How do you share the spirit of the holidays? The holiday season that begins with Thanksgiving and doesn’t end until after New Year’s–officially on Twelfth Night, which is January 5th–has grown to include Christmas, Chanukah, and other winter celebrations as well. It’s a challenge to balance merriment with the solace of quiet evenings at home, but your approach to decorating your home can help you and your guests celebrate in style!
From fragrant evergreens that symbolize eternal life to wreaths that remind us of the circular nature of the seasons, it’s time to surround ourselves with holly berries, mistletoe and sparkling lights. It’s hard not to feel uplifted when everywhere you turn are beautiful floral centerpieces, pinecones and ribbons!
To help with fresh ideas for decking the halls in truly elegant fashion, my friend Adam Manjuck returns for Part Two of Welcoming Your Guests with Style. Adam is the owner of Flowers and Flowers, a floral boutique located in the very quaint town of Darien, Connecticut. His years of experience in making the most beautiful floral creations are why I turned to him for advice on the most decorated time of the year! (If you’d like to read more of my holiday tips with Adam, see Welcoming Your Guests With Style Part One.)
Whether you celebrate Chanukah, Christmas, or whatever the winter season means to you, traditional doesn’t have to mean old-fashioned. There are many ways to create striking tableaus. Your garlands, wreaths, and swags should always match the feeling of your home. For that reason, Adam likes to use vintage pieces from your home as a base for flowers and foliage. “They fit your decor beautifully,” he says. “And they’re part of the sentiment we feel at the holidays.”
There are so many flowers to choose from, says Adam, who gets deliveries fresh from Holland three times a week. He may use olive branches, Japanese maple branches, or astilbe to give an arrangement an unusual focal point. But some of his favorites at the holidays are red Peonies and red Amaryllis–very Christmassy but a little unexpected.
“Potted plants make a beautiful statement, too,” he says. “The more, the better. When you mass them it’s like sitting under a tree canopy. Adding lots of candles makes it magical.”
About those candles: “You need a warm glow,” Adam says. “I love using mercury glass or bronze tones for votives or candle holders. Don’t be afraid to get eclectic–mix and match!”
Adam always considers the style of the home when making recommendations. “For a beachy Christmas, I love boxwood or magnolia leaves. I keep it very clean with one kind of foliage for the garlands. For a historic or Colonial Christmas, it’s more natural: pheasant feathers, magnolia leaves, lots of fruit.”
Asked if he has a favorite Christmas evergreen, Adam immediately points to the German boxwood. “It stays fresher than pine, and doesn’t dry out as quickly.” Of course, he makes his garlands extra thick so if they dry out a little over a month-long season, they don’t lose their lush appearance. Golden Cedar branches can add natural light and brilliance.
Here are Adam’s Seven Ways to Transform Your Holidays: one to try each day for a week!
1. Always change your ribbon.
Your ornaments are an investment, says Adam, and they may have a lot of memories attached. He recommends using the same ornaments year after year for the wonderful feeling of tradition we love, but freshening the look with new ribbon. His shop stocks many different styles and colors, giving him ample choices to match any decor.
2. Let go of what you loved last year.
That includes the dried arrangement you tried to save in tissue paper. Adam says he understands. “Some things are so beautiful it’s hard to let go of them,” he agrees. But in the next breath he insists there is a time for everything, and a time to get rid of what was beautiful–last year.
3. Never leave an outdoor container empty.
The photo above is my door-side containers after Adam worked his magic. Whether it’s winter, spring, summer, or fall, your outdoor containers can be filled with welcoming color and textures. He loves Red Twig Dogwood, or birches with peeling bark. He recommends keeping it natural and organic through the winter. But “two empty urns are just depressing,” Adam says.
4. The holidays should have a scent.
The beauty of your home’s decor should be matched by a tantalizing hint of fragrance in the air: white pine and paperwhites, for instance, or cinnamon, nutmeg and clove. If some people in your gathering have allergies or asthma, be kind and burn only unscented soy candles made with organic wicks. Natural scents are always better than anything from a bottle or a can.
5. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box a little bit.
Go ahead and try something new that truly expresses your personality! Be bold–have you ever thought of using black, red, and gold? Or mint green? You’re not married to it. It goes away in 30 days.
6. White lights add the sparkle.
“I love white lights,” Adam says. “If the kids really want colored lights, then do two trees: a family version and and then the beautiful all white lights in the living room.” Twinkling white lights add the magic.
7. Keep it natural.
As much as possible–unless you’re allergic–never resort to fake evergreens. “You don’t get the smell and you don’t get the look,” Adam warns. The tradition of hanging evergreens has always been to emphasize life in the long, cold months of winter. “If you’re allergic, use magnolia leaves all over the house instead of evergreens.”
Whether your Christmas is over-the-top, crammed with every one of your treasures, or marked by a stately display set apart to be admired, or something in between, don’t forget the single best way to approach your holidays: counting all your blessings.