Last year when we were asked by Traditional Home magazine to decorate our client’s house for a feature in this months’s issue (Nov/Dec 2015), I had a good opportunity to ponder my approach to setting the stage for Christmas. More than a few loved ones have told me that I need to read one of those books about turning off the Christmas machine, but in the month of December I have too many presents to wrap to read anything at all except my online order confirmations. I am always racing out for one more stocking stuffer, adding one more gift to balance out the children, and baking for one more friend or a teacher.
Amid my determination to over-do, I have found one thing about Christmas where less is more, and that is interior decoration. There are no less than 17 large trunk-sized red-topped plastic bins loaded with Christmas décor in our attic at home. Prior to my less is more epiphany my family would schlep those big bins downstairs, and over the next several days, I would struggle to meticulously place the growing collection of holiday tchotchkes around our house. In my newer, streamlined approach, only half of these bins make it downstairs, and mostly they are ornaments for the tree. True confessions: I haven’t thrown anything away!
Less is more applies in most of our interior design work, and my epiphany redirected me to focus on a few strong elements rather than have a jumble of many over the Holidays. Start with the strongest element…the tree. Take advantage of the opportunity for drama and bring home the tallest tree that your ceilings can handle. In the Traditional Home feature, our client’s tree is both color-coordinated and stylish, with varying shades of pink glass balls, vintage ribbon candy, and wooden snowflakes. I also love trees that are dripping with home-grown ornaments and somewhat of a mis-matched jumble. If the focal point is the tree, then the key is excess. Don’t hold back.
I love fresh, simple banister garlands with fir, boxwood, holly, poet’s laurel, and magnolia with a color appropriate ribbon running throughout. Bringing the outdoors inside can be messy but it’s worth it for that unmistakable Christmas smell.
Mantles need no more than fresh greens and fruit to feel festive — and of course stockings hung with care. Favorite Christmas fruit: pomegranates, lady apples and oranges. I leave a platter of fruit and cloves out for family members to create their own fragrant pomanders. We call this ritual “cloving” at my house and everyone gets in on the fun, where we often ending up with varying levels of silliness and appropriateness in our pomander designs.
Bring exterior wreaths inside. The gold magnolia wreath below is stunning but any green wreath is a great addition to an interior door or window.
Don’t forget your mirrors-they create pretty, reflective backdrops for garlands, lights or wreaths. Repeating consistent elements like adding interior wreaths and the prolific use of fresh garlands and greenery creates a strong, yet simple Christmas welcome.
Our client’s beautiful Christmas view of the chilly James River:
Your house is glowing and it’s time to entertain and share it with friends and family. Pull out the champagne, good china, and sterling and then give yourself a needed break and swing by your favorite take-out restaurant.
Our thanks again to Traditional Home magazine for the feature and our clients who withstood the Christmas photography home invasion with characteristic loveliness. Happy Decorating!
photography by Kip Dawkins