Archives for December 2012

Christmas trees – to Theme or not to Theme

I’m going out on a limb here (-:  with a strong opinion about Christmas trees at home.

Christmas, holiday, decor, color theme, style, home design, ornaments

I think this tree is very pretty. And the way the color coordinates with the room is very cohesive, harmonious. But – I am defecting from the design world here – it reminds me of, well, a department store Christmas tree. Like you’d see at the mall. Where color coordinated holiday themes make sense, because in the overwhelming array of visual stimulation that exists there, you need that continuity and theme to make sense of the decor.

A home Christmas tree, in my book, is personal, and evokes years past, tradition, faces and memories of those we love; people we may still see regularly, or perhaps have passed away and only live in memory.

Here’s ours. Everything on it means something to us. Yes, it’s more of a hodge-podge, less polished (not to mention my amateur photography skills compared to the BHG picture above), but almost every one of its mishmash of ornaments collected over the years has a memory attached to it. A memory that evokes a face, a place, or an experience from the past.

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Here’s an ornament we bought on vacation at Zion National Park, and an angel purchased at a holiday fair at my daughter’s school when she was little.

Christmas, holiday, decor, style, home decor, home design, holiday decorating, ornaments

There are a bunch of old family ornaments my mom gave me when I was first married, that her mother gave her. They’re blotchy and the finish is dull, but through them I feel connected to family members both known and unknown to me, who hung them on trees in past years stretching way back to before I was born. They’re precious to me.

We use this angel as a tree topper every year. She was a gift to me one Christmas when I was about 10 years old and I love her. Actually I think she looks pretty good for having been around so long by now!

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There are quite a few ornaments I’ve given to my daughter each year as gifts. She’s got a good collection by now and will take them with her when it’s time for her to start her own home.

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 And she’s given me a few too. This star comes from Austria where she visited last fall while studying abroad for a semester. The little painted doll that hangs above it was found when we helped my husband’s parents move out of his childhood home, years ago. It’s a sweet old-fashioned little thing. To the left is a gold-painted walnut from the Waldorf school my daughter attended as a child, and on the right is a wax angel, part of a trio we made from a kit when she was little.

christmas, ornaments, christmas decorations, decor, home style, home design, holidaysMany places we have visited are represented on the tree: a few are Yosemite, Zion, Victoria, the Herndon street fair and the sandwich shop between NoVa and JMU that we stop at when we take Julia to college.

There are ornaments that have been given to us by friends who are no longer with us; others were gifts from my nieces, now grown; and still others predate those and came from children who were my Montessori school students in Boston long ago. The faces and spirits of those friends, children, and family come to mind and seem so present each year as the boxes are opened and one by one the ornaments are rediscovered and placed on the tree. In all their humble diversity of style and form, each is meaningful and together they add up to a tree that we find completely beautiful.

Whatever your style and whatever you celebrate, may you enjoy the season and may it be filled with love and good cheer! Happy holidays to all.

 holidays, christmas, decor, style, home style, home decor, decoratingdecor, style, christmas, home decor, holiday decoratingdecor, holiday decorating, christmas, home style, home decor

 christmas, holiday, style, decor

My Top Five Things that Make a House a Home

Working with clients to help them make their homes fit them better and making my own home into a place that feels right for my family has led me to these conclusions about what’s most important in creating a space that feels “right” to you. Other designers might have other priorities, but since mine is helping people be comfortable in and like their homes better, these are mine.

1)  Comfort

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Home needs to be comfortable. There should be at least one spot that you feel comfortable doing each of the following: sitting, reading, working, eating, sleeping, and any other activities that you regularly do at home. There’s going to be a nagging sense of unease about a place when you’re uncomfortable doing what you want and need to do there.

Comfort includes safety, to me. Home should be your refuge, the place you feel safe, relaxed, completely OK with being yourself. You can recharge there, rebalance yourself, get your bearings, come back to center.

2)  Functionality

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You can find your stuff. You can get around easily. You have space to work if you need to do a project. There are clear  places to do different things – cook, eat, sleep, read, play games, etc. Not that those can’t shift, or overlap. But basically, you have space. If you’re frustrated that you can’t accomplish what you’d like to in your house, it’s hard to feel good about the place.

3)  It’s personal

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There are reflections of your life and experiences at home. Objects, artwork, furniture – any or all of these, or other things – remind you of people you love, places you’ve been, things you’ve done. Home is not an anonymous place. The things around you should have meaning to you.

4)  Aesthetics

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It looks good (to you. it doesn’t matter if it looks good to others for you to feel at home with it). Many people would put this factor first on the list.  How my house looks is definitely important to me; I’m a very visual person. But not everyone is. My husband cares more about the acoustics in our home than the aesthetics; that’s a comfort issue to him. Your house should fit your aesthetic. If your aesthetic is messy and you’re happy with that, that’s OK. It just needs to suit you.  But, to feel at home with your space, you don’t want to look around and dislike what you see.

5)  Color and Lighting

I slipped two in there under this last one. The color of a room can influence how comfortable you are there. The same is true of lighting. Rooms that are lit solely by overhead lights feel colder, and cast people in a less attractive light. The light is harsher, as opposed to the warm pools of light created by table or floor lamps with shades. And having enough light – three sources in most rooms is a guideline – contributes greatly to the feel of the room. Actually I think I put lighting ahead of color in importance. It’s possible to fix a lot of ills with lighting; adequate, warm, flattering lighting really impacts how a space feels.


Note that many of these things all point to comfort, which is why I put it first on the list. It’s really the sum of lots of factors, and doesn’t just refer to comfortable seating which might seem like the most obvious factor contributing to comfort.  And, comfort also means you just plain enjoy being in your home. If it grates on you somehow then you’re not going to be completely “at home” there.

So, those are my five most important things to make your house feel like home. What would yours be?