Extending your home at Christmas

It’s late October and my wife announces that she’s invited a few of her family to ours for Christmas. As the colour drains from my face, she reveals that by ‘a few’ she in fact means the whole lot...

There’s five of us for starters. Add in the in-laws, my wife’s three siblings and their children and that’s a total of 21 for turkey and all the trimmings.

Not only is that going to require a super-sized bird and enough sprouts to knock a hole in the ozone layer, what’s been giving me sleepless nights since is where they will actually sit to eat the meal.

Our table seats eight. Add in garden furniture and as much emergency seating as we can muster and I calculate that we might just about manage to accommodate 16. But no more than that, the dining room just isn’t big enough.

Of course we could relegate the children to a separate room – but I always think that’s a terrible shame. After all, Christmas isn’t Christmas without a child or two begging you to open the crackers before the meal has even begun.

So what’s the solution? Either book a last minute holiday to the Bahamas - or get a bigger house.

While the latter might sound rather drastic, in fact that’s exactly what a growing number of hosts are doing. Not permanently bigger – just to cover the festive period.

Instead of shoehorning everyone in to unsuitable space they are ‘stretching’ their home by hiring in a temporary Christmas extension.

Offered by a number of marquee companies, these fully-lined, lit and heated rooms can be erected on to the side of your house, allowing an external door or French doors to open directly into them.

In this way, you can have enough space to seat as many people as you want in comfort.

Looking for a solution for my looming logistical problem I contacted Katherine Hudson, founder of The Arabian Tent Company. It offers a wide range of luxury marquees for weddings and events. In recent years it has seen growing demand from homeowners hosting large Christmas gatherings.

‘People seem to enjoy entertaining in their homes, but don’t always have quite enough space to do so, so extending the space in your house by creating another interior-designed room is a really good option,’ says Miss Hudson. ‘It has been a growing trend over the last few years, both for Christmas and also New Year’s Eve parties. For Christmas most people are looking for an extra dining room to cope with extra guests. We’ve had people who have had family coming from overseas and want to make the occasion really special.’

Of course, at this time of year, the key is making the room as cosy and permanent as possible. No-one wants to sit in a draughty, flapping tent in mid-December.

The tent I choose is from the company’s La Rouge range – boasting a sumptuous red velvet lining that covers every inch of the interior from floor to ceiling. It also comes with a chandelier suspended from the peak of the roof, uplighters and fairy lights. Heating is courtesy of a heavy-duty gas heater. The floor sits on our patio, but is insulated with a plastic lining on top of which are laid heavy duty rugs.

The structure is held down not just with heavy-duty guy ropes staked in to the ground, but is also anchored to giant water butts whose considerable weight successfully ensured it didn’t shift an inch even during this week’s stormy weather.

The tents come in a variety of sizes and prices, starting from £1,200 for the smallest one measuring 3m x 3m. This includes lining, flooring, lighting, delivery and installation.

I opt for the 4.5m by 4.5m tent and inside there is more than enough room for three trestle tables and chairs – also hired in – as well as festive decorations. Move the seating to one side, and the room could of course provide the ideal space for a pre-Christmas drinks party complete with spacious dance floor, if the mood takes you.

And, of course, the great thing is that it’s only temporary. After all, make it too comfortable and your problem might not be fitting in your relatives this Christmas – but getting them to leave.

I just wanted to pen a few words to say a huge ‘Thank you’ for all your help and tireless organisation ahead of our wedding day. The marquee was a real hit – all the guests commented on how beautiful it was and it’s originality made our day all the more special. I don’t underestimate how much work it all is, and your tireless patience with all my questions didnt go unnoticed. Please also pass on our thanks to the team who set it up and took it down as well. Many thanks, Bobby

Bobby ★★★★★