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Deck the halls for the holidays
By Kathleen Ostrander

It's the holidays.

Time to get out the bows, beribbon everything that's not moving, get out the candles, start shopping for the right Kwanzaa-colored items, break out the menorah and go to town decorating.

Five out of six designers agree you can never have too much "holiday" in the house. It's only once a year. Never mind the fact it takes a month to put up the decorations and, oddly enough, two months to take them down.

Luckily, the only rules about holiday decorating are that there are no rules. Slap on some red and green stuff and even the commode looks festive. If it's Christmas that causes the hall-decking angst, look to the experts for advice or the actual decorating.

They all start by asking what sort of budget they are working with and what decorations the clients have as a base.

"After we find out what sort of investment you want to make," said Susan Wilkey of Flora Scape, "we see what you have that we can utilize or update. We see if you want something outside or just inside. Decorating is very much a personal thing. One theme can tie it all together."

Themes can include: Country Christmas, which would involve wooden ornaments, gingerbread ornaments, pinecones, berries and holly, raffia, popcorn or cranberry garland. The colors used for that would be browns, reds and greens. Pat Gilley of JB Interiors suggests if you like the whimsy and warmth of a country Christmas, that might be the tree you put up in the 'family space.'

"That wouldn't really be something you would put in a formal area. The family tree would be the highly personal tree. It would have the ornaments you've collected over the years and would perhaps have ornaments that the children have made," he said.

For the more formal areas, try the Elegant Christmas theme or the Old-Fashioned Christmas theme.

Elegant Christmas would be glass ornaments, bead garlands, ribbons and lace and some velvet. The colors would be silver, blue and deep red. Old-Fashioned Christmas theme would involve vintage pewter ornaments, lights in the shape of candles, popcorn garlands and the colors would be red, greens and whites.

Jim Wilson of Jim Wilson Interiors said colors and shades can be used as a theme. For example, have a holly, jolly Crimson Christmas would involve, well, red. Rich red bows, beads, faux cranberry garland, red ornaments in matte or sparkle.

Wonderful White means white from the tree skirt to the lights. Think icicles, sparkly stars, doves and snow. Christmas trees in Victorian times started out as white trees.

Go for the Gold for the Glam Christmas. Pretty much any ornament comes in gold; gold ribbon, gold garland - gold jewelry as gifts - hung on the tree with tiny, tasteful tags.

Citroen Green is still in for this year. The flashy hued green started showing up in Christmas themes about two years ago. Rae Roberts-Griffith of True Colors said a variation of the Citroen Green this year is kiwi. "Pair it with the new purple for an updated look," she said.

Stylish Silver is a classy Christmas style. Stylish silver accents on an evergreen bough look classic and elegant. Both gold and silver themes can be extended past Christmas well into the New Year.

Blue Hues Christmas is trendy and cool. Blue Hues can also take on a Hanukkah feel. Use blue garlands for Christmas or blue or white Star of David garlands for Hanukkah.

Bold Metallics Christmas means neon in full blast with blue, pink, green and either silver or gold accents for a chic tree.

"We've gotten away from the mauves and gold, and we've moved more into oranges and teals," Wilkey said. "But I have to say the homes we do in Springfield lean more towards the traditional red, green, gold and silver," she said.

Roberts-Griffith said the bright colors are in. "Teal and hot pink, when played correctly, can look quite elegant," she said. Tablescapes and wall pieces are being shown in bronze, burgundy and golds.

Artificial wreaths, she said, can be successfully changed each year to reflect a different theme, or they can be augmented with new ornaments and ribbon. "A ribbon change is a lovely upgrade and it's easy to do," she added.

Nothing says "special occasion" like an elegantly dressed-up table, according to Louis Mohn and Jamie Wilmot. Mohn advised using rich bronzes and golds as well as raspberry and shades of olive green.

"You can carry your holiday theme through to the table," Wilmot said. If you can't find the exact colors you need in table cloths and napkins, go to a fabric store and get the right colors there in fabric.

Use it for a table runner, placemats and napkins. Place ornaments on the plates, Mohn said, with a place card and guests can take the ornament home. Vivid red silk florals and poinsettias can be used in table centerpieces along with gold and red candles.

Mohn said elegant gold flatware as well as gold-rimmed stemware and china tell guests they are honored holiday visitors.  Fabric is used to make large, stylish bows on each of the chairs to finish off a dining room and is picture perfect for the holidays.

Contemporary Christmas decorations play very well in homes decorated in the same vein, Wilson said.

The key to decorating that draws oohs and aahs, he said, is to put something unexpected in the decorating scheme. "It could be a color that is unexpected or some item that is not necessarily recognized as a Christmas item," he said.

"Think of a greenery item that is not necessarily something you would think of putting in a Christmas decorating scheme," Wilson added. "It's the shock of an item or a color that is not in the usual holiday palette that can make it different and exciting."

"We are seeing 'bright' for this Christmas," Gilley said. "We've got really, really bright fuchsia, purple and pops of colors in the browns and golds."

Gilley said you can have traditional decorations and still have lots of color. "If you want different colors and different themes, go ahead," he said. "End a theme or color in a room and start another. You can have a showy elegant tree in the formal areas and trees with personality and keepsakes in areas where the family spends more time," he said.

Pink is big this year and it can be whimsical or formal, he advised. "We tell the homeowner that we decorate to reflect their personality and different facets of their personality," he said. "The holidays are uniquely personal."



Blue and white are the traditional decorating colors for Hanukkah. Of all the rituals connected with this holiday, the lighting of the candles is most important.

The candles are placed in a nine-branched candelabrum called a menorah, and the first candle to be lit is the center candle. Each night, an additional candle is lit using the center candle, which remains lit throughout Hanukkah. There are many types of menorahs, from glass to brass, and most Jewish families have more than one in their home.

Surround the menorah with Star of David cutouts embellished with decorative paper and beads. A contemporary look can be achieved by mixing bold geometric blue and white patterns.

Use a wide swatch of blue velvet down the table as a runner, and line up tall tapers on the sides of the menorah for accents.

The eight-day holiday of Hanukkah (or Chanukah), means "dedication." According to Jewish legend, when the Maccabees had reclaimed the Temple Mount of Jerusalem, the temple had to be rededicated, but only one jar, one day's worth, of sacramental oil was found. However, the oil lasted for eight days and based on this miracle, the length of the Hanukkah festival was established. 



As far as holidays go, Kwanzaa is the new kid on the block.

It was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga i 1966 as a way to help Africans and African-Americans honor family, community and culture and is celebrated from Dec. 26 through Jan. 1 of each year.

A Kinara (candle holder), Mkeka (placemat preferably made of straw), Mazao (crops, i.e., fruits and vegetables), Vibunzi/Muhindi (ears of corn to reflect the number of children in the household), Kikombe cha umoja (communal unity cup), Mishumaa saba (seven candles - one black, three red and three green) and Zawadi (gifts that are enriching) are needed for celebrating Kwanzaa.

Traditional Kwanzaa colors and their symbolism are: black, symbolizing the African-American people; red, representing struggle, and green, which symbolizes hope for a better future.

The Kinara along with the other symbols of Kwanzaa should dominate the room where the Kwanzaa feast, or Karamu, is planned. The Karamu is traditionally held on Dec. 31 and is considered a communal event and a cooperative effort.

Use the Kwanzaa colors when decorating. Black, red and green streamers, balloons, cloth, flowers and African prints can be hung tastefully around the room. Original art and sculpture may be displayed as well. 



Story published Friday, November 7, 2008 ( Volume 3, Number 6 )

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