The Many Colors of Christmas

Hope you all survived and enjoyed the Thanksgiving holidays and have rushed blissfully into the Christmas holidays: your tree is up, the wreaths are on the door,  the shopping list is completed and filled,  the packages are wrapped, and that you are having fun!

If that is your  situation…. I  am jealous because I have done NOTHING and must admit (after a killer cold that is now starting week three) I am not feeling inclined to do so.  But I guess I must rally…  a little Christmas spirit is important (I think I should be  ringing a bell for the Salvation Army).  After 58 years of decorating —   I started actively when I was age 4 —  thousands of gifts bought and wrapped,  hundreds of parties and events from small to really big,  countless menus planned,  cookies decorated,  trees, garlands  and wreaths trimmed,  cards sent or purchased (or made and not sent — they  are hard to send when the card is dated  — 2002,1994, or whatever year —  I loved the card but could never get around to addressing those envelopes) here we are with no plans whatsoever!  Whew… was that a run on sentence or what!

I am ( was) a Christmas fanatic. So much so that for years I always thought I would do a small book on preparing for the holidays, but that is another story. I loved the planning, the doing, with ALL that that embodied.

I use to say to my grandmother and then my mother  when they moaned about doing the tree ” how can you not put up a Christmas tree–you are a Grinch,  Ebenezer Scrooge personified, the ghost of Christmas future, swathed in black with fog swirling,   un-American, you are just getting lazy!!!”  —–and now I understand. There comes a time in one’s life where the amount of work for the amount of enjoyment  is disproportionate. Total disclosure: I do not have children and grandchildren and I am not sure, other than a good steak bone, that the dogs really care how tall the tree is or what the  color theme all the decorations will be.

All that said, I used to love to do the decorating —- here I can truly say I enjoyed the ” journey ” as much as the end point. So in the spirit of Christmas, here are a few thoughts and ideas … go away to a deserted island!  (Just kidding, I think!)

I always select a color theme for Christmas, as it makes life so easy.  It changes every year, this year it shall be colored invisible —  just kidding again sort of.  I,  the “early planner of Christmas past,” have no idea as yet but it is only the 11th December, so what’s the hurry? This is the new me…good thing I took pictures before.

These next two posts, God willing,  I will give ideas for different Christmas color combinations:  red, white, green,  blue and white. I  do have a lot of pictures and I might just crash your hard drive (jk, again— must be the antibiotics and the red wine).   So I will stop yacking and start downloading.

SILVER AND WHITE:fall jpegs_SBecquet   1739-forPresentations

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This one of my favorite themes and probably the one I shall do with variations this season. My mother is jointing me in Aspen this Christmas.  While the above picture was taken at Weatherstone, my silver reindeer will work beautifully in the mountains.  In that more casual and rustic environment I will use pewter rather than antique sterling.fall jpegs_SBecquet   1744-forPresentations

I love the layers of texture, from the table to the detailing of the mantle to the 18th century trophy over the fireplace. fall jpegs_SBecquet   1748-forPresentations

They say ” God is in the details,” and so the silver glitter theme is detailed on the little packages as well, and even the typeface for the place cards is in a soft grey.fall jpegs_SBecquet   1751-forPresentations

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The glitter deer are some of my favorite decorations…you know me, anything to do with animals!  I added the extra glitter to the wreath to tie in with my gift wrap theme.



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The first three photos are from a Christmas  in my Paris apartment. Notice the use of carnations. It was while working in the flower shop in Paris that I learned to love and appreciate carnations. Don’t groan….after you have inhaled their wonderful spiciness and witnessed the beauty of the varieties they offer in Rungis you also would rethink them. As I tell everyone at all of my lectures there are NO BAD FLOWERS, only people who do them badly, including those convinced  that inexpensive can’t be beautiful.  Unfortunately, those we get from Central and South America do not have the same clove fragrance of their cousins from Grasse in France. But they last forever, mix beautifully with other flowers, have a lovely shape and silhouette, and offer a wide variety of beautiful variegated color combinations.  If they don’t have the French fragrance, so what?   A loss,  but not a deal breaker in my mind. I can also buy them in the grocery store, which is my ‘ flower shop’ in Aspen.

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I like mixing different sizes of carnations, the regular size with the spray minis. I tucked just a few pink roses in the bouquets above.  A few will go a long way!

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As I did not do a Christmas tree in Paris, I used the mantle as the spot to mound the presents. Obviously, there were no bicycles this year!

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Above, the prosaic red carnation: behold the swirl of the picot edged petals.  To me it looks like red tissue taffeta ruffles!

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When I can find them, I like to use two tones of red carnations. I made the tree on a base of oasis, soaked the block in water, and then built the tree. If you place the tree in a pan, you can water it from the bottom up.  You can also mist the tree with water  and store it in a cool location at night to keep it fresh.fall jpegs_xmas2011056-forPresentations

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The two pictures above were from my first book, A Passion for Flowers.   I was the first to use carnations back in the 1990’s.   I always loved this wreath I made paired with the the Irish Regency crystal filled with matching carnations.You can see that there are three colors of red used here.

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One year I did a red and silver theme at Weatherpebble, my mother’s cottage on the estate. The above photo shows red and silver used for several tables of six. I twined ivy-sprayed silver in candle sticks and massed a cloud of glittery stuff on top.   I used this wonderful stuff (not sure what it is, therefore ‘stuff’ ) sprayed in glitter. I use it often in different ways and can guarantee that you will be still finding glitter in your house the following summer no matter how diligently you vacuum. Below, I massed it in a sterling tureen at one large table.


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Another favorite combination is red and gold.fall jpegs_xmas2011070-forPresentations

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In my apartment at One Sutton in NYC I had a set of book cases that housed predominately red books. The bindings on those old books inspired this red and gold theme. I used boxwood, lemon leaves, small limes and nuts all sprayed gold (you should have seen me doing that on the back stairs of the building —  a wonder I didn’t get evicted) to make the wreath.fall jpegs_xmas2011075-forPresentations

Yes, I always match my gift wrap to my  theme — always have and always will.fall jpegs_xmas2011076-forPresentations

Just as I used different colors of reds in the carnation bouquets I do the same with roses. To accentuate the gold, I sprayed Galex  leaves and and cosseted some of the roses with them just to add the element of sparkle to the rich velvety x

Another Christmas at mom’s house the theme was all red on red. It is difficult to see here,  but even the mantle and the painting  are decorated  in red Ilex berries.  (Sorry I could not find a close-up photo; it was really pretty!)Scan 4

The table cloth was a beautiful red shawl I brought back from India, complemented by  red Ilex as a large centerpiece, red candles, red napkins, Pottery Barn red glass plates and glasses, and of course the gifts at the table were dressed in red as well.


For a simple, more country, and very affordable decoration:  magnolia leaves and gold pine cones make a complementary frame for the shiny red apples.xmas2011084

This is the living room of Weatherstone before the fire.

I have endless examples of the silver and white and red themes, but I hope you enjoyed the mix of high and low elements. I shall stop for now and within a few days do the blue and white and green Christmas ideas,  and I’ll hopefully find a couple of  pictures for those of you  who celebrate the holidays in warmer climates. If not, you will just have to wait until I start doing my southern Christmas decorating in good old Charleston.  Happy decorating  — and please come and do mine as well in your spare time!  -cr




35 thoughts on “The Many Colors of Christmas

  1. Who knew you were so funny…..
    Such a lovely (and entertaining) post! The red on red is my absolute favorite….such wonderful saturated color.
    Thank you Carolyne for giving us a glimpse into your divine life!
    All the best to you…

    • love that red on red as well… I wish I could find the up close up of the mantle it is pretty

    • Dear Larry,
      Thank you I always wanted to be funny…I always kinda thought I was but I am not sure about that soooo thanks cr

  2. Every combination is wonderful,but for myself I would choose RED RED RED.
    Absoloutley sensational.
    Whatever scheme you use will be superb as usual.
    Happy Holidays.

  3. Absolutely stunning! Thank you, it made my evening. After seeing these gorgeous arrangements, I need to make a flower order for next week. I love doing them also but often get so busy baking and shopping I forget the flowers and just end up with greenery. It sure takes it up a notch and elegance abounds.

  4. How ironic for you to say you aren’t up to the Christmas decorating thing, since for the first time, I don’t feel like it either. Part of it is getting older, and like you, I’ve done the whole shebang a million times. We’re getting ready to move, and I’m in turmoil, and I just don’t have the energy to do much yet. We’ll see what happens. Can you believe it’s only two weeks till Christmas Eve? But, your amazing photos will comfort and inspire me as they always do. I bought your first book, twice, that’s how much I love it. Wanted to make sure I’d always have a good copy to peruse.

    • Hi Diane,
      Thanks for your thoughts—it is indeed a funny time in life…funny odd and sometimes sad and sometimes just downright funny… We must be thankful for that part -cr

  5. Dear Carolyne:
    Thank you for giving an untold number of us permission to admit we’re bone-tired of decorating for Christmas!
    Every year it’s a new theme and color combination, and trying not to repeat the last year’s effort, and on and on.
    It’s my age and the times and an evolving understanding of what Christmas should mean, could mean. I find myself paring down and creating more meaningful focal points in my home and in my head.
    Like you say, it’s a funny time in life.

  6. Thank you for sharing your God-given talent with us and allowing us to witness your personality.

  7. Beautiful and Inspiring as usual, but this time also entertaining. I have felt the same, and this year Thanksgiving was so late, it feels a little more rushed for Christmas decorating. Thank-you for so much beauty. I think the silver and white was my favorite.


  8. Thank you for these beautiful pictures. What an inspiration! Now that I have young grandchildren,
    I love decorating more than ever. I did gold and cream this year, and now am off to buy some gold spray paint.
    Such Joy in my mailbox today!

    Feel Better … Immediately!

  9. I like you even MORE after reading this post! I appreciate your honesty about feeling festive -or in other words – your lack there of! I’ve been throwing a Winter Solstice party for 15 years, and this year I had to convince myself I was up for the challenge.

    I think how late Thanksgiving fell this year really made it difficult to transition into Christmas. We usually have that extra week to get in the spirit – and to recover from our turkey hangovers!

    Your decorations of Christmasses-past are so beautiful. It’s impressive you have so many great photographs.

    Oh, and there are lots of twinkling lights and Christmas Cookies at the top of route 4 (just up the hill) if you want to stop in for some Holiday Cheer before you head off to Aspen. 😉

    Kind regards, and happy holidays!

    • Thanks Amy,
      I think you are right about the timing of thanksgiving . Just 11 days to go a nary a thing done may be up the hill sooner than you think regards Carolyne

  10. It must be in the air. I haven’t done a shred of decorating yet for Christmas. I was just about to go shopping to get inspired – thanks for the photos! They helped!

  11. Carolyne: I hear you – and know from whence you come. There comes a time in one’s life when yes, the inspirational surge to create something visually beautiful and fulfilling can wane, and you need a respite – and perhaps when one questions the underlying feelings and value of it all. I am all for indulging the creative urges and the resulting satisfaction to you and yours – and I consider you to be the very pinnacle of this – you have been an amazing inspiration to me for years and years. But sometimes we misinterpret the expectations and the voices inside. Perhaps it is a year for a simple Charlie Brown tree and the ultimate of simplicity – to focus on celebrating the simplest of fine dinners and decorations – in order to give yourself a “refresh”. Especially when one has felt poorly for a little while, it is quite a good idea to pause. I wish you a refreshing holiday season – taking a break and breath. Your fervor will return after you call these few moments your very own. Merry Christmas!

    • Hi Marianne,
      I am taking your advice …small tree, quiet dinner, go to hear some music, work on my painting and play with my dogs. To do that well should be enough. Thanks for you comment…merry Christmas Carolyne

  12. So enjoy all of your commentary and pictures. It brings back such happy memories of working for you at Weatherstone. Knowing you, all of your lovely homes will be gorgeous by December 24th. Hope you feel better soon. All best wishes, Bob Law

    • Hi bob so nice to hear from you…..please give a big hello to your sister linda. Best Carolyne

  13. Have always enjoyed Carolyne’s creative spirit in design. I’ve followed your work for years and you never disappoint. I love the always classy and elegant look and feel and wonderfully classical color combinations . You’re an inspiration.

  14. Thank you, thank you for giving voice and affirmation to something I’ve been feeling this year! The photos in your books are always gorgeous and inspirational — something to aspire to. I think I may have spotted you at the NYBG a few years ago, and you were dressed so beautifully — again, gorgeous and inspirational. 🙂

    But to know that someone as “perfect” as you is just not feeling it this year… well, that is priceless. 🙂

    I’m sure I will find some Christmas spirit at least a day or two before the 25th, inspired no doubt by your beautiful decorations here. Hope you are soon feeling better!

  15. How ironic (and intelligent) you are !
    Thank you also for your sophisticated tastes that are a precious for the sight but, above all, for th spirit.
    Best wishes from Milan !

  16. Did I write this entry?? After years of the most elaborate tree, this year I used only about 20 percent of my extensive collection of beautiful ornaments. Every time I returned to the basement, I steeled myself . . . “DO NOT OPEN ANOTHER BOX” lest I start cherry-picking and adding to my stress. I might have been tempted to forgo the big tree altogether until reminded by my friends, who long ago decided the effort wasn’t worth it, that I do it so they don’t have to. Years ago, comedian Don Novello, as Father Guido Sarducci suggested that on alternate years, Christmas be “little Christmas” simple and sweet. I’m all for it.

    Thanks, Carolyne, I’ve loved your books and now your blog, and knowing that even you have “been there, done that” moments.

  17. Hi, Carolyn
    I can’t wait to see the photos of your home here in Charleston! I would love to be your house manager. I am friendly with Michael and Mrs. Altshul who I know are your friends. Please keep me in mind.

  18. Oh My 1 You are such an inspiration to me. A carnation Christmas tree for the table is something I will do today.
    Get well, soon. I have learned to do half of the events on my calendar this year, thus am relaxed and enjoying a few special times with friends and family. Merry Christmas ! Suzanne from Georgia

  19. Thank You for being truthful about your feelings. I too am your age and understand completely how you feel. A few years ago I downsized to a small table tree and for the last two Christmas seasons didn’t even put up a tree – just a mantle decoration – as we travelled across the world to share someone else’s Christmas. So, like Marieanne said, I took a breath and enjoyed letting go of all the stress of Christmas – but this year I have enjoyed, once again, decorating our little tree and remembering all the wonderful places around the world our decorations have come from. It is an age thing – we just don’t have the energy and I have come to understand that its OK to celebrate SMALL. Thank you for your Christmas pictures – I too love the red theme. Merry Christmas from sunny and warm Australia!

  20. Once again….I love it all! Your style never fails to inspire me! Merry Christmas Carolyne!!

  21. I always love all your creations! I fondly remember Thanksgiving weekend in Weatherpebble! The pictures from Weatherpebble are my favorite!
    I didn’t realize you had another book out?!? I will have to order that & get one for Mom!!!
    We should catch up! Hope you are well! Love, C

  22. When I read you were not feeling well I had to write to give you a tip. I work in a preschool with 3 & 4 year olds with constant colds. LISTERINE. Gargle three times a day with it when you have a cold. No, I don’t own stock in the company. I prefer the Cool Mint but any flavor works. Other brands may taste better but Listerine will knock out what’s ailing you.

    Love your beautiful website! I have most of your books. I have a kindle and have gotten rid of most of my books to declutter, but yours I keep and always will. Merry Christmas!

    • Barb – thanks for this! My Dad 1900 – 1972 always used to say this, and I had FORGOTTEN!!
      Now I will start doing it again. Thank you for bringing back a wonderful memory of my dear father.


  23. Pingback: inspiration: holiday blues | Poise Boston

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