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Potter-Mad Mum Magics £70 Charity Buys Into Slytherin Winter Wonderland

November 11, 2020, 12:00 PM
  • Rachel Wood, 44, from Luton, uses her skills as a trained special effects make-up artist to work her magic on her themed living room makeovers
  • Resourceful mum collects bargains at charity shops and on ebay throughout the year and puts her own stamp on them
  • This year’s Slytherin inspired setting cost under £70, and she says the creative challenge takes her away from the “stress and drama” of everyday life

Christmas is a magical time of year, and the sentiment couldn't be more apt for this creative Harry Potter fan who transforms her living room into a themed winter wonderland each year – all with the help of some bargain charity shop and ebay finds.

“I have always loved Christmas – the lead-up, the music, the films and simply everything about it,” says Rachel Wood, 44, from Luton, who works as an admission host and is mum to two grown-up children. “After my husband walked out many years ago, I have always tried to make Christmas extra special for my two children.”

It's a tradition she holds dear to her heart to this day, even though her children – Taylor, 21 and Chaise, 17 – are now grown-up.

“A few years ago I was struggling financially, as it was difficult to find a job that would work around caring for my kids, especially my son who has Asperger’s, dyspraxia and ADD (Attention Deficiency Disorder). I needed a full-time job, but I also ideally wanted a role in an environment that I’d be happy in,” she told money-saving community LatestDeals.co.uk.

“When my kids were younger, I studied to be a special effects make-up artist, and it was my goal to pursue this further. My kids and I have always been Harry Potter fans, and after visiting the Warner Bros. Studios Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter tour in Watford two years ago, I thought I’d take a chance and hand in my CV.”

To her delight, Rachel was called for an interview, which she says was “more like an audition” and was offered the job of admission host. “I was so happy,” she remembers.

Her magical new job gave her the idea to give her Christmas décor a Harry Potter theme from that moment on.

“First, I did a Gryffindor theme. Next, I went for a Yule Ball theme,” she says. “I discovered that I was in Slytherin House via the Pottermore app, so this year I’ve opted for a Slytherin look and feel, which has been inspired by watching the films and seeing the authentic sets at work.”

As fellow Potterheads will know, Slytherin values ambition, cunning, leadership, and resourcefulness – qualities Rachel has in spades.

“I always source the decorations from charity shops or search for bargains on ebay,” she says. “This year, I have probably spent between £30 and £70.”

“I always put my own interpretation on the theme,” says Rachel. “I start with the walls, which are decorated in shades of grey and silver. I then turn my attention to the small furnishings, such as cushion covers.

“I particularly love my drinks trolley, with its spinning orbs that look like something that Dumbledore would have in his study. I found it at a local, second-hand emporium two years ago for £30. It started off as gold and I decorated it with pre-loved potion style bottles, which I added lights and Harry Potter labels to. Over the past two years, I’ve sprayed it silver.

“My favourite creation, however, is the chest of drawers that I bought from a charity shop for £20 and upcycled into a dog bed and TV unit. I removed the top two drawers, sanded it down, and then primed and painted it with white furniture paint. I used sticky-back plastic Fablon vinyl on the sides and the top and then wallpapered the back panel with some leftover paper from the rolls I used for my living room. I put some cushions along the bottom and then added the green and white blanket. Lastly, I mounted two pictures in silver frames on the back panel. My pups Stanley and Violet seem to approve.”

Once the bigger jobs have been ticked off the list, decorating the tree is the final flourish.

“I look through ornaments and decorations I’ve collected from previous years in the loft and pick out any that I think I can adapt to fit in with the theme,” she says. “This year, for instance, I added green feathers, Slytherin stickers and gems to a selection of baubles.”

Rachel usually decides on the theme at the beginning of the year so she has lots of time to collect things that she thinks will work.

“I will use the majority of the items I collect the next year, too, by painting them or altering them in some way,” she says. “My family and friends are always eager to see what I'm going to do next.”

Her annual festive Harry Potter budget decorating challenge brings Rachel pure joy.

“It makes me really happy and takes me away from all the everyday stress and drama of life,” she says. “There is nothing I like more than turning on all the twinkling lights, lighting the candles, and relaxing in the room. I do put it all up early to make the most out of all the effort that goes into it. I definitely want to enjoy it for more than a few weeks.”

Tom Church, Co-Founder of LatestDeals.co.uk said, “People are keen to get their Christmas decorations up early this year and it’s easy to understand why. Being surrounded by the magic of Christmas brings a smile to the face of even the Grinchiest characters.

“Choosing a theme is so much fun. And if you plan in advance, it gives you plenty of time to collect and adapt decorations to your liking.

“Plus, if you set yourself the challenge of sourcing pre-loved items and upcycling them, you could save a nice chunk of your Christmas budget, compared to buying new.

“Of course, many charity shops in England will be closed during lockdown so you may have to wait a bit. But some charity shops, such as Oxfam, have online departments offering delivery.”

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