Favourite holiday traditions
As you prepare to unwrap those cherished ornaments and plan your holiday feast, we asked designers and decorators from across the country to give readers a glimpse at what they do each year in their homes. Some stick to their tried and true family traditions while integrating new elements to spice things up. For others, nature is a prominent guest. But as some will admit, some of the best ideas are those inspired by others.
On trimming the tree: Three years ago while travelling through the English countryside, I came upon a store with decorated Christmas trees hanging upside down. In Victorian times, trees were often too tall to fit in houses. The tops would be cut off and the trees hung upside down. It fit our company's Victorian theme for a Christmas home in Saskatoon and was a huge success. It has become a tradition in our home to feature this tree each year with a different theme. It will either stand upside down on a weighted base or hang from the ceiling. We place the star at the bottom. -- Arlene Olson, owner, Art of Interior Re-Design, Saskatoon (Fave holiday food: A prairie dessert -- carrot pudding with caramel sauce)
On decorating: I love to use fresh greens, magnolia, berries, boxwood and ribbon every year. The beauty of using naturals and ribbon is that you can easily change up the colour scheme from year to year. Last year I mixed oversized bamboo trunks with birch trunks to frame the outside of my front door. I used a stunning fresh magnolia wreath on the front door and then used acid green and orange accents in my outdoor urns and throughout the interior of the house.
On entertaining: Being half Danish, we celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve. The herring is a must-have. -- Meredith Heron, principal, Red Heron Essentials Design Inc., Toronto ("This year I am leaning toward deep red, royal purple and acid green. Think Russia in St. Petersburg.")
On decorating: I'm not so much into the trends as I see things I like and I incorporate them. One year I went to a client's place and she had the whole banister covered in cedar boughs. I used that idea. When I first moved out, I thought, "I love nature," so I bought ornaments that had to do with it. My favourites are these long quartz crystals. Every year, I can't wait to put those on.
On food: Every Christmas morning my family all gets together and opens the gifts and we have a brunch of sautéed mushrooms in butter, toast, bacon and eggnog. Ever since I was little we've never had anything else. -- Rob Everitt, owner, Everitt Design Associates Limited, Winnipeg ("I have always been fascinated by shimmering things.")
On holiday memories: When we lived in Halifax, which has a small Jewish community, there were Christmas trees everywhere. Our neighbour asked if I could go to the woods. I brought home a tiny tree and my father said "No way." We were allowed to string blue and white paper ribbon around the living room. That was our concession. And we hung stockings.
On entertaining: I have quite a few friends who like to try new recipes and we pass them back and forth. We'll go to a friend's house and we'll reciprocate. You get to see different parts of everyone's traditions. -- Linda Camlot, interior decorator, Interiors by Design LC, 514.488.6285, Montreal (Fave holiday food: "I love brisket and potato latkes -- anything with fat in it.")
On decorating: I like to have (artificial) trees in different rooms, all lit with white lights. I double what you would normally use, so you have this beautiful glow of light. Then I disperse bits of flowers, greenery and twigs to accent, so it becomes more than your traditional shape.
Favourite ornament: It would be the handmade decorations from my kids from way back. They're primitive, but they're sweet and special. -- Cathy Souch, general manager and buyer, Settlement House Shops, Port Perry, Ont. ("I like the glitter of glass and mirror decorations.")
Image courtesy of Pottery Barn
Our home is traditionally done in very outdoorsy-type themes, meaning we use a lot of pine cones and things from the outdoors that are beautiful when brought inside.
We try a lot of unique recipes. One year we made what they have for Christmas in Quebec, another year we made Ukrainian food.
It's an angel for the top of the tree that I can remember from the time I was four. She is about 60 years old and has a bisque face and arms. I have remade the wings and dress over the years.
-- Bonie Conrad, interior decorator, Tower Interiors Ltd., Halifax
("I take old decorations apart and use them to make new ones.")
When I lived in the country, we had acres in the backyard and I remember bringing in my own greenery. I always use it in the entrance, the bathrooms and through the hallways. I mix fresh flowers, such as white or red amaryllis, white roses, white lilies and red berries. I always have lots of candles outside and inside.
I love my guests to take a memory home. I'll give parting gifts, such as edible treats or a candle.
-- Armine Nielsen, owner, AT Design Group, Toronto
("I love the smell of the evergreens.")
I feel very traditional at Christmas, but I like to change [the decor] every year. I change the ribbons and bows at home to whatever colour will match. Last year it was gold, the year before, burgundy. This year, I might sway more to younger children. I have a two-year-old grandson.
We still do the turkey and the stuffing and serve eggnog with the cinnamon sticks.
-- Kathy Love, owner and interior designer, K interiors, Vancouver
("At my store, I will have twiggy 'Charlie Brown' trees with decorations made locally: little red birds and little RCMP officers.")
One year we had a "musical chair Christmas." If your family lives in the same city, you can do this. We went for breakfast at one house, lunch at another, dinner and dessert at another. I think it's fun if you stay in your pyjamas to go for breakfast. My sister-in-law put on pearls with her PJs.
I do a different thing every year. I have lots of decorations, but will probably buy a few new things and I go on what strikes me that year. One year it was all birds.
-- Elaine Wolfe, owner & residential/commercial interior designer, Elements Interior Design, Calgary
("This year, I'll probably do really bright colours for the tree –- pink and green and blue.")
The one thing that I carried through year to year was I let the kids have their own tree in their bedroom. I started the tradition when my kids were small and now they do it with their children. When my daughter was five, she made a whole bunch of paper bells with black tissue paper on them.
Now I have seven trees spread throughout the house, including one on the deck near the hot tub. They are all different and they all have a particular theme.
-- Connie Jackson, owner, Alterity Interiors Inc., Edmonton
(Fave holiday food: "My cranberry sausage stuffing.")
Image courtesy of Pottery Barn