A Christmas full of color

Design: Holiday decorating can go well beyond traditional red and green.

November 28, 1999|By Karol V. Menzie | Karol V. Menzie,Sun Staff

There's news from the holiday home decorating front: If it's Christmas, it doesn't have to be red and green.

Striking, lovely, surprising -- yes. But there are ways to achieve holiday glamour without getting tied up in those traditional colors.

"It's more acceptable now to have other colors," says floral designer Joyce McCrystle, of Marlow, McCrystle and Jones in Lutherville. "But you need to use more glitter -- gold and silver -- to make it look festive."

McCrystle is using pink and white lilies, mauve roses and gold netting in the living room of a home in Brooklandville, one of five on this year's Baltimore Symphony Associates' Homes for the Holidays tour. She is one of three designers who will be working on the house, called Christmas Tree Hill. The tour, which takes place this coming weekend, is a driving-walking tour that starts at the Cloisters, 10440 Falls Road, where there will be a gift shop, a greenery and a cafe. The other houses are along the Falls Road corridor. Proceeds from the tour benefit educational programs of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

Houses on the tour range from a circa-1850 log cabin to modern spaces with soaring ceilings and fireplaces.

Christmas Tree Hill is a newer home with comfortable spaces and a decorating palette of mauve, pale pink and pale green. Bright red and green decorations wouldn't work with such subtle colors, McCrystle says, so she is going with gentler shades, plus lots of greens.

It helps that growers and garden centers are offering a wider range of colors in some of the most traditional of floral decorations, she says. Poinsettias, which used to be all red, now come in white, pink, salmon and variegated shades -- and even yellow. This year, she says, she's heard there will be a new color, a dark burgundy. But you're not stuck with traditional flowers, either, she says; as long as there's some glitter, flowers are always lovely decorations, even if they're chrysanthemums or orchids.

Another modern house, called Woodland Retreat, is the home of an art aficionado who collects works by Maryland artists. Its two-story family room, with two-story fireplace, and sleek modern kitchen are ideal for the eclectic approach of designer Gay Legg, of Blithe Spirit Design, of Baltimore.

"This house to me speaks of art. When you walk in you're immediately struck by that," Legg says. "It's nice to have decor for the holidays that emphasizes you, and the things you love."

The large painting above the mantel, she says, "is so Christmassy red" that she felt she had to go with flamboyant reds -- lilies, deep red roses, red Gerbera daisies.

She's also going with the glitter, however, with a gold-painted vase with eucalyptus, branches of red berries and sprays of gold berry-shapes. Red organdy ribbon with gold edges winds throughout the mantel arrangement, and gold-sprayed pine cones punctuate it.

In the stylish kitchen, which has a neon-bright painting of the Inner Harbor's Domino Sugar sign, Legg plans to use copper tubing and tiny lights in a more-fun-less-formal approach.

Tradition has not been entirely tossed out the window, however. In fact, in the log cabin, Deep Run Log House, designer Stephen Formwalt of Art in Bloom, of Baltimore, plans to carry the decorations outside the windows, onto a fence, with lights and fruit and garlands. The point is to draw people's attention to the owner's flock of sheep -- who may, or may not, he concedes, wander close enough to sample the fruit.

Inside, befitting the age of the house, Formwalt will stick to decorative items that would have been used in the mid-19th century -- "lots of fruit," he says. Outside, on the porch, theere will be apples and oranges; inside, lemons and limes, with the exotic touch of orchids (a greatly desirable collectible among Victorians). He also plans to use lots of greens and lots of herbs.

"It's going to be natural, and basic, and masculine," Formwalt says.

Decorating suggestions

Here are some tips on holiday decorating, from local designers and from Carole Talbott, author of "Decorating for Good" (Clarkson Potter, 1999, $14).

* Put the Christmas tree in the room you live in the most. The season is short, and it should be where you can enjoy it most.

* Instead of one large tree, you might like to have several smaller ones. Themed tree decorating is still a major trend; you can give each tree a theme that suits its surroundings (toy ornaments for a child's room, silver and crystal for a dining room, country for a family room, glass and heirloom items in a formal living room).

* Make the tree part of your furniture arrangement. Baltimore designer Gay Legg persuaded a homeowner to move the tree from the usual corner spot of the family room to a space right in front of two doors leading to a deck on a side wall. The rest of the room was so symmetrical, Legg felt, that the corner placement looked jarringly off-center. This is a fine time to try a new furniture arrangement.

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