No time like winter to create cozy home with quilts, greens

Seasonal touches, such as sprigs of holly and bowls of pomegranates, celebrate the cool seasons



As soon as the weather turns frosty, decorator Charlotte Moss fills her house with pine and juniper, paisley and needlepoint. "I don't believe in waiting for Christmas to create a wintry mood," she says.

Nor does she believe in letting her rooms resume their ordinary lives the minute the holidays are over. At her Aspen, Colo., home -- subject of her latest book, Winter House (Clarkson Potter, $50) -- evergreens garland the front portico right through March. When the boughs get too dry, Moss simply "spruces" them up so their color and fragrance stay fresh.

"Winter is about home," says Moss, known for her timeless, traditional look. "It's about creating a warm and cozy welcome for family and friends."

Come December, that means indulging in deep colors, such as a tartan cloth for the dining table and a bowl of pomegranates for the foyer, and sensual textures, including faux fur throws; pillows covered in chenille, flannel or cashmere; and needlepoint or kilim rugs layered on top of your regular rugs for coziness underfoot.

In days gone by, a winter decor was created by changing slipcovers and curtains. But Moss doesn't feel like modern homeowners have time for a major seasonal overhaul.

Instead she advocates simple gestures like dressing your bed in a mix of quilts and comforters or filling a creamware jug with boxwood and variegated ivy.

In the dining room, play up the beauty of winter light by setting your table with the icy sparkle of crystal and the mellow tones of pewter and antiqued brass.

Wherever you can, pay tribute to nature with accessories that are burnished in hue or woodsy in theme. Search your cupboards for carved serving pieces, leaf-embroidered napkins, faux bois plates or bark-covered containers that can hold flowers or pine branches (just insert a plastic container to hold water).

As for greenery, Moss doesn't feel a Christmas tree should be the whole holiday show. She advocates heading to the woods (or the florist shop) and gathering branches of pine or spruce to set in galvanized steel buckets or large cylindrical glass vases.

To add a winter look to your flowers, mix the deep red of roses or the snowy white of amaryllis blossoms with evergreen boughs, berry-sprigged holly branches or cuttings of eucalyptus and magnolia. And add dark brown hues by tucking in pheasant or other bird feathers.

"I like to keep things a little on the wild and woodsy side," Moss explains.

As both a decorator and a creator of her own home fragrance line, Moss knows that a beautifully decorated room isn't just about what you see.

"It's about the scents, the textures, the music," she says.

Visit her in winter and you'll smell candles with top notes of cypress and pine, snowdrop and cardamom. And you'll hear CDs ranging from French Flute Music of the 18th Century, which features Barthold Kuijken, to Snowfall: The Tony Bennett Christmas Album.

On her side tables, you'll find carefully curated literary exhibits. A connoisseur of books -- especially those on art, decorating and fashion -- Moss sets stacks of her favorites throughout her house. Every now and then she'll prop a special book on an easel and leave it open to a beautiful image.

"All you have to do is turn the page," she says, "and you have a very economical revolving art collection."

No winter house of Moss' would be complete without a truly fabulous Christmas tree. The one she photographed for her book has a pale, wintry-hued collection of ornaments she's gathered over the years. Tucked randomly among the branches are bundles of lavender secured with wire.

"Lavender's scent is delicious," Moss explains, "and the purple color complements the ornaments' palette."

Under her tree sit presents with wrappings that are predictably imaginative. Moss makes clever use of the photocopier, creating her own custom paper by enlarging bookbinding end papers or copying a collage of images from a winter-themed inspiration board she created for a client.

Read Winter House and you'll find a flurry of additional seasonal ideas, each as individual as a snowflake. With Moss as a companion, you're sure to make the most of this wondrous season.


Claire Whitcomb writes about home decor for Universal Press Syndicate.

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