Merry marbling: a guide to dopamine dressing for your home

Just one look at the colourful aesthetic of stylist, author and presenter Zeena Shah will have you reaching for your brightest, boldest outfits. The award-winning Instagrammer’s world is one of colour-forward fashion and brilliantly curated maximalist interiors. So it should come as no surprise that Shah has her dress picked for Christmas Day and a vibrant plan to bring max festive cheer into her home.

“After the last two Christmases, this year is going to be bigger and better than ever,” exclaims Shah. “I’ve gone all out with handcrafted marbled decorations in my favourite joy-bringing colour palettes. As a maximalist, more is more, and everything in our little flat is getting a sprinkle of festive sparkle, and even more pink than ever.”

The former textile designer merges colour, craft, vintage and new for a unique aesthetic, getting creative in the one-bedroom flat she rents with her husband, paper artist Zack Mclaughlin. Limited by the space in the art deco building in Hackney, east London, the focus of Shah’s lifestyle and interiors Instagrams (@heartzeena and @heartzeenahome respectively) is how to bring joy to your home using furniture and decor, working with the space you have.

Spending so much time within these four walls during the first lockdown of 2020 led Shah to fall back in love with the process of marbling, something she hadn’t tapped into since her days at Chelsea College of Arts. A book concept was formed in 2021 and in September 2022 she celebrated the launch of Marbling: Projects, Design Ideas and Techniques for a More Colourful Life.

“I’m addicted to marbling vintage glassware and ceramics – transforming them with swirls and veins of colour. Empty bottles and jam jars double up as vases and trinket holders, adding to my tablescapes beautifully,” she says. “It’s such an effective technique as you can bring colour and pattern to preloved items, giving items bound for the bin a new lease of life.

“The immediacy means there’s no time to overthink it,” she adds. “It’s perfect for those who believe making things and craft isn’t for them.” For anyone tempted to have a go, eBay stocks all the crafting kit you need, from marbling inks and trays to blank canvas baubles and preloved pieces ready to upcycle.

Marbling will of course be king this Christmas. At the dinner table, Shah’s love for the technique and tablescaping collides in a colourful homeware explosion – marbled place settings, candles, crackers, party hats, baubles, vintage vases and candlestick holders from eBay. Her top tip for finding treasures? “I have so many eBay alerts on, they’re genius for bagging something you’ve been hunting for.”

The palette is punchy. “As much as I love the classic red and green scheme, I think you can have a bit more fun at Christmas time. Pink and red work beautifully together and still feel incredibly sophisticated. I love jewel tones and metallics at this time of year too.”

The Christmas tree is no exception to Shah’s “more is more” rule, opting for a towering faux pink number. Decked out in bows and marbled baubles – and topped with a paper star, handmade by Mclaughlin – it’s a nod to the Barbiecore trend that has been gracing catwalks this season. “I bring out the same decorations every year,” Shah says, “but add to my collection with a new bauble here and there. I’m curating a versatile collection of festive treasures that will be used now and for Christmases to come.”

For those working with a similarly small space, or simply ditching the tree in an effort to be more sustainable, a marbled paper wreath and ornaments or decorations hung from the ceiling will do the trick. “I often hang items from our picture rails,” Shah says. “You could add a festive piece of wall art, for example, or go for some budget-friendly paper chains.”

The sleeves of Christmas records add festive interest to the space – with the added entertainment factor of the actual records. Easily and cheaply picked up on eBay, they also make great party favours – especially paired with Shah’s signature marbled gift wrap to add even more of a personal touch to presents.

“I’ve also been saving up envelopes, paper and card to make Christmas cards and crackers,” she says. “I do it every year so it’s a bit of a tradition and makes for the nicest day of mindful making. I’m also planning on sewing some marbled fabric patches together to make cushions and scrunchies as gifts.”

Shah has long championed “dopamine dressing” in fashion, and bringing colour to her home stimulates the same hit of happiness each time she walks through the door, particularly during the festive period.

“There’s something so lovely about handcrafting one-of-a-kind decorations for your home using simple materials,” she says. “And there’s nothing nicer than saying: ‘I made them,’ when your pals come round.”

Zeena’s top tips for buying on eBay

Be patient
Patience and persistence pay off when you’re on the lookout for that special item.

Be savvy with your bidding
Place your highest bid at the last moment possible so you don’t give rival bidders a chance to have second thoughts and outbid you.

Zeena’s five-step guide to marbling your own Christmas baubles

You will need:

What to do:

1 Make sure to open a window as marbling inks have a pungent smell, and grab some gloves to avoid marbling your hands.

2 Slowly pour or drop the inks on to the water to create a pattern. Use a lolly stick to swirl, if you like. Start with two or three colours and work quickly as the ink can dry rapidly.

3 Grab a bauble and gently submerge it in the water up to its neck.

4 Wait a second or two then lift out carefully. As you do, the ink will coat the bauble, creating the marbled effect. You may need a few tries to nail the technique – turn the bauble slightly as you lift to get the bottom coated. Hold for a few seconds while the ink sets, then leave on greaseproof paper to dry. Add a clip and hanging ribbon.

5 Voila! You’ll be marbling everything in sight.

Get Zeena’s look

Master the skill of marbling or mimic the style with high-colour hits from eBay. And if these are gone, simply search for similar items

The tree
A 6ft Barbiecore beauty that’ll bring you joy for Christmases to come, this faux tree is just £37.96 from gproductsfu.

The decorations
Pastel paper pompoms to pretty up your yuletide (and fold away ’til next year). £8.99 for 10 from Brightsun Choice.

The tabletop
Not feeling so crafty? Get a piece of premade marbling with the aptly named disco inferno candle, £13.50 from Brown and Ginger.

Shop Home on eBay to find all the inspiration you need to turn your Christmas into a festival of colour and happiness