How the pros give their homes that holiday look


November 07, 1993|By ELIZABETH LARGE

In the "Designer Decorations" story in Sunday's Distinction magazine, ownership of a house was stated incorrectly. The house decorated by Daniel Proctor of Kirk Design is owned by friends of Mr. Proctor. The Sun regrets the error.

For the holidays, most of us want to be surrounded by things that are meaningful and personal. A child's handmade ornament is more important this time of year than elegant handblown glass.

Professional decorators -- interior and floral designers -- feel the same way. Most of the designers we talked to prefer family treasures to the newly purchased and highly styled this time of year; and they like to use fresh, natural materials in their own decorating.


Because of their training they may be better than we are at making that well-loved Christmas angel work in a stunning design for the holidays. But all of them had some inventive suggestions on how to use those family treasures or fresh greens -- suggestions you could incorporate into your own holiday decorating.

Janice Olsen, J. Olsen Interior Design

Janice Olsen has small children, so she doesn't have the time to decorate her house as much for the holidays as she might otherwise. But she does papercraft as a hobby and plans to make collages, decoupage boxes and pots for planting poinsettias with gold and other colored papers.

She likes to use collections of candlesticks to make arrangements around the house, mixing all sorts and shapes with different-colored candles.

For a very special centerpiece for a holiday table she takes a large, old mirror and lays fruit, cheeses and flowers on it. "The mirror reflects the colors beautifully," she says. Thomas Williams and partner Robert Hale decorated a Worthington Valley couple's house for a holiday party on two levels. In the living room that overlooks the sun room below, they placed a 10-foot tree for adults.

"We kept it green and crystal-looking," Tom Williams says. They used mirrored ornaments, which spun and glittered, silver fans, pleated silver ribbons and little peacocks. "The house has lots of blue, which was reflected in the peacocks' tails," he says. They skirted the tree in an opalescent, silky fabric.

The balconies and fireplace were hung with garlands and tiny Italian lights, with lots of solid ornaments in two or three coordinating colors.

The tree downstairs in the sun room was for the couple's daughter. It was decorated with Disney characters from all the movies, plus carousel ornaments that rotated. The daughter loved arranging and rearranging the characters.

"We had a wonderful time doing it," says Tom Williams. He concedes that the holiday decorations in their own home aren't nearly as inspired. "Our house [in downtown Baltimore] is much more traditional, and our own decorations reflect that." Joe Bowers likes to use natural materials for his holiday decorating -- fresh greens, amaryllis, paperwhites, pine cones and fresh holly.

His Christmas tree is a collection of ornaments he inherited from his parents, many of them handblown glass because he grew up in New York near the factory that produces Steuben glass.

He decorates his holiday tables with fresh greens and glazed fruits, made by brushing whipped egg whites on grapes, plums, apples and pears and dipping the fruit in sugar. He also studs lemons with whole cloves and arranges them with lemon leaves and holly. One of floral designer Suzanne Rafferty's favorite trees was done for a children's Christmas tea party. The tree stood at the center of the table, and she decorated it with hundreds of gumdrops and fat, old-fashioned lights in bright gumdrop colors. The children loved it. She stuck ornament hooks in the candy to attach it to the tree. "And I ate all the licorice ones," she says with a laugh.

Ms. Rafferty covered another tree for a client with little bunches of baby's breath and tiny white lights. She added fresh lilies in florist's vials, which looked spectacular the night of the Christmas party.

"Unfortunately," she says, "the lilies drank up all the water in about eight hours, and then you had to use a hypodermic or a turkey baster to water them!"

One couple wanted to celebrate Christmas with their dogs, so she covered their tree with plaid ribbons and Milk Bones. "It was a little weird, but I have to admit it looked kind of cute."

One of the prettiest trees Ms. Rafferty has created was decorated with sand dollars on gold thread. She sprayed dried seaweed silver and hung it on the branches along with small pieces of driftwood. Floral designer Chris Psoras suggests to her clients that they have their trees, garlands and wreaths flocked.

"It's a magnificent look," she says, "as if the tree has 2 inches of fresh, white iridescent snow on it."

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