The Holiday Dinner, 2014

M and M holiday 2014 (1)For the past several years, I have posted pictures from a holiday dinner hosted every year by 2 very good friends. They both have careers in the arts and are keenly interested in design.  They have a collection of ornaments amassed over a period of many years.  They have strong ties to French art and design.  All of this shows, whether the subject at hand is their collection of boxwood in pots, their perennial gardens, or their French style potager. Their holiday is ordinarily a very subtle and understated affair.  This year’s table is a significant departure.

M and M holiday 2014 (2)This holiday featured an unexpected turn of events. The French blue flocked tree around which they had planned their holiday was not available.  By the time they ordered their tree, the color was sold out. With equal parts pique and nerve, they ordered a flocked tree in turquoise.  M sent me a picture of the tree-I could not imagine what they would do with it.  The color was very strong. Intensely turquoise. As they felt it was either a turquoise flocked tree, or a tree with no flock, they jumped in.

M and M holiday 2014 (3)Once the initial shock of the color had worn off, I could see them both accepting, and later enjoying the challenge. They kept me updated, as the decorating process unfolded. My part in all of this?  Being available to tell them I was sure what they did would be great. The design process always has those moments.  A tree that dies, and leaves an attending shade garden exposed to full sun is a design challenge, as it is based on a circumstance that cannot be altered.  The one boxwood or lavender that dies out mid-hedge, or an exceptionally cold winter that kills the roses back to the ground can present significant design challenges.  Every gardener experiences moments like this.

M and M holiday 2014 (4)But the glory of their holiday is in what companion colors and materials they chose to make that turquoise look beautiful and deliberate.  They harvested lots of weed seed heads, and hydrangeas from their garden.  Those cream colored stems are intertwined, and float over that startling blue.

M and M holiday 2014 (5)They used lots of red, as in pomegranate, and red amaryllis. I am not sure why red and turquoise is such a striking color combination, but here it is-with gold and cream as an intermediary. Big splashes of gold, and some silver added to the festivities. It was clear this design process was not drawn on paper, or completely imagined in advance.  It was a process for which they both had patience. Do enjoy their pictures.

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M and M holiday 2014 (12)red for the holiday

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M and M holiday 2014 (14)the holiday table

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M and M holiday 2014 (16)Sophia

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M and M holiday 2014 (23)I thought their holiday was incredibly beautiful. Their willingness to take on an unexpected circumstance with energy and verve is equally as stunning. Taking chances with design-how I admire this.

A Christmas Eve Celebration

You may recall a post I wrote just before Christmas entitled “Gifts That Gardeners Give”.  I pictured a wreath I had made as a gift for two very good friends.  They live on and love a big wild piece of property in what I call “the country”.  They were very enthusiastic about the gift-enough so to suggest they would make it an integral part of their traditional Christmas Eve dinner celebration.  Of course I asked for pictures.  I got more than that.  I got the story of the evening in pictures.   

The mercury glass candlesticks I had seen before.  Their 19th century stone house features generously deep window sills that are perfect for collections.  The simple wood bird sculptures I had not seen.  How elegant they are, each holding a sprig of holiday greens in their beaks.    

The candlesticks and birds dressed for the occasion ran the length of the holiday table.  I like that height that captures one’s attention and sets the mood upon entering the room.

They would do little to obstruct the seated views across the table.  I was delighted to see that the wreath was most definitely part of their holiday celebration. 

The table setting was exquisite. The silver and linens, quite formal.  The arrangement of all of the elements, rhythmic in a purely personal way.

Arranged around the bases of the birds and candlesticks, an assortment of fruits, ornaments, and bits from the garden. The nest in the wreath was handmade by some unknown bird with various grasses, twigs, and other natural detritus. I added a lining of milkweed seeds still attached to their fluff.  The surface of the table was similarly decorated with an assortment of like-spirited objects of their own choosing. 

I think their table was breathtaking.  The rickrack over the mercury glass calls to mind the string that could easily be part of a bird’s nest.  Fruits, nuts, and ornaments in various colors and shapes are the unexpected underplanting to the silver, white and glass dinner service.

The photographs are as beautifully composed as the table. 






Many thanks to my friends for permitting me to share the photographs of their Christmas Eve dinner table.  It is gorgeous, is it not?

Full Circle

Yes, this is the third time that I am writing about the light rings.  I think I have good reason.  Any design idea begins in a seed-like form.  There are no specifics or details-just the idea.  That idea has to grow, develop, and mature.  Any design idea that that annoys me by the third pass, I try to let go.  The annoyance means the idea was not big enough to begin with.  After writing yesterday’s essay, I thought I might want to take my own advice.  Was there a place that those light rings might add to the shop lighting in a substantial way?  

It was not that tough to figure out.  The idea had been looking me in the face for weeks.  The rings in the window help to fully illuminate the asparagus stems.  They light the underside of the medallions above the window.     

The circular form frames the asparagus, and is a distinctly contrasting form.  Does all of this go through my head?  It does.  Understanding your own visual process is important to creating a clear and strong expression.  It may take longer than one or two or five passes.  I like to take the time, even when I have no time, to let a design project speak back to me.  What you imagined has to all be there in plain view.  If it isn’t, the project isn’t finished.   

Though I may have an idea which organizes a project, I rarely am able to design start to finish in one fell swoop.  My clients are by and large patient people.  If they are not, it is just part of my job to explain how patience can make a satisfactory project supremely satisfying.   

I did not mention the greens around the lights, which I added halfway through the project.  They are cozy looking, and they repeat the green in the boxes in another place, and on another level.  The greens mediate between the lights, and the sticks.  They frame the door in a friendly way. They have a circular, wreath-like shape.

The shop holiday decor now has a level of finish that keeps on pleasing my eye.  This is my view, many times over in the course of a day, or a week.  This makes the resolution of that view important to me. Those light rings, as simple as they are, add a lot to the view.  The steel topiary forms in the pots to which the willow is attached, and the steel topiary forms in the windows add as much to this winter garden as any other element.  I wonder how I might apply the same idea to a summer garden here. 

The structure of the light rings echo the wreath over the door, and the circles of greens around the lights. circular forms.  The lights have pompom tops-I have never really noticed that before.  The emergency light inside of the wreath-I notice that all the time.  Maybe it is time to paint the housing the same color as the wall.

The light rings in the window have greatly improved the view from inside-this I did not anticipate.  The windowsill behind my desk has a totally different look now.  It is a look, with structure.

What began with the willow over the topiary forms has now come full circle.