Caroline Sieber’s style is legendary. Not only is the Austrian expat one of London’s most sought after fashion stylists, she’s also a brand ambassador for Chanel. Turns out her flawless taste isn’t isolated to fashion. Caroline’s house in Notting Hill is as immaculate as her wardrobe. It’s no wonder considering that her youth was spent between Vienna’s stunning Palais Schwarzenberg and a house once purchased by Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph. Here we talk about decorating, entertaining, and nostalgia for Austria.
Your house in London is bursting with color and pattern. How did your Austrian upbringing influence your style at home?
Our houses in Austria are very formal and my mother favored a neutral, elegant palette when she decorated them. For my first home with my husband I wanted something welcoming and fun. Using lots of colour felt like a natural reaction and I embraced it.
I love how your dining room doubles as the library—all those books must make for great dinner party conversation. Do you entertain a lot?
We entertain and it is mostly informal. A library is cozy, it creates an instant atmosphere and I have always enjoyed spending time in one. Growing up in Vienna I would sit in the splendid baroque Austrian National Library to study for school exams. My husband and I read a lot—I am particularly interested in gardens, interiors, and inspiring biographies. I am curious about the books in people’s libraries, it is often telling. Even blindfolded I could locate every book in our library and have been challenged to do so.
At your wedding reception at the Palais Pallavicini in Vienna, there was a heart-shaped gingerbread cookie decorated in traditional Austrian style with “Caroline & Fritz” written in icing. It was such a sweet personal touch. How do you like to personalize a dinner party?
The holiday is an excuse for a small present and thoughtful effort. In the past I have personalized Herend Porcelain on special occasions to send our guests home with. A well thought out guest list is crucial as is the placement. We are lucky to have friends from different backgrounds and age groups and I enjoy connecting people.
One of my favorite holiday traditions from Vienna is serving stollen for desert. Do you import any Austrian Christmas traditions during the holidays in London?
Many! The most important one is the food, which I order from Demel in Vienna at the beginning of the season. We get everything that is sweet from there... the chocolate, gingerbread, cakes, and stollen. It is also the place to find unexpected presents for our friends.
We celebrate Advent, which could be described as a countdown to Christmas. For the four Sundays leading up to Christmas Day we have biscuits, Christmas stollen, and tea around a wreath with four candles. A new one is lit every Sunday until all four are burning at once. We only ever use real candles on our Christmas tree and celebrate the Christkind (our version of Santa Claus) on the eve of the 24th.
When it comes to decorating for the holidays, what’s your approach?
Traditional and Austrian. We decorate with the evergreens pine and fir all over the house, and I love to use deep red velvet bows. Of course there is mistletoe above the door and we have wreaths on walls, fireplaces, and doors. Often I add cinnamon, which accentuates the deep scent of the pine. It is also my favorite time of year because it’s when our daughter Electra was born.
My latest candle, Salzburg Pine, takes me back to winters in Austria. What’s your favorite thing about an Austrian winter?
The snow! We don’t see it often enough in England. The festive atmosphere in alpine Austria is enchanting. There are Christmas markets with carol singers, mulled wine, roasted chestnuts, handmade wooden toys, and decorations; the most romantic one is in Salzburg, with picturesque stalls that take over the square in front of the Cathedral.
As a working mother, I always like to know how other women do it. You’re a highly sought after fashion stylist, a mother, and a wife. What’s the key to making it all work?
I am a perfectionist and try to do my best. I don’t like to compromise standards, which made me learn how essential it is to prioritize. It helps to have people that we can depend on for a well-run house; it would be impossible without a good team.