History and tradition are a big part of how this homeowner decorates for the season. Credits: Robin Stubbert; Styling by Tara Ballantyne
History and tradition are a big part of how this homeowner decorates – and they’re key to how her family celebrates the holidays, too.
It goes without saying that the most memorable family holidays are steeped in nostalgia – blending traditions from past generations with new ones – but they become all the more meaningful when the home itself already has stories to tell. That’s the case in the southern Ontario home Jennifer Jarmuszewski shares with her husband, Colin Todd, and two children, Julia, 9, and Benjamin, 7. The entryway and formal living and dining rooms of their 3,500-square-foot new-build house are decorated in a classic holiday style that perfectly complements the home’s elegant interior, accentuating the art and antiques Jennifer has been collecting most of her life.
To pull together the everyday design of the home and marry her traditional taste with the needs of a young family, Jennifer sought the help of designer Alison Habermehl of Habermehl Design Group. “Luckily I came on board early in the building stage, so we were able to customize the design,” says Alison. “We raised the main-floor doorways and added transoms over them, as well as selected finishes that better suited Jennifer’s style.” The addition of applied mouldings to the entryway and dining room, for example, gives the home architectural distinction, while glass door knobs used throughout are small details that create luxe sparkle.
When it came time to select furnishings, a lot of inspiration was pulled from Jennifer’s belongings. “She has many fine collections,” says Alison, referring to the antique chairs, bird and Staffordshire dog figurines, as well as antique boxes.“To make them all work within the traditional and sophisticated design scheme, I kept like pieces together to avoid a look that’s too precious or cluttered.”
One collection even inspired the dining room’s colour scheme, which matches Jennifer’s treasury of Flow Blue dinnerware (blurred blue and white transferware popular in the 19th century). “I can perfectly remember buying one of the dishes while visiting my grandmother,” says Jennifer. “So many of my pieces are tied to specific memories.”
The blue theme that started with the dinnerware carries through to holiday time. Vibrant blue dishes get layered onto the dinner table alongside beloved Waterford crystal and Wedgwood china. “It’s so lovely to see beautiful crystal and china getting used in a young family home,” says Alison. The tablescape is amplified with green and metallic accents to keep the look modern. Fresh greenery set in one of Jennifer’s antique bowls serves as a striking non-traditional centrepiece, matching the simple evergreen accents elsewhere – an effective way to bring Christmas cheer (and glorious aromas) into the home.
Of course, the same could be said for the Christmas tree, which glitters with blue and silver ornaments that share space with treasured kid-crafted trinkets. “The ones created by my children are my favourites,” says Jennifer. “They’re so fun to pull out every year as the kids get older. They love looking back at what they’ve made.” It’s just another example of how Jennifer’s stunning collections are rooted in time-honoured traditions the whole family will cherish for many Christmases to come.
Homeowner Jennifer Jarmuszewski’s prized collection of rare antique blue transferware – the inspiration for the dining room’s moody blue colour scheme – is prominently displayed in a custom-built hutch with a fresh green-painted interior that makes the plates pop. Simple evergreen wreaths and sprigs on the table add a refined holiday touch to the ultra-elegant space.
Helping decorate the tree is a holiday ritual that Jennifer’s kids, Julia and Benjamin Jarmuszewski, cherish. Glittery blue and silver ornaments mingle with avian-themed ones (inspired by the settee’s bird-print fabric) and, of course, kid-made treasures. But a family favourite is a hinged box ornament with the words “Christmas Wishes” on it. “Before we hang it, we each add a written wish for the coming year,” says Jennifer.
This spot in the dining room was too small for a sideboard, so an antique dresser was used instead. It serves as an ersatz bar, which is convenient for topping up drinks at dinner.
Though they’re newer pieces, the ornate concrete console and architectural reclaimed wood mirror lend the entryway an old-world look that suits the home’s elegance. The voluminous magnolia-leaf garland offers a luxe touch for the holidays.
Jennifer’s Flow Blue dishware – coveted antique transferware with blurred blue and white motifs – makes an eclectic tablescape when mixed with more contemporary gold-detailed plates and green scalloped ones. Adorned with name tags secured to pretty mercury-glass ornaments, each place setting offers a memento guests can take home.
The living room’s slender, curvaceous settee is offset by the geometric gallery wall of small engraved wood artwork grouped above – another example of Jennifer’s passion for collecting. Every time she makes the trip to Stratford, Ont., she can’t resist popping into artist Gerard Brender à Brandis’s studio to purchase another piece to add to the display.
You'll love these festive cookies.
Using just three household ingredients you can whip up a batch of traditional Scottish shortbread cookies for the holiday season.
During the hustle and bustle of the holidays, when everyone seems to be reaching for bigger and better, it’s lovely to remember that some things never change.
A traditional Scottish shortbread cookie is one of those things. Pure, simple and oh-so sublime, it needs no adornment to get the message across. Do you see what we see?
1 Preheat the oven to 300°F.
2 In a stand mixer using the whisk attachment, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour, 1/2 cup at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. The dough is ready when it holds its shape when squeezed.
3 Separate the dough into four round balls of equal size and roll each into a 1/2" thick 7" disc. Score the top of each disc into eight equal wedges. (Alternatively, press each ball into a metal or wooden shortbread mould dusted with icing sugar and smooth the top with a rolling pin. Remove from the mould before baking.)
4 Bake until the bottoms of the cookies are light gold, 20 to 25 minutes.
5 Sprinkle the tops of the cookies with more superfine sugar while they’re still hot; let the cookies cool on a rack before breaking into wedges to serve.
Makes: 32 wedge cookies
A bright and welcoming sunroom is spruced up for the holidays.
With the holiday season is upon us, make the most of this month by tackling these tasks.
As the song says, it's the most wonderful time of the year – and it only lasts a few weeks. Avoid seasonal stress by staying organized and having realistic expectations of what you can achieve. To help you make the most of the holiday season, here are 10 things to do this December.
1 Clean out the freezer
It's all too easy to let food accumulate in the freezer – and before long, not only is it too crowded to make room for more, but there are items in the back that should probably be thrown away. Set aside some time to organize your freezer – you may be amazed at what you'll find in there.
2 Make a wreath
Not only is a wreath on the front door inviting, but it really makes a house look like a home. If you've got the time, add a personal touch to your outdoor decor by making your own instead of buying one. And if you're really feeling inspired, make two and give the second to a friend as an early Christmas gift.
3 Get organized for gift wrapping
To save time during the hectic Christmas shopping season, set up a gift-wrapping station in an out-of-the-way spot in your home -- it will make it easy to wrap gifts as you buy them, and you won't be hunting around the house for the scissors, silver ribbon or gift tags. If you haven't got the space for a separate gift-wrapping table, put all your supplies in a couple of wicker baskets in the closet or under the bed for easy access.
4 Decorate the kitchen
Don't limit your holiday accents to the living room and entryway -- think about ways you can bring the spirit of the season into every room, including the kitchen. Try decorating the windowsill with candles and cedar boughs, putting a miniature Christmas tree on a shelf or draping doorways with garlands. For a finishing touch, simmer spices in water on the back of the stove to infuse your home with the comforting scent of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.
5 Cook up some appetizers
Get ready for guests – whether expected or impromptu – by preparing a selection of appetizers ahead of time. Just pick recipes that can be made in advance and frozen, and you could have a season's worth of hors d'oeuvres ready in an afternoon.
6 Host a cookie exchange
Rather than devoting hours of free time to baking each of your favourite holiday treats, arrange an exchange with friends and family. Organize it so that each person bakes a different type of cookie, enough to share around with everyone in the group. Don't forget to make a few extras to serve while everyone's exchanging the goods!
7 Hang some mistletoe
The custom of kissing under the mistletoe is said to come from an ancient Scandinavian tradition that when enemies met in the forest under mistletoe, they were to lay down their arms and observe a truce for the following day. Continue the tradition by hanging mistletoe in your home during the holiday season – and spread peace and goodwill among your guests.
8 Donate to the food bank
During this season of feasting, remember those who are less fortunate by bringing non-perishable food items or a monetary donation to your local food bank. Consider offering your time, as well, to help sort donations or perform other necessary tasks.
9 Let in the fresh air
It may be getting chilly outside, but that's no reason to keep the windows locked tight. Shutting up the house lets indoor pollutants accumulate, especially if it's fairly new and therefore airtight. Let in the cool, crisp air of early winter by opening the windows for a few minutes daily – longer if the weather is cooperating – and enjoy the fresh scent of a well-aired home.
10 Make homemade eggnog
Eggnog is so rich and sinfully delicious, it's probably a good thing we don't drink it all year round. So don't settle for nog in a carton – it's easy to make your own, and the results are well worth the time spent.
Make this twist on traditional lasagne with this recipe from Elana Karp and Suzanne Dumaine's new cookbook Plated.
1 Preheat the oven to 425°F.
2 On a baking sheet, toss the mushrooms and squash with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and salt and pepper.
3 Arrange in a single layer and roast until tender, about 18 minutes.
4 While the vegetables roast, strip the stems from the kale leaves, then cut the leaves into bite-sized pieces. Thinly slice the garlic. In a large pan, heat the remaining olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the kale and garlic and cook until the kale is wilted and bright green, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper; set aside.
5 Remove the roasted mushrooms and squash from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 400°F. Using a fork or spoon, mash the squash.
6 To make the béchamel sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. When the butter is foamy, sprinkle in the flour and whisk until the mixture is smooth and golden, about 2 minutes. Slowly pour in the milk, whisking continuously, until no lumps remain. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thick and coats the back of a spoon, 6 to 7 minutes. Season with the nutmeg, salt and pepper. Add 1/4 cup of the Parmesan, stirring to combine; remove the pot from the heat.
7 Spread a thin layer of the béchamel sauce over the bottom of a 9" x 13" baking dish. Add a layer of the lasagna noodles, followed by a layer of squash and mushrooms, the kale, more sauce and a sprinkle of Parmesan. Repeat to make 2 more layers: noodles, vegetables, sauce and Parmesan. Top with a final layer of noodles and the remaining béchamel sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan and the Gruyère.
8 Loosely cover the dish with foil, transfer to the oven and bake until the lasagna is bubbling, about 30 minutes.
9 Increase the oven temperature to 450°F.
10 Uncover the lasagna and continue baking until golden, about 10 minutes longer. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before cutting into pieces. Wrap with foil and store in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month. To reheat, microwave the lasagna or warm it, covered, in the oven at 350°F.
Excerpted from Plated by Elana Karp & Suzanne Dumaine. Recipes Copyright © 2016 Elana Karp & Suzanne Dumaine, Photography copyright © 2016 Robert Bredvad. Excerpted by permission of Clarkson Potter/Publishers. All rights reserved.