Holiday Tables At Cranbrook

Cranbrook 2014 (11)For 39 years, the Cranbrook Auxiliary has raised money for the restoration of both Cranbrook house and the gardens via the Holiday Tables event in late November. This year, 18 designers spent the day yesterday decorating their tables for the holidays. I did a table for them at least 10 years ago. A good friend, client, and long time benefactor of Cranbrook asked if I would return, and decorate a room, this being the last year for this particular event.  I am sure this group has an event plan for the future, with an entirely new format. As for this finale event-we were all in. The theme of this year’s tables-Illuminate the Season.

Cranbrook 2014 (12)If you are local to our area, you are well aware of the Cranbrook property, house and schools.  It houses one of the most respected graduate art programs in the nation.  If you are not local, suffice it to say Cranbrook is a vibrant institution with substantial gardens of which we are very proud. Interested in the entire story?

Cranbrook 2014 (14)The house is of a particular period and time.  The wood furnishings and tile are dark. The rugs are old and quietly gorgeous.  The lighting is subdued.  The period and style of this room drove the design for our table. For starters,  Rob hand fashioned three strands of holiday lights –  a reproduction of lighting from a much earlier era comprised of taupe colored cloth clad twisted wire, bakelite sockets, and large scale reproduction bulbs. Each bulb got its own vintage tin reflector before it was inserted into its bakelite socket.  These light strands are outfitted with a dimmer switch, so the light can be adjusted to fit the mood of the occasion. A small flock of our grapevine deer sculptures with sparkly gold and cream lit collars help populate the space. The quality of the light is key to our design.

Cranbrook 2014 (15)The china is my own, collected a few pieces at a time since my twenties. The Compleat Angler, manufactured in the early 1980’s by Portmerion China in England,  was inspired by the watercolors of English game fish done by AF Lydon in 1879. I have never used this china-I display it, and enjoy looking at it. The flatware is Ambience Olivewood, made by Alaine St. Joannis.  This we have used every day for many years. So why am I talking china and flatware?  It is a tradition with this event.  The sunset room is a fairly large room.  We were going to need more than a table, set for a holiday gathering.

Cranbrook 2014 (5)We placed three Christmas trees in the room-two of which are flocked. Detroit Garden Works is featuring flocked frasier fir trees for the holiday season this year.  They are available in a variety of sizes and colors, by special order only. These are the first flocked trees I have seen since my childhood, but apparently they are popular from the mid west to Paris. The French blue is my favorite color.  As the light string wires looked beautiful with that color, we had a color scheme for the decor. The wires themselves are handsome enough to feature them as holiday garland.

Cranbrook 2014 (20)We did bring an artificial Christmas tree.  This is my favorite style of artificial tree. It is clearly artificial-not a representation of a real tree.  The branches are brown, and lightly dusted with snow. We decorated it with pale French blue glass balls, and long crystal drops.

Cranbrook 2014 (21)The 10 foot long shallowly oval table with square ends is meant to be placed against a wall.  This was a perfect size to set the table on one side, and decorate the far side.  The flocked fir branches hold a variety of other materials.  A light strand, the dried curling fronds of garden ferns, glass balls in cream and blue, and fresh magnolia leaves are interspersed throughout.

Cranbrook 2014 (22)table detail

Cranbrook 2014 (13)The soup tureen and pike oval platter

Cranbrook 2014 (8)What I like best about this display is that it seems visually believable in this space. The antique Victorian wicker chairs are ours, but they look appropriate to the room.Every item has a vintage, or a garden feel. The color is subdued, but festive. If you are interested in seeing all 18 of the holiday tables, a formal buffet tea is scheduled for 11 to 3 today,  a cocktail party for Friday evening by reservation, and general admission Friday and Saturday from 10-4. We think the Cranbrook House and Garden auxiliary is well worth your support.


  1. Deborah, Just Breathtaking! I love the collar treatment around the reindeer necks…not to mention every other fine, well thought out touch! Can I come over for dinner?!

  2. I am relatively new to your blog and want to thank you for all the inspiration and visual joy you have given me these past months. Thank you for sharing. Wishing you a joyous Christmas and looking forward to spending more time with you in the New Year. Blessings.

  3. Deborah and Rob, A feast for the eyes. Stunning, as always.

  4. Utterly and amazingly gorgeous!

  5. Cecilia Stempel says

    This Looks so gorgeous and inspiring. Do you flock the trees before the lights? Just thinking of the mess factor. Think I might try it this year. Have a blessed Holiday!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Cecilia, the company that grows the trees flocks them. I would never try it myself. There wasn’t much mess in transporting them. The lights went on after. Best, Deborah

  6. JoyceB in Atlanta says

    Beautiful china, and such well thought out details. I was surprised to see a heading about holiday tables, but this one is all about the room and ambiance also. Love the way you chose to place china on one side and decorate the other. With what are undoubtedly gorgeous views through the windows, this is a perfect way to seat people at a long and skinny table. Those deer are so perfect in this room. What patience to wrap the cords as they once looked in the ‘olden days’. Hope you had as much fun decorating the room as I had seeing it!

  7. So beautiful ! I visited your store this past Sunday was very impressed with flocked Christmas trees ! I always pick up a few new unique items for the holiday outdoor pots.

    Thanks for the inspiration.

    Claudia B

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Claudia, thanks for your letter. All of the credit for the great selection of materials go to Rob. I did have to talk him into the flocked trees-but I think he is really enjoying them. best, Deborah

  8. Wow Deborah. You never disappoint!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Paula, we glued the caps down on of all the ornaments, and wired everything on the trees so they could be transported in a truck in their decorated state. All of us from both the shop and the landscape company did something to get all of this together and over to Cranbrook. It was fun! Thanks, Deborah

  9. Lauren Balames says

    Dear Deborah and Rob,
    The room is absolutely spectacular in person. Guests have a hard time believing the flocked trees are actually real. Thank you once again for all your hard work and support of Cranbrook House and Gardens Auxiliary over the years.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Thanks, Lauren. I hope you have lots of visitors over the course of the weekend-it looked to me like every table has a beautiful and thoughtful quality to it. all the best, Deborah

  10. Lynn Fiorentino says

    My jaw literally dropped when I looked at the close up of the table detail. Absolutely breath taking! So subtle. Love it all.

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