Because Fairy Lights Aren’t Just for Christmas . . . Lighting Ideas for the Shortest Day

I got an early Christmas present this morning when baby Skint slept till 8am – hallelujah – but when I opened the curtains it was still dark. It feels as if daylight lasts for about two hours in Glasgow at this time of year. Thankfully though the shortest day of the year falls tomorrow, and then we can start looking forward to the light again.

Meantime I’ve been trying to bring some light into my house, since there’s next to none outside. If I’m out of time to decorate or out of money for home improvements, I’ve always found lighting to work more magic than any other quick fix – and for next to no cash too. Chez Skint was a decor disaster when I moved in – navy blue paintwork, an electric blue corner bath and carpets so swirly they could cause seasickness. Too skint to do it all up in one go it was the magic of fairy lights and candles that got me through those first couple of years. Fairy lights are a friend in any room. They’re cheap (especially if you buy them in January) and they detract from mess, chipped paintwork and all manner of DIY nasties. 

 At this time of year fairy lights are everywhere, but Chez Skint they stay out all year round. If the house looks like a bombsite (a frequent occurrence), fairy lights mask the worst of it. Piled into fireplace, draped across the mantelpiece, tacked above the bed they add a bit of glimmer to everyday life. You can pick up a set for less than a fiver and to my mind they add more drama to a room than a designer sofa or wallpaper.

fairy lights on mantlepiece

My mantlepiece given the fairy light treatment (and it’s always a bonus when a pink cow sneaks into a photo)


 Keep Them Low

In general, unless they’re hunting for something at the back of a cupboard or putting the final touches to a masterpiece, skint girls steer clear of overhead lights. Harsh and unflattering, they’re the lighting equivalent of the playground bossy boots, poking their nose in where they’re just not wanted. Low lamps are much more my cup of tea. And though I’m a vintage lover to my bones, I find that second hand lamps are often weedy little things with bland shades and pastel bases. Luckily there are new lighting bargains to be had all over town and department stores are one of the best places to look at sale time. They often copy designers’ styles for a fraction of the price and discount heavily in the sales. BHS is, surprisingly, particularly good.

Make Your Own Runway

Ever fantasised about walking the Hollywood runway? Know it’s not going to happen anytime soon? Make your own! For years I lived with unvarnished stairs, splattered with paint – there were too many other DIY emergencies in the queue ahead of the stairs. So the only way I could detract from the eyesore was by lining each side of the stairs with tea light candles in glass holders. Tea lights also look good on the outside stairs leading to your house or flat, placed in candle holders designed for garden use. Nothing says get-the-party-started like candles on your doorstep to welcome guests as they arrive.

tealights on stairs

A DIY runway makes going to bed much more fun.


I’m a fan of lights both inside and out. Usually at Christmas I string lights across a big conifer tree outside the front of the house, but we chopped it down this summer after the break-in. We didn’t want to give another burglar someplace cosy to hide, so this year I’ve had to string the lights across the bench instead. Not something I’d thought of before, but I like the look. If the nights weren’t so chilly I’d quite like to just hang out here for a while.

How will you be bringing some brightness to winter’s darkest days? A glitter ball? A pair of sparkling reindeer antlers? Or something altogether more stylish? I’d love to know.  


About Skint in the City

Skint in the City provides stylish, practical tips and advice on how to live the high life on a shoestring budget.

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