Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Home for the Holidays Part 2: Getting A Look

Christmas or Holiday decorating is a very personal thing steeped in tradition. For many, most of the ornaments are lovingly collected over the years, some are inherited, or received as gifts. In whichever case, the ornaments hold special meaning. There is such simple joy and nostalgia in taking an old familiar ornament out of storage year after year. A tree filled with old and treasured ornaments is a look in itself. There is no need for the ornaments to have any relation to one another in terms of color and look, for they are all part of a 'special collection. Still, if you feel the need to pull the look together, there is an easy, inexpensive way to to this. The trick is to add a unifying element (or several small elements) that will repeat throughout the tree. There are several ways to do this.

A garland made of shimmering balls or tinsel. Make sure it goes all around the tree from top to bottom.

Left: Vintage Beaded Glass Garland (also available in gold and red),
www.restorationhardware.com, Below middle: Capiz Button Garland, www.ballarddesign.com

Wire ribbon wrapped around the tree. Twist as you go around the tree.

Several medium to large balls of the same color. Especially if you already have a lot of small ornaments, using large or even extra-large Christmas balls will variety in scale. This will add another dimension to your tree instead of cluttering it up.

Right: Vintage Handblown Ornament Ball, www.restorationhardware.com

Rather then going the too theme-y route, a Christmas tree for the home should 'evoke' a look or a feeling that suits the room and the people enjoying the tree. Your family's Christmas tree does not need to look like a department store Christmas tree! Those trees are over-trimmed because they are selling those ornaments. For example, if you have children, decking up a tree in colorful trimmings and even toys such as teddy bears and wooden trains can be a lot of fun.

Even the simplest idea can be smashing. For example, if you do not want to fuss over selecting several different ornaments, you can just use one kind of thing such as Christmas balls. The trick is to variety in size, texture, color and placement. You can choose one color or a monotone scheme (such as a metallic combo of gold, copper and bronze) or two colors such as red and gold, red and white or red and green, or a even a rainbow of colors.
When using a lot of different colors, the trick to pulling the look together is by sticking to one or two shapes, such as a ball and something long like an icicle.
The trick to making it work and not look monotonous is by adding dimension to your tree. You can achieve this by using different sizes and textures of balls. Use equal amounts of shiny, matte and even glittered. Make sure not to neglect the inner branches of your tree! This leads the eyes inward to add to that dimensional look.

Cheerful and red. Different shapes keep it interesting. Photo credit: www.marthastewart.com

Different colors, same shapes, varying sizes. Get it? 
Different shapes, same colors, very similar sizes make for a tightly pulled together look.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Home for the Holidays Part 1: Getting Ready

The Christmas season is here; the tree is going up and guests are coming in. If you're planning to do some home spruce-ups to prepare for parties and company, here are some helpful tips.

The first thing to do before you even take out the Christmas balls is to clean up your space. It's simple: go from room to room with a big basket or box and pick up clutter. Loose toys, paperwork, things that need to be put away--pick them up and temporarily store them in a box (You can finish the sorting come spring cleaning). Having clutter taken away clears the space and allows you to do some dusting and wiping.

Assess what you have and go from there.
If you're already planning to buy some new furnishings and decor, taking a look at what you've got first will help you determine the things you really need. Again, go from room to room. You only need a few light touches to bring a room back to life and get it ready for the holidays.
Fresh flowers don't need much company to fill up a space. They're beautiful enough!

     Dining Room--A festive table runner for the table plus fresh flowers. Check out the lighting--extremely bright white light is never flattering on people and food and does nothing for ambiance. This does not mean using incandescents though--there are some pretty warm and nicely colored compact flourescent bulbs out there that you can use in your chandeliers to create the perfect lighting .
Paperwhites bring in a wintry holiday scent.

     Living Room--If your couch is looking tired, two or three new throw pillows will bring it back to life. A pot of fresh pointsettas in the entry and by the fireplace hearth are inexpensive ways to bring in color. If you don't already have one, consider buying a coat rack for guests. Also, consider rearranging furniture; seating areas that face one another is the most suitable for conversation. Have small tables (tray tables work) around so guests can set down plates and drinks.
Conversation-friendly seating arrangement. Photo credit: www.elledecor.com

     Bathroom--New towels do a lot to spruce up the bathroom. A tiny vase of flowers, and a scent diffuser are also easy and inexpensive touches.
 Holiday Organic Bath Towels, www.potterybarn.com
     Bedroom--Warm blankets, a box of tissues, a vase of fresh flowers make overnight guests feel comfortable and welcome.

Next: Selecting A Look

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Coming Up Roses: English Cottage Style

Still can't get enough of all things English? How about Rachel Ashwell?

Born in Cambridge, England, Rachel Ashwell is the owner and founder of Shabby Chic, a chain of stores and product lines for the home that believes in the beauty of imperfection.  Suddenly cottage style was popular again and seemed so . . . chic. Everything looks aged, worn and loved, patina-d, a little rough around the edges, the true marks of cottage style. A cottage in the English countryside of long ago would be occupied by poor people, who would try to re-create the comforts of their masters' grander abodes in their humble homes. They could not afford expensive furniture made from hard woods such as mahogany, cherry or walnut, so they had theirs made from local timbers like maple and pine. To disguise the poorer character of the wood, they painted it. Glass in windows was an expensive detail they could not always afford, so they painted everything in light colors, which was a cheap way of bringing in light and color into their otherwise dark and dull interiors.

Fabrics are printed with dainty little flowers, and nothing ever has to match. Furniture is often of the recycled variety, either cast-offs from family or collected from flea markets. The overall effect is comfortable, cozy and charming. Rachel Ashwell's designs always have that vintage, timeworn appeal, and her genius is in putting it together and taking the guesswork for the rest of us.

The style starts outside, as in this picture, in a bramble of climbing English roses. Perhaps because it is the traditional heraldic emblem of England, the rose manages to be the most distinguishable feature of anything cottage. A humble cottage may not have the grand, expensive furniture of an English castle, nor its manicured hedges, but surely it can have as many climbing roses and bushes as it wants to have. The beauty of the rose graces both high and low abodes, and lends its charm and elegance to them in equal measure.

They aren't just found on those dainty teapots and cups. The iconic rose is a timeless and classic motif. Even if cottage is not your style, the rose can be interpreted a hundred different ways in many different styles.

Not too obvious.  Texture and three dimensional techniques and appliques.

Right: Rose Tufted Rug, www.pier1.com, Below, left, Deconstructed Rose Pillow, www.westelm.com, Below, middle: Aubergine Rose Pillow, www.zgallerie.com

Not your grandmother's chintz. Rose motifs with a handcrafted, vintage feel are very up to date and sophisticated.

Left: Patch NYC Framed Rose Wall Art, www.westelm.com, Below, middle: Rose Landscape Shade, www.anthropologie.com

Downright obvious. Sometimes, nothing else is quite so charming.

Right: Rose La Vierzonnaise Giclee Print, www.chartingnature.com, Below:
Simply Shabby Chic British Rose Pillow, www.target.com

For more on English cottage, check out these blogs: