Can you believe it’s the last month of the year? I think I’ll just slip into it, continuing our Fall focus on the gorgeous trees of Newport and choosing one specifically to inspire this Christmas 2016’s decorations — the English beech.
As the garden and grounds clean-up finished here at Parterre, I collected some of the elegantly curved beech prunings. Once these were sprayed a gloss “Colonial Red” (whose depth of color adds character to the evergreen selections throughout the house) it was time to start first on the front door. The bundle of nine foot beech branches on either side of the door make such a statement in their simplicity that it didn’t seem necessary to add my customary pine roping. Adding branches along the lantern’s supports complete an informal “arch” effect around the entire limestone front door molding. A cheerful, big red bow on the black urns supplies a holiday finishing touch while the seventeen year old clipped hornbeams create their own frame to the tableau.
The heavy corded roping that is the lantern’s own embellishment was one tradition I couldn’t forego (it is actually a curtain tie-back, repurposed).
There is a very different use of the beech branches as the theme is carried into the entry hall. Here, in antique hand-painted porcelain vases, each red branch has been carefully chosen to create the desired spray effect. While delicately positioned, they are still just strong enough to hold small red Christmas balls (note: even without this holiday touch, the unusual arrangement is a welcome addition to the hall).
And this year some leftover branches inspired an easy to do as well as visually effective wreath that honored the theme of Newport’s trees.
While decorating is still on my mind, I’d like to pass along some key points from my friend Jim Donahue, who decorates the Preservation Society’s mansions for Christmas. If, like Jim, you had to create a different theme for a total of forty-six rooms and twenty-eight Christmas trees each year, you’d have improvised some efficiencies, too! His mantra?. Organization is the key to time management.
HOLIDAY DECORATING CHECKLIST
1. Store each room’s decorations in clear plastic bins, to include a photograph of the room, and affix with a prominent label.
2. If possible, use pre-lit trees.
4. Plan on all decorations being free-standing; no nails, glue, permanent markers or wire. This is a must in a house museum and good practice at home, too. TIP: Jim recommends “3M Command Strips.”
5. Just like the mansions, many old homes don’t have numerous electrical outlets, so be very mindful of what you choose to light.
6. When trimming your tree, layer out from the center with your heaviest and largest ornaments, finishing up with your lightest ornaments on the tips. Remember…it is so much easier to work with one group of ornaments at a time, proceeding to the next one after the first set is finished.