I love decorating the house for Christmas, but there's just one problem: I don't have a house! Not yet, anyway. A couple of months back, Jaithan and I started the search for the perfect place in the country and until we find it, I'm going to have content myself (for a few hours anyway) decorating the home of my longtime client and friend Susan. It was about four years ago that I first met Susan. I was an editor at House Beautiful magazine and hers, a 1920s Georgian in Greenwich, was my first big shoot. Lucky for me, she loved my styling, so with Christmas only a month away, she asked if decorating for the holidays was something I'd be interested in as well. Truth is, I adore it, and I've been doing it freelance for years. As a former style editor with Martha Stewart Living and now the co-founder of my own little company, along with my partner Jaithan, I love conjuring up a bit of holiday magic, especially for clients as trusting and appreciative as Susan. After four Christmases together, every year even more fantastic than the last, Susan knows what I can do and better yet, she lets me do it! So come on in, everyone, and strike up the chorus! These halls are about to be decked.
Here's the foyer of Susan's home, decorated by my good friend Jason Bell. I love the beautiful butter yellow walls, dark hardwood floors and elaborate milllwork. Can't you just see the swags of garland going up the staircase? No? Well, you will!
Here's the view back towards the door. That archway is going to get a double helping of garland with a gorgeous decorative centerpiece. Every year, Susan throws a super fun holiday bash the day after the decorations are finished, so the entrance has to be perfect!
To the left as you walk through the foyer, here's a small archway leading to the den. This too will be decorated with garland.
To the right is another large archway leading to the living room. It's decorated in a traditional New England style with a rich green striae wallpaper, thick crown moldings and a beautifully detailed fireplace mantel with a marble surround. I've always loved this portrait of Susan's great grandmother, casually holding court.
The garland, as you'll see in a minute, is a lush mixture of three types of greens I have custom made especially for Susan. But to add those all-important bits of shimmer and shine, of glamour and glitz that simply wouldn't be Christmas at this house without them, I turn to faux elements for all the embellishments I need to create a whimsical but elegant design, full of old world charm. For the color palette, every year is a little a bit different. Last year I did bronzes and muted greens; this year, golds and pretty pale creams. Here I am with Miss Jordan Perry, the latest addition to the Eddie Ross family. She's a sweet, talented southern belle of sorts, hailing from North Carolina and still new to New York. You can see the boxes of glittered faux foliage we're working with. To prep the decorations, Jordan separated and clipped small groups of glittered pine cones, foliage and crab apples. Large amounts in any one place on the garland tend to cheapen the look. Think clusters!
Remember Tina and Brian's fairytale wedding? My friend Ronny Carroll did the flowers! She's super talented with two of the cutest kids I know. Plus, I love her pigtails! Very Santa's helper. So while Jordan prepped the decorations, it was going to be Ronny's job to make pretty bows for every wreath on the outside of the house. 35 in all! The ribbon we used is weather-proof from B & J Florist Supply in the city, but here's a great option online.
No job would be complete (or half as fun!) without Austin! On the drive up to Connecticut, she was telling me how much she was living for her Salvation Army chic china cabinet, especially having hosted Thanksgiving for the first time in her new Sugar Hill apartment. Here she is on the lawn giving the pine cones we're using on the garland a light mist of spray paint. I decided to go with ivory instead of a pure white just to go along with the cream-colored ribbons.
So with Team Ross set, I decided to start with the big guns first, and that's definitely the garland on the staircase. 55 feet in all! And we're not just talking about any garland here. This is the good stuff! A lush, gorgeous mix of noble fern, juniper and cedar, eight inches thick. Scale I think is so important with garland, and in a house like this, skimpy just won't cut it. I always arrange to have the garland delivered to the house the day before I arrive and kept outside to keep it fresh. It was so richly fragrant too, I wish you could have smelled it!
Count 'em! 55 feet!
Once I'd marked off where the swags should fall, I used plastic from leftover bags to keep the wire we use to attach the garland from scratching the handrail.
Once the garland was up, it was time to go back through it, trimming loose ends, fixing odd directions, and shaping it as needed.
Here's Jordan covering up the wire and plastic on the handrail with ivory satin ribbon.
Over in the dining room, while Jaithan and Austin tied wire to the base of every painted pine cone to attach them to the garland,,,
Ronny, with her waterproof ribbon, played the part of Nelly from Little House on the Prairie. "That's my satin bow!" she cried.
Here are the wreaths lined up on the lawn, bows attached and ready to be hung!
Onto the archways! Here I am in the foyer doing the front side first. I like to do it a bit differently and not follow the line of the arch. That way, it's more of a dramatic window pane effect I love in this house! So while I was on the ladder attending to the garland…
Susan's adorable daughter Whitney and my new little helper lent a hand down below!
With the pine cones done, here's Jaithan doing the bows for the inside decorations.
25 to be exact, all tied, wired and dove-tailed!
The elves at work. That's it, Austin! Clean as you go. It makes life later so much easier.
Onto the outside entry!
The wreaths are hung, and I'm just finishing up the the arch over the entry.
Back inside, while Jordan attached bows to the tops of each swag, Ronny began to embellish the garland with clusters of golden faux foliage.
How cute is Team Ross? I'm so lucky to be able to work with such a fun, talented group of people. Without them, it would be impossible to accomplish such a big job in one day!
Like a beautiful vintage brooch, here's the burst of golden foliage and glittered baby's breath crowning every archway.
With the job finally done, everything came together perfectly. And good thing too! Susan's holiday bash was the very next night!
The party was just getting started when Jaithan and I arrived. I love how sophisticated and welcoming the wreath looked on the door.
The archways leading to the foyer looked shimmery and lush with the heady fragrance of fresh greenery throughout.
The finished staircase was stunning with glittery golden foliage sparkling like jewels.
As guests kept arriving, Susan's grandmother looked stately presiding over all.
And look who I ran into in the library! It's two of my most favorite Greenwich gals, Kathy Slocum and Lisa Stewart.
Here's Jaithan looking dapper in the archway to the den.
And finally, the two of us together just before we left. Now as fun and fantastic as decorating Susan's house for Christmas was this year (especially with Team Ross!), yours really can be equally as special. Take it from me: it's all in the details! When it comes to decorating your garland, any craft store like Michael's has beautiful, inexpensive options you can use year after year. And who knows? With a little sparkle here, a little shimmer there, the answer to that question you might have asked yourself in the past—"What would Eddie do here?"—could very well be exactly as you have it! Happy holiday decorating, everyone!