the overall interior aesthetic, which is all about form,” says Ms Liok-Quek of her home, which was designed by husband Jonathan Quek and father-in-law.

Santa Christmas Bear

No matter what the theme is, one item on permanent display during the season is a stuffed toy bought by her husband – a battery-operated bear that wears a Santa suit, has moving parts and recites (complete with background music) the classic poem, ‘Twas the night before Christmas.

Read Also: How to Decorate a Christmas Tree – Step by Step Beginner’s Guide

Mini Nativity Scene

Another favourite item is a set of painted miniature figurines of a nativity scene – a gift from her mother-in-law.

“When I was growing up, my parents always threw Christmas parties,” says Ms Liok-Quek. “My dad loves singing and dancing so there was a lot of music and performances in the house – it’s important to introduce the classics to our kids.”

She adds, “Now, we carry on the tradition – last year we did a re-enactment of baby Jesus in a manger.”

The grand piano in the living room comes into play during multiple dinners over the Christmas period, when various sets of relatives join in the festivities.

“We’ll make cookies and the kids will help to decorate the packaging with silver bells and frosted pine cones,” she says.

Even the best-laid plans can go awry, of course – like last year when the tree was placed poolside on the outdoor deck and toppled (twice) by heavy wind and rain. “It was a big mistake, “says Ms Liok-Quek. “Try to avoid using breakable ornaments if your tree is outdoors – otherwise it will be very painful.”

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Traditional Christmas Decorations

Richard & Ginny Wiluan

When it comes to Christmas, Richard and Ginny Wiluan are purists who believe it should always be spent at home in Singapore. “If we do travel, it’s on the 26th, after Christmas,” says Ms Wiluan. But for Christmas, it’s always time with the family on both sides.”

Christmas Eve is spent with her immediate family. On the day itself, they’re off to his parents’ home, where his mother pulls out all the stops for a traditional Christmas spread.

“There are roasts and hams, Christmas trifle and mince pies. This year, my husband’s siblings will come back with their families from the US and UK, so it’ll be a big reunion,” she says.

The Wiluans are hosting a number of dinner parties in December, where the hostess with the mostest is in charge of the “front of house”, while Mr Wiluan helms the kitchen.

Read Also: 5 Christmas Dinner Table Decor Ideas – Simple beginner’s version

Homecooked Christmas Dinner

The executive director of energy services provider KS Distribution and director of Citramas Foundation loves to cook, says his wife. So, “it’ll be a full-service dinner, as he does the plating and all – not buffet style.”

The menu is usually Western but with a Japanese or French twist, inspired by the year he spent in each country when he was growing up.

For their Christmas decor, Mrs Wiluan relies on an extensive collection of baubles and ornaments she’s collected over the years and continues to add on to.

She tweaks the theme each year, and this time she’s gone with classic red and gold, with thick red ribbons and poinsettia contrasted with gold stars and glistening balls.

Real live Christmas Tree

Wreaths made from noble fir are plentiful around the house, and candles too, so it does look like a Christmas grotto at night, she quips.

The children also have a say – sons Kristian, and Ryan, 5, and daughter Isabel, picked out the teddy bear and a reindeer that go underneath the Christmas tree.

“Because our children are so young, the decor is quite child-centric, so we have a few toys scattered around,” she adds.

Read More: Where to Buy Real Christmas Trees in Singapore?

“Closer to Christmas, the children and I will also bake hundreds of white chocolate chip cookies to give out to friends, colleagues, and family.”

Like their father, they enjoy being in the kitchen. Mrs Wiluan is thankful that the children do enjoy the giving side of Christmas more than just waiting in anticipation of their presents. “So for about a week or so this month, the house is turned into Santa’s workshop while we bake and bake, and then start delivering the jars of cookies.”

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Church and Lunch

Elaine Kim & Family

Christmas may be a time of merry making and parties but for Elaine Kim, it marks the day when Jesus was born. “That’s still the most important reason why we celebrate Christmas, isn’t it?” Dr Kim asks.

The mother of three is a palliative care doctor, and an entrepreneur outside of medical work. She is a co-founder of CRIB, a social enterprise and the founder of Milk and Honey, an event design company.

On Christmas Day, together with her venture capitalist husband, John Kim, and her immediate family, they will be attending a church service. After that, it will be a Christmas lunch at the couple’s home on Sentosa, a meal which Dr Kim cooks herself.

Homecooked Christmas Lunch

On the menu will be roast prime rib or lamb, with pasta, soup and pudding. She may make her specialty, a chocolate tart. “There will be turkey too, but usually we order that,” she says.

In between her work, caring for her kids, including having her third boy, Dr Kim has found time to do up the home, starting with a Christmas wreath on the main door. She is a stickler for tradition, going with colour themes such as silver and gold, or red and green which was used last year.

“My father and eldest son, Kyan, went shopping together for a live fir tree recently,” she says. The tree in the living room is adorned with silver ornaments, a mix of sequinned bauble and icicles, which she has been collecting over the years.

Read Also: 9 Things To Check Before You Buy Your Live Christmas Tree

Decorating Christmas Tree

Dressing up the tree is a family affair, done over one weekend morning. “Kyan and Luke, the two older boys will hang ornaments on the lower branches. Sometimes I readjust those baubles later,” she says with a laugh.

As she is hosting several parties for friends in the lead-up to Christmas, her 12-seater dining table has already been done up. On the table is a mix of white floral displays and warm gold ornaments.

Dr Kim is still in the midst of getting presents, “usually for the kids it will be toys that they ask for, but we tell them to wait till Christmas.”

Her parents-in-law usually fly in for Christmas, but this year, they will be coming later since they were in town recently for baby Nathanael’s birth.

Dr Kim’s fondest Christmas was three years ago, when she was heavily pregnant with Luke. Her parents-in-law “had flown in from Korea, her sister-in-law and husband from the United States and her cousins from England. “We had the entire family together, which made that Christmas very special,” she says.

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Christmas Ski Trip

Cheng Hsin Yao

What do smoke alarms, Christmas and the Cheng family have in common? Plenty, it seems.

For Cheng Hsin Yao, director of Omakase Burger and his family, Christmas is usually spent at a home away from home. “Together with my parents, wife, my brother and his family, we usually spend about two weeks at a ski resort, such as in the United States, Canada or Japan.

On Christmas Eve, they will dine at the resort restaurant. “But on Christmas Day, we insist on cooking our dinner in the lodge,” says Mr Cheng.

“If we are in the US, without fail, my brother would always order T-bone steaks from his favourite butcher in New York, and deliver them to wherever we are,” he says.

Read More: 6 Best Artificial Christmas Trees in Singapore

“These steaks are so thick, that when my mum cooks them, inevitably, the entire lodge would be filled with smoke, even setting off the smoke alarm,” he says.

“One time it got so bad, that security came running over to see if our lodge really was on fire,” he quips. “We now have a strategy – to tape up the smoke alarm and make everyone stand by the windows, ready to fling them open to let the smoke out.”

Family Christmas Reunion

For Mr Cheng, whose elder brother lives in Hong Kong, Christmas is the time everyone gets together. The men bond over skiing and snowboarding, while the women enjoy their hot chocolate. “But we all love that this is the only time we get to sit by the fireplace, the ones that come with logs and not the electric ones,” he says.

Since Christmas also means gift giving, the family make it a point to bring their gifts along with them on these trips.

“We even bring wrapping paper along, wrap the presents in secret and place them under a tree,” says Mr Cheng. His brother, who is in charge of organising the Christmas getaways, arranges with the resort to have a tree done up in the lodge.

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Part of this article first appeared on The Business Times, The Straits Times.