Thursday, December 27, 2012

Magnificent Homes of America - White House Christmas

I can't think of a more thrilling time to tour 
the White House 
than at Christmas when every inch is adorned 
with the most incredible decorations I've ever seen!

But getting in wasn't easy....
The security clearances necessary to even be considered for an invitation are quite lengthy. 
And you have to start the process early in the Fall!
First you are required to contact your state senator, who then sends your request 
to the FBI, who runs a complete security check.  
If you clear that channel, then your name goes into a lottery with no guarantee that you'll receive an invitation.
Obviously I was excited when I found out I made the cut!

On the day of the tour, we were told that we could not bring anything other than a cell phone.
(no purse, no camera, no bag - Nothing!)
I went through three security check points, 
each of which verified my license against the list before they would let me proceed to the next. 
The last one was a concealed machine that scanned you for explosives.....
I asked one guard if I could take her picture and she denied my request :-(

I've been so anxious to share this post with all of you!  I have to say it tops my list of all 
I have visited so far.
So bear with me if the photos as slightly blurred (cell phone pix aren't the best)
because I think you'll still find it to be a real treat!

Finally at the East Wing entrance, 
I was already enthralled with the decorations, even before stepping inside!
Look at the scale of this spectacular urn with greenery!

The archways inside were accented with lighted garland.

And flanking this hallway, 
are several rooms like the Library that houses more than 2700 books.
Prior to 1935, this room served as a laundry room and gentlemen's waiting room.

Next door is the China room
where the Truman china is set out for a holiday dinner.
This was the first state china service to feature the Presidential Coat of Arms.

The East Wing Hallway displays photos of past First Families
enjoying the holiday season.

And holding court in the East Garden room is this 
life-size image of Bo, the First Family's Portuguese water dog! 

On the other side is this gorgeous color-spectrum tree.  It looks like Abe agrees!

 Presiding over The State Dining Room is the famous portrait of Lincoln by George P.A. Healy.
If only I had a better way to record all of this.......

 When we entered the State Room, this lovely hand bell choir played carols for us.
I love the Nativity scene behind them.
 And the yellow silk drapery treatment is stunning!

At the end of this massive room is the crown jewel of the White House Christmas
the 300 pound Gingerbread House!
Lighted from within, Bo guards the front lawn while Santa's sleigh arrives on the rooftop!
(LOVE the topiary bows that adorn the sconces, too)

The theme for the Green Room is Wintertime's Serene Splendor
On the tree, tiny glass terrariums dangle from the branches.
(look in the left hand corner)
Can you imagine planting each one? 
I was amazed at the attention to details.

The famous Red Room in all its splendor!
In the early 19th century, Dolley Madison used this room to receive visitors
during her famous Wednesday-evening receptions.
Red Room drapery detail with the Della Robbia garland

In the Blue Room 
stands the Official White House Christmas Tree, an 18 foot fraiser fir from Jefferson, North Carolina.
Adorned with ornaments made by military children around the world
 this magnificent tree pays tribute to our troops and their families who serve our country.
(Notice the gold-leafed ceiling medallion and faux swag wallpaper border)

The Cross Hall leading to the North Entrance is a spectacular sight 
as you get a glimpse of the State Room from afar!
To the right in the Cross Hall is a familiar room,
the Oval Office.

They gave me special clearance to get this shot!
(Just kidding.  Actually I had it taken at the White House Museum Shop but I thought it was fun)

As we exited to Pennsylvania Avenue, I took one last photo of the Grand Staircase,
which leads to the First Family's private residence.
I can just envision Jackie and Jack descending these stairs in all their formal finery!

I didn't want to leave...but all good things must come to an end.

Hope you enjoyed my personal tour of
Most Magnificent Home in America!



Sunday, December 23, 2012

Twelve Days of Christmas Design Tips - RELAX!

I'm my own worst enemy when it comes to this advice
but having my family over for our annual Christmas dinner last night
reminded me of why all of us put so...much...effort into decorating for the holidays.
It's about reuniting once again around the comfort of good food and familiar company
to celebrate the birth of Christ and the blessings he gave us.

So for my last tip, I share this reminder with you
in hopes that you will have the opportunity to relax and enjoy your own special blessings.

From my family to yours,

I just had to add these special blessing of my own.
Clean-up with a smile!
Could you ask for anything more?

I'm back next week with my personal tour of
the White House at Christmas
so check back with me.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Twelve Days of Christmas Design Tips - Sweet Surprise

I decided today would be a good time to share a very special treat with you 
since I know so many of you out there are already in the kitchen baking up a storm!

And besides, 
what is a beautifully decorated house without the heady aroma of baking cookies?

The recipe came from THE most "Magnificent Home of America"
The White House!

This little booklet was handed out to those who toured the White House this year
to see everything decked out for the holidays. 
(Yes, I was there...and next week I plan to give you a personal tour of all the fabulous rooms)

I just love the water color images!

Each page illustrates a room in the White House and the special significance of the decorations.

The Red Room and State Dining room are shown here.

But here's the real treat!  
In the back of the book is this yummy cookie recipe from the 
White House Pastry Kitchen.
I have no doubt these Ginger Crinkles have passed rigorous taste testings
which is proof enough for me to give them a try.



Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Twelve Days of Christmas Design Tips - Wrap it up!

So we're getting down to the wire
and still lots to do...
which is why I'm making this tip super simple today.

Want an instant way to ramp up the "Wow" factor with your tree?
(Super tip:  Coordinate the style and color of your wrappings with the look of your tree)
It's so much more effective when everything UNDER the tree 
looks as gorgeous as what's ON the tree!

If your tree is the "REAL DEAL", 
play up the natural theme with brown craft paper tied with raffia, cinnamon sticks and orange slices.
How pretty is that! 

I love this idea!  
Bowless wrapping with cute labels instead.  Great for shipping, too.
Imagine a tree with all green and red ornaments.  

There's something about "All White".
I see these elegant packages nestled under a tree with all types of silver ornaments.
Maybe under my own foyer tree with mercury glass ornaments?

But I wouldn't complain if everything under the tree came in this signature color :-)


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Twelve Days of Christmas Design Tips - Build a Collection

I admit it, 
I kind of go crazy with Christmas decorating....
especially when it comes to my collections.
But it's 
to search for new pieces throughout the year,
anticipating the next holiday when I get the see them all together.

And so it is with my Christmas hutch
Although I love my collection of Quimperware that is normally displayed on my hutch
it takes on a certain magical quality at Christmas.

It all started with my first nutcracker, which was a gift from my mother many years ago.
My kids loved it so much, I decided to add another one the next year and then another
until my collection grew so large it took over the hutch!

At the same time this collection was expanding, 
I was gathering vintage Christmas items to adorn the shelves. 
There were the tiny knit stockings, and the tin houses...
and then I found a musical Santa train.
And one of my favorite pieces,
a first edition, Miracle on 34th Street" .
Before I knew it, the shelves were brimming with all my found treasures.
My hutch became a menagerie of nutcrackers and Christmas memorabilia!
The result is what I call
(I'll explain in a minute)

Out with the Quimperware, in with the Christmas goodies!
Part of the fun is opening up everything that's been tucked away for a year...

...and then seeing it arranged in a whimsical way (Each year it's a little different).

But wait!  There's still more to come.
Joan Waddell Christmas Hutch
It's not complete until the nutcrackers come out of hiding!

As for the "I Spy Christmas"...

   When my kids were young, I would play the "I Spy" game with them
after arranging the hutch. 
"I Spy Three Teddy Bears"
"I Spy a Circus Lion on Wheels"
"I Spy Four Tin Soldiers"

It was sort of a precursor to "Elf on a Shelf", in my mind.

What wonderful memories are lovingly preserved in these shelves!
And now, the game continues with all the little ones that come over for our family Christmas dinner.

Create your own living memories with a holiday collection and see the magic happen!


Monday, December 17, 2012

Twelve Days of Christmas Design Tips - Scot Meacham Wood in Person!

"I believe in beautiful spaces and gracious living
without the velvet ropes."
 - Scot Meacham Wood
Scot Meacham Wood
This is such a special treat for me to have Scot Meacham Wood here today
to share his favorite Christmas design tip!

With a background at Ralph Lauren and a very successful design practice 
in San Francisco, Scot's expertise is highly sought-after.
He interjects a sense of style into his projects that is both timeless and very livable.
He also writes a fantastic blog that I follow
which he describes as

   "images that inspire me, events that delight me, and anything that brings a smile to my face."

And it is!  I love to check in to see what he's up to.  
Right now he is wrapping up his annual Holiday decorating contest (which I entered)
and has posted lots of great entries for everyone to enjoy.

What is amazing to me is that, 
in spite of his busy schedule as a designer, event specialist and a well-known blogger,
he still has taken the time to send me his Christmas tip.
You're the best, Scot!

Scot Meacham Wood

"If you're looking for the easiest way to give your home a certain magical feeling this holiday season - you only need two things.
Dimmers.  And candlelight.  

Firstly, I always find it good and proper to have dimmers on all of my light fixtures.  
Nothing can change a room faster than changing the light level.  
And for the candle portion of the advice - everyone looks better in the soft glow of candlelight.  
Food tastes better.  Wine is richer.  
And conversation flows more easily in the intimacy of flickering candles."
-Scot Meacham Wood 

Such a simple concept that can make the difference between a ho-hum evening
and one that lingers in your memory bank!
And look at his table setting.  
Black and silver is a recipe for drop-dead glamour.
Wonder what he put in the little beribboned boxes?

Scot Meacham Wood
Don't you just want to crash his party?  
The ambiance is certainly heightened by the pillars candles in hurricanes 
but also by the portrait light over the painting in the background.
Soft and subdued, different levels of lighting make for a relaxed, yet elegant setting.

Scot Meacham Wood
No doubt Scot has "just a little" experience in this entertaining game.
From the fresh roses to the twinkling light of the Christmas tree,
he knows how to create a magical setting that will cast its spell on the lucky guests!

To one of the best bloggers I know, thanks and
"Merry Christmas"


Friday, December 14, 2012

Twelve Days of Christmas Design Tips - Candlelight

 Is there anything more alluring than candlelight?

My tip today is one I would never do without during the holidays.
Candles add so much drama and atmosphere to a room,
especially at Christmas when you can dress them up!

Of course, I'm partial to silver "anything", but the beauty of the arrangement above is its simplicity,
An elegant tray, white pillar candles wrapped with a fresh garland of greenery and silver balls.
Set it on a foyer chest as a warm welcome for your guests and watch the complements come in!

What a  fresh take on hurricanes.  Note the staggered heights.
This would look fantastic on a table set with Calvin Klein china - all white 
...and oh so chic! 

 Not everything needs to be large.
The small scale of these votives looks "just right" with the flocked reindeer.

I love the "Winter Garden" affect of this candle arrangement.
I see this in a sun room or clustered on a hutch in a kitchen.  Charming!

Although "like" items are a safe bet when decorating,
 it's nice to change it up with different types of candlelight. 
There's a mixture of pillars, votives, and even a tiny candle lamp.  
But the element that ties this beautiful mantel together is the 
greenery that tumbles gracefully around each piece.

How fresh and colorful!  I love the use of fresh fruit tucked in the greenery.

(Super tip:  Group your candles together on a tray or along a mantle 
and use greenery to tie the arrangement together visually. 
Mix in fresh fruit or some other festive element to add additional interest )

Be sure to check out my next post for another all-star guest blogger
who's known for his party style!


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Twelve Days of Christmas Design Tips - Embellish Your Assets!

Ok, I know 
everybody is scrambling to get the house decorated this week
so I'm sending my Christmas design tips to you in record time!
Here's a little inspiration to get you moving...

Joan Waddell's Dining Room Christmas Garland
My Adamesque mirror is almost completely covered by the 
sugar-encrusted Della Robia garland I hang in my dining room at Christmas.
It's elegant, classic and over-the-top opulent, which is the whole point!

And the Girondole candelabra, a cherished piece from my grandmother,
really comes to life with the garland frame around it. 

(Super tip:  Find a signature piece in your room, like a mirror or large framed artwork, 
and embellish it with a theme-inspired garland)

Joan Waddell's living room Christmas garland
I carry the Della Robia theme into my living room 
 with this coordinating garland that graces the top of the etagere.
Notice the different ribbon and fruit? 
 It still ties in nicely with the dining room without being an exact duplicate.

More fun tips to come as I finish up my own decorating...
We're all in the same boat so hang in there!


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Twelve Days of Christmas Design Tips - Kathryn Greeley Elegance!

What could be better?
I'm thrilled to have one of the most highly acclaimed tabletop designers as my guest today
to share her favorite Christmas design tip!

Kathryn Greeley

is not only a talented designer, but an authority on antiques and collecting.
Her book, The Collected Tabletop, is her way of sharing over 30 years of experience
and knowledge in the design and entertaining field.
It's a wonderful guide to implementing her design philosophy of
"collected, not decorated"

I can't think of a better Christmas gift for anyone who loves to entertain!
With all this talent and skill, you can see why I'm delighted to have Kathryn as my guest blogger.
Take it away, Kathryn...

Kathryn Greeley's Christmas Design
 "One of my favorite holiday design tips is for “dressing” up your favorite chandelier and lighting up your holiday table!  Each year at Chestnut Cottage, I dress up my antique wooden barley twist chandelier in its holiday best by adding a silk plaid canopy and cord sleeve. I also custom cover chandelier shades in the same silk taffeta and then add lots of fresh greens.  I twist several pieces of strong floral wire around the wooden arms to make a form for adding the greenery. Lastly I add several mercury glass ornaments by hanging them on the greenery or to the floral wire.  This has become a lovely and fun tradition to our holiday decorating at Chestnut Cottage."

How gorgeous is that!  
You know I'm a big fan of using things you already own in your Christmas decorating
and Kathryn shows you how.  
From the fresh greens on her chandelier,
to the use of her silver collection, she is a master at creating an elegant table!
Did you notice her silver biscuit barrel?  We seem to love the same things...

A big "Thank You" to Kathryn for her 
truly inspirational Christmas design tip!