Holiday Decorations

- Sunday, December 27, 2015

So, when, exactly, is the proper date to take down the holiday decorations? The day after Christmas? New Year's Day? Even later than that? Listen, I am all about stretching out the holiday cheer but when do I cross the line from being fun and fabulously festive to sad and psychotically slacker?

My colleague's husband, much to her dismay, can't wait to snatch down the tree and all its accoutrements on December 26th. Her hours upon hours of meticulous handiwork assembling the various components gets disassembled in a matter of minutes. Poof. Gone. Finito. The holiday is over. This is a bit too soon for me.

I want to enjoy the fruits of all that hard labor. I am, in fact, sitting by the tree right now writing this column. I have lit a fire in the fireplace (it is one of the two cold days this month) and the dog is at my side. I am still enjoying the glittering shimmer of lights and ornaments twinkling on the towering fire hazard erected in my living room. But there is no doubt, this room truly shines at the holidays and I am soaking up every bit of that magical light.

How long will it stay up this year? This remains to be seen. My household typically hosts a small gathering on New Year's Eve, so we like to have all the ornamentation still intact to ring in the New Year. And, I know I am not alone. I have clients in Sea Pines who have hired me every year for the past 10 years to deck their beach house out for Christmas even though they rarely arrive from before the 28th of December. They still want the tree by the fireplace, the wreaths on the doors, the mantels decorated, and the reindeer on the front porch for their annual family gathering to celebrate the New Year.

Since I do indulge in some New Year's Eve cheer, taking down the tree and its glitterati the next morning is usually not high on the priority list. However, New Year's Day is on a Friday this year, so chances are the stuff will start coming down on Saturday; start being the operative word. If you read my column regularly, you know the holiday decorating process is quite a production around here. This is no easy feat, going up or coming down.

Don't get me wrong, as much as I love the way my home looks decorated for the holidays, I do give a big sigh of relief when the decorations do finally come back down and packed away. My house is small in and already full of decorative objects, so the tree and its supporting embellishments take up what little extra square footage there is. Putting the decorations back up in the attic for another year really makes my life feel much less cluttered. It is almost like starting that New Year's diet and seeing instant results.

So, we usually start with dismantling the tree as it is the biggest task to conquer. The ornaments get organized and packed away, the tree gets placed in the alley for mulching. Once that process is completed, the other stuff seems like a cake walk. The wreaths come off the door, the mantles get stripped of their greenery, the poinsettias get composted. I swear I can sometimes hear the whole house thanking me for giving it some room to breathe.

This year I plan to keep decluttering even after I take down the holiday decorations. I want to take a good look at all the stuff that has accumulated on bookshelves and table tops over the past few years and really streamline things. At least this is what I am thinking. It could be a liberating way to start fresh and bring in the New Year. I will let you know.

Happy New Year everyone!


- Tuesday, December 01, 2015

“Shiny or matte-finish balls?”
“Definitely shiny! Well, no. Maybe matte?”
“OK, what about this, too whimsical?”
“No, that fits the theme of the house, so let’s use it.”
This was the banter recently between my co-workers and me in the office. I was working overtime this particular weekend to get all the details just right, putting together holiday decorating schemes for two different clients.

One project is in Hampton Lake (for a sales model my firm designed and installed earlier this year) and the other for a part-time resident from Canada who will be spending the holidays with family and friends in his new home in Wexford. With a variety of seasonal gatherings planned at both houses, my goal is to have each reflect the décor of each home and be a natural extension of the finishes, fabrics, and accessories found inside. One is contemporary and brightly colored, the other one more traditional and subdued. The homes are polar opposites in style but one thing they both have in common is the need for each to be welcoming and warm, to capture that festive holiday spirit.

In order to accomplish this, I had to start from scratch. Obviously, the sales model does not have a real family inhabiting it, so there are no boxes of treasured family heirloom decorations stored in the attic to use. Nothing to start with, add to, throw out, or send back to the attic. Zilch. The same is true of the Wexford client, whose primary residence is in Toronto and who has not yet spent much time in the house, much less ever decorated it for the holidays. In fact, my firm has been asked by the daughter of the Wexford client to decorate the home as a surprise gift for her father. Talk about a thoughtful present! This is a great inspiration for me to make it special.

For an interior designer, holiday decorations are yet another layer in the interiors scheme. I approach the challenge in the same way I address other décor issues – determine a design direction and target the areas that need attention. Prioritize these areas and go from there. Your decorations can be as simple or as elaborate as you tastes or budget and timeframe will allow.

Usually a tree takes center stage and will be featured in a prominent location in the home so it may be viewed and enjoyed by all. Then consider the front door and entry, a stair banister if there is one, and the dining room table and other surfaces where people will gather for entertainment and meals. Outdoor spaces, which are such a part of our lifestyle here in the Lowcountry need attention as well. And, even powder rooms can benefit from the display of a few greens and a holiday scented candle or two.

So, how did I differentiate the two projects? Dusty gold and bronze feathered pheasant ornaments for the Lowcountry themed tree at the Wexford project and watery-blue and green blown-glass balls for the tree at the contemporary Hampton Lake sales model. I employed a gold velvet, diamond-quilted, round tree skirt trimmed in faux leopard fur at Wexford and chose an unusual, square-shaped, Granny Smith apple green ultra-suede one for Hampton Lake. A whimsical Santa, dressed in a burgundy suit, pops out of a bronze velvet stocking on the traditional wood mantle at Wexford while a trio of icy, cool, mercury glass Christmas trees adorn one corner of the sleek cast-stone mantle at Hampton Lake. Christmas china sets the formal dining room table for a holiday feast in Wexford while a few morning coffee motif ornaments hang from a gold nugget-encrusted, cone shaped tree as the centerpiece on the casual breakfast room table at Hampton Lake.

As for the question of shiny or matte-finish? In the end I decided a mix of both would work quite well for each home.

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