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At Home This Christmas With Stina Hasan, The Hackney Gardener

Ever since we first interviewed and photographed Stina Hasan, otherwise known as The Hackney Gardener, we’ve been drawn to her and her sense of style – from within her wardrobe to her interiors and home, as well as outside in her garden. For Stina, “Christmas is about slowing down and taking time to choose things I really want to do,” which is a sentiment we can get on board with this year.

Earlier this month, we took the chance to visit her characterful home in East London to chat about gardening through the seasons, getting ready for festivities, Christmas decorations and how to dress for the party season.

Stina, remind our readers about your background and journey towards The Hackney Gardner...

I am from Sweden originally but I’ve lived in London for over 20 years. I came here to just have fun and enjoy the city and then I realised I wanted to be a fashion designer. I think I always knew that but I didn’t really think it was possible. I decided to stay and study fashion and then worked as a designer for a few years. I lived in a small house with a tiny garden which I started to nurture, and I fell in love with gardening. It was an amazing complement to working in fashion because that was so fast paced. Gardening is similar to fashion in the sense that we work with seasons and there’s a design element, but gardening is slower and you have to be patient. It was a good way to wind down and keep myself grounded. I then moved and had a bigger garden and I started sharing my journey, which became more and more important to me.

And what do you love most about gardening?

I just love how it makes me feel. It’s really uplifting. Living in the city and being inside on computer screens and phones can be draining. Doing something with your hands and being outside in nature whilst creating something beautiful can really make a difference.


“Doing something with your hands and being outside in nature whilst creating something beautiful can really make a difference.”
Today, we’ve come over to photograph you at your home in Hackney. How long have you lived here for? And what do you love most about the area?

We’ve lived here since 2013 and we absolutely love it. We’re not going anywhere fast. I love the energy and the diversity of Hackney. Around every corner there’s something new and exciting but it has this real, genuine feel at the same time. We’re not far from Victoria Park village, which is full of little endearing butchers and cafes, yet we also have Hackney Wick, which is an exhilarating spot. And of course, the Olympic Park, which is a London resource I think not enough people are aware of with lots of green pace. There’s a really great mix of things.

How does your garden and home change throughout the winter months?

The garden winds down and slows down and through autumn, it goes quite wild because I take a step back. I let things creep and wind their way along and there’s often some decay. I enjoy watching that in October and November as all the cobwebs come out and it takes on a Miss Havisham feel just in time for Halloween. The garden does actually tend to stay green well into December and then after Christmas it starts to change. I still go out there in winter because in January there are already jobs to do. Even when things are grey and dull, if you take a closer look you can feel the new season coming, which feels hopeful. You can see fresh shoots in your roses and so on. With my home, it’s just about upping the cosy levels and being Swedish. I love candles and it’s all about creating a feeling of warmth and light.


“Even when things are grey and dull, if you take a closer look you can feel the new season coming, which feels hopeful.”
What are your favourite winter blooms and plants?

In winter the garden is laid bare and you see the bones and the structural elements, which really come into their own. I don’t have many evergreen plants but my trees, herbs, rosemary and lavender all have a nice shape which you can cut back, bringing interest to a winter gardenscape.

Favourite gardens to visit?

Absolutely, I would say in London my favourite is Fenton House in Hampstead. We’re really spoiled with amazing places in this country. Charleston House in Sussex, Great Dixter and Sissinghurst too. They are well known but they really are special.

What does Christmas mean to you?

I realised I’m quite happy we’re not travelling this year. Christmas can be a bit stressful or we can feel like there’s a lot to do, yet for me it’s the opposite. It’s about slowing down and taking time to choose things you really want to do. You don’t have to do everything, you can just focus on what’s important to you. I’ll be slowing down and enjoying being with friends and family.


“Christmas can be a bit stressful or we can feel like there’s a lot to do, yet for me it’s the opposite. It’s about slowing down and taking time to choose things you really want to do.”
Tell us about your home at Christmas, do you go all out with a tree and decorations? And what themes do you lean towards?

I absolutely love decorating my house and I don’t hold back. We have high ceilings so it can take a large tree and I like to decorate every room in some way. I don’t have different themes, I wouldn’t do silver one year and pink another. I lean towards classic reds and greens. I grew up watching Home Alone and I think that festive feel influenced me a lot. I reuse the same decorations each year, even the ribbons. I love ribbons and bows, yet always use the same ones and just give them a good steam. Most of mine came from a hamper one year and I just kept it. There’s always ways of creating amazing looks without buying something new.

What decoration comes out every year without fail?
I have lots of favourites but it’s got to be a little tree topper, which is a random scruffy angel my son made me when he was at nursery. It was never intended to be a tree topper but we put it up there with a pin and now it’s got to be there every year. It’s not always the most beautiful, extravagant decorations that end up being favourites. It’s the things that carry memories. I have a lot of inherited decorations too, which is really lovely.


“It’s not always the most beautiful, extravagant decorations that end up being favourites. It’s the things that carry memories.”
When it comes to dressing your table, what do you focus on?

I like to forage for materials and what you find is kind of what you get. It’s amazing what you can come across, even if you live in the city. Anyone in this country will be close to a place where you can easily forage. You can use these materials for centrepieces but also just nestling between candles and glasses on your table. I opt for lots of green and then a few flowers for highlights. Berries and things like that can be really beautiful. I’ve collected a few tablecloths over the years for a festive look but my top tip is to get an underlayer for your tablecloth. That just really elevates it because you get that soft surface like you do in restaurants and it won’t bunch up. And then lots and lots of candles – always.

How do you want your table to make people feel at Christmas?

Good question. I want the table to be a treat to sit down at and feel quite indulgent. I don’t mean glitzy but as if someone has taken care to put that together. I want it to be joyful and cosy.

Tell us about your style…

It’s a bit of a mixture really. I love colour and I like prints but I’m quite specific with the ones I like. It’s mostly about how something makes me feel, so it could be a cosy jumper dress, like the one I was wearing earlier. Comfort plays a big part in my style, but also I lean towards those pieces that just make you feel good. I definitely love dresses and more romantic styles.


“Comfort plays a big part in my style, but also I lean towards those pieces that just make you feel good.”
And how do you dress when it comes to Christmas, are you more about comfort or partywear?

Again, even with partywear it’s about feeling comfortable. I love to put on something sparkly but even if I do that, I quite like to mix it back with some knitwear. I wore that diamante cami top we photographed today for dinner but with a grey cardigan, for example. On Christmas Day I definitely like to put on a nice dress though and I love knit dresses with knee high looks, it’s the perfect balance.

What will you be wearing the most this festive season?

A lot of knits. It’s that mix again though, I’ll be teaming knits with leather, whether that’s trousers or a statement patent skirt. That feels like a perfect Christmas outfit to me. It gives a slight edge too.

Fondest memories of the festive period?

Definitely those childhood Christmas memories. I think eight or nine is like the peak age when you enjoy Christmas the most. Obviously my son is eight this year and I can really say I can remember how I felt. Where I grew up, my parents made a lot of effort. They really knew how to add all those little touches that made it feel very special. And of course back home in Sweden we had snowy Christmases, so it was magical. They know how to do Christmas there.

What are you looking forward to the most this Christmas?

Just having lots of time together at home and nobody rushing or going anywhere. Also having enough nice food in the house to see us through a good stretch of time, so we can just eat and be lazy and cosy together.

Photography by Kasia Bobala
Words by Helena Stocks

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