Garrity: Christmas at cozy cottage puts a new spin on holiday
I was so, so excited to decorate my cottage for Christmas this year. I have to confess, this is not always the case. In fact, since I am focused on holiday decorating pretty much year-round, from the holiday markets in spring to decorating the stores in July, I can become a Grinch when it comes to dressing up my own home. Last year, I was in full bah-humbug mode and only managed to slap a wreath on my front door. But this year, the holiday magic was back. And I had a blast dreaming about how to make my snug little home merry and bright.
This is our second Christmas in our little lake cottage, and I’m still experimenting with how to decorate it for the holidays. Our historic Greek revival in Atchison, Kansas, was large and grand, and it called for a formal, showy treatment. But Innisfree is different. Our ode to Christmas needed to be simpler, more edited.
Lucky for me, I work with a team of insanely talented designers. So I invited the visual team to come over to the cottage and dream with me. I had a vision, and they helped me bring it to life.
Fireside dinner: Our Atchison home was old and drafty, so one Christmas I set up a dining table in front of a roaring fire, a romantic, out-of-the ordinary dinner party for just us two. I decided to do the same thing at Innisfree this year. I pulled the two wingback chairs in our living room in front of the hearth, then slipped a side table between them.
I wanted the table setting to be festive and inviting, but not overdone. Inexpensive plaid trays became chargers, holding my favorite gold rimmed china. To make the place settings a bit more special, we added holiday ribbon, looped to look like a bow. I love to decorate with fresh flowers but I am terrible at floral arranging. So when I create bouquets myself, they have to be simple, like sweet little roses tucked into a dish of cranberries.
Nothing beats a signature drink inspired by the season. Prosecco is my passion, so I’m always up for a prosecco-inspired cocktail, garnished beautifully with fresh cranberries and a sprig of rosemary.
Holiday mantel: When you decorate your mantel for the holidays, try one of two approaches: Remove everything from the mantel and build a stunning new display, or keep your existing decor and add in a few holiday touches. We did the latter this year. We twisted some honeysuckle vine around my mantel, then wove in a mix of faux greenery picks and berries. To ensure all the holiday displays in the cottage flowed together, we used the same greens throughout.
Life lessons: One of the beautiful things about aging is gaining perspective. I used to put a lot of pressure on myself during the holidays to make everything perfect. Now, I do everything I can ahead of time to avoid last-minute stress, like setting a lovely table well in advance. That way I can slow down when my family and friends are here, to be fully present and entirely engaged.
The tree: Several years ago, I made the switch from fresh-cut Christmas trees to artificial. It had something to do with stepping on brittle pine needles hidden in the carpets for months. I found artificial trees easier to work with — they don’t come crashing down quite as easily, the ornaments and ribbons stayed where put them, and they didn’t drop needles everywhere.
But this year, I tried something brand new: a live tree, which will be planted in our yard as soon as the holidays are over. I fell in love with this little old Charlie Brown tree, with its irregular shape and diminutive size. When we decorated it for Christmas, we took our cue from the burlap-covered root ball and filled the tree with natural treasures. Honeysuckle vines swirl in and out, bird’s nests and faux birds are perched on branches. A faux popcorn garland is lazily draped around its spindly girth.
This column was adapted from Mary Carol Garrity's blog at nellhills.com.