My neighbour Lois has lived in her house on the corner for 30 years with her husband Heinz.
Before they bought this house, they lived in a 700 square foot house in the same town, different street. Every time she walked past this house to the library she would think to herself, “I would like to wake up in one of those attic bedrooms and have breakfast in that room with the corner windows.
Their garden reminds me of a secret garden. Enormous and full of gorgeous flowers, shrubs, decorative fences and rambling roses that climb up to 30 feet high in June on her trees at the entrance to her front door (below).
Lois roses at the entrance of her home.
Lois is a rose whisperer. When I mentioned in passing that I wanted to transplant some of the roses in my garden, she told me that roses must be transplanted in January or February, when they are completely dormant. Otherwise it will take years for them to come back to their full glory.
When I dropped by last year at Christmas time and saw her lovely and personalized holiday decorating style, including the lace ornaments her mother-in-law crochets for her each Christmas, I asked if she would let me photograph her home for my readers this year.
Lois asked if she could write the post too and I was delighted to accept! Here it is:
Making Room for Christmas
I am not a minimalist; not for me the boutique-hotel school of decorating. Neither am I an over-the-top, approaching-hoarder-status maximalist although I do enjoy NYC socialite Iris Apfel’s no-holds-barred approach to life and decorating (which she applies to her home and to her person), “more is more and less is a bore!”
No, my decorating maxim falls somewhere in the safe middle ground between those two extremes.
Artist: Stephanie Wood from Vancouver Island
Putting on the Glitz!
Christmas decorating is another matter. I love to bring the holiday spirit into every nook and cranny of my living space and when it comes to the Christmas tree I am with Iris all the way!
But before all those lovely, shiny, gold and white, happy holiday bits and pieces can find a place in my home there is some prep work to be done. Room has to be found…
If I have one word of advice for would-be holiday decorators it would be to make room for Christmas (or Hanukkah or whatever holiday you are celebrating in this season of celebrations).
Don’t expect to layer a truckload of holiday greenery and glitz on top of your existing decor scheme. Instead, take some time to make space in your home so that your seasonal decorations can shine.
I accomplish this by removing some of the books and ephemera from my shelves, editing out a few table lamps and removing the odd piece of furniture such as a small table or a chair or two.
I also take down paintings and prints on strategic walls to make room for the Christmas tree.
All of this is taken up to the attic and stored beside the empty Christmas decoration boxes to make it easy to find again when the holidays are over and life goes back to “ordinary time.”
A basement or spare bedroom can temporarily house these items if you aren’t lucky enough to have a huge, easily accessed attic.
I make room for the holidays in another way — in my timetable. Keeping to a consistent theme, year after year, saves me time and energy.
My chosen theme is white and gold (that’s my theme and I’m sticking to it!).
No doubt, the reason many people cling to cherished traditions during the holidays is because they provide a respite from the inevitable vagaries and unpredictability of a busy modern life.
Why not celebrate the seasonal predilection for the tried and true? Chances are the predictable nature of your special traditions are what your family and friends look forward to most every year.
Make room in your schedule by sticking to what has worked well for you in the past and what your near and dear ones are hoping to see (and taste) again.
Artist: Harry Stanbridge from Vancouver Island
Local is Lovely
Rather than chasing an elusive ideal of magazine-worthy perfection, be gentle on yourself by keeping it realistic and personal. The pinecone wreath on my front door (below) was made for me, by a friend, from locally scavenged materials more than 20 years ago.
A red pottery bottle that stands in my entrance hall was made by a local potter; a sprig of evergreen and a length of ribbon temporarily transform it into something festive.
Chances are you too have an abundance of wonderful local sources for decorating ideas in your own community and plenty of local artisans who would appreciate your business.
Making use of materials and resources close at hand makes sense if you are trying to maintain space in your life to enjoy the season.
Looking In My Own Backyard
Some years ago I had a minor ‘aha moment’ when I realized that I already had three components of a great decorating scheme:
An extensive collection of vintage, cream and sugar sets in white and gold which were acquired piece by piece over the years;
A large garden full of boxwood shrubs which furnish more greenery than I can use;
And about two hundred little crocheted snowflakes from a loving mother-in-law who has made them and given them to me, a few every December, for many decades. (below)
I realized that I could combine these items by repurposing my little creamers and sugar bowls as vases to use in a table-scape and on the tops of bookshelves to create little “hedges”.
This plan had the additional advantage of putting my china collection to good use in the garden-party off season.
Boxwood, which grows in nearly every backyard in my neighbourhood, lasts for at least a month in water gradually drying out but staying green long after the water has evaporated.
This means that, like Iris, I can leave at least some of my decorations up into the spring. I started that first year by adding fresh flowers to the boxwood in the sugar bowl vases.
The next year (and every year since), I substituted little gold and silver Christmas ball ornaments which have the advantage of not wilting and of being reusable.
Another thing I love about this decorating idea is that the boxwood grows in my own back yard meaning it is accessible and, ahem, … cheap.
Painting by Heinz
There, I’ve crassly brought up cold cash.
As much as most people hate to talk about money, being realistic about financial limits avoids a regret-filled January.
My holiday collection of brass items was sourced entirely from thrift stores at give-away prices. I’ve probably spent as much on brass polish as I spent on acquiring the 30 plus candlesticks in my collection. (Did I mention that I have a large attic, so storage is not an issue?)
Working on the principle that I would rather have the real thing than an imitation, I splurge on a real tree – usually a Noble, Grand or Fraser Fir with lots of spaces between the tiers of branches.
To make room for indulgences like a special tree, I choose to enjoy my previously-loved —and very affordable when bought second-hand — Irish linen napkins and tablecloths instead of a more expensive option. (If, on the other hand, your time is more precious than money you might want to skip the vintage Irish linen – it does require a formidable commitment to starching and ironing!)
By being a bit creative with thrifted or inherited items, I know I won’t be awaiting the January credit card bill with dread.
You don’t have to become Second-hand Rose to have a lovely holiday home but keeping it real in the time and money departments will save you undue stress and preserve your celebratory mood.
Photos by Maria Killam
Create Space to Celebrate
This holiday season, pause a minute to consider how you can create some space in your decor and in your busy life. The resulting ‘room to breathe’ will allow you to focus on what this season is really all about; in the words of the Christmas angels on a Bethlehem hillside, “Peace on earth, goodwill to all.”
Wishing you all a beautiful, peaceful and generously spacious holiday season and may peace and goodwill fill your home in the coming year! Merry Christmas! Lois
Lois in front of her stunning Christmas Tree!
Thanks Lois for this lovely glimpse into your charming and colourful home! Lois is also a quilter. You can view and purchase her quilts here.
Which idea will you copy? I love the boxwood clippings, I have lots of boxwood in my garden! When I showed this post to my Mom she said “I can crochet those ornaments!”
Happy Christmas to everyone!