Home & Design

Green Acre #176: Holidays? What Holidays?

O! WHERE ARE those fabulous magazine holiday displays of yesteryear: the towering trees that need to be hoisted into penthouse living rooms; linen-draped dining tables laden with crystal and silver and bunches of holly; fir-festooned railings; fireplace mantels lined with glittery bowls of paperwhite narcissus; indoor gardens of poinsettias; doors, terraces and gardens all jolly with wreaths and lights?   

Despite the December dates of this month’s high-end shelter magazines, surprisingly little was holiday driven—a few shiny balls in bowls, sprigs of red berries. So very subtle. This is the time, if ever there is one, to go over the top. It certainly is in my house. 

Flipping through these glossy journals you’d think the most wonderful time of the year was, maybe, September.

On House Beautiful’s cover is a kitchen. Veranda presents an overstuffed living room suitable for Sherlock Holmes; just add a pipe. Despite a nod to the season with “Home for the Holidays” splashed across the cover, inside Elle Décor the topic is completely ignored. And Architectural Digest devotes its cover to a dreary, moody-looking living room with a few clutches of inconspicuous white roses. 

There are some gift suggestions, though they’re nearly hidden within the pages, as if ashamed of their blatant extravagance. Veranda’s “sunroom bar” features accessories that include a $2,500 Breville espresso machine and a $2,799 sleek stainless faucet for what they call “sparkling tap water,” which is . . . I know not what. Architectural Digest is predictably packed with Things You Do Not Need, such as a $27,560 mattress from Savoirbeds.com, an exceedingly ugly table lamp by Mattia Bonetti for $26,000 and a set of four vintage Chanel tennis balls for $950. 

Well, Bah Humbug on that—but that said . . . there does appear to be a heartening backlash to homes devoid of personality, and—dare I say—a welcoming sprinkling of clutter.

Tell me how a home can have personality without . . . things.

The December issue of Veranda heralds, “The Refined Return of Maximalism, Luxe Rooms With Major Personality.” Amen to that.

I am particularly enthralled by their story of a sunroom, walls and ceiling lacquered British racing green, right up to the cunning cupola. This was turned into a wet bar and extra entertaining area for large parties, as it opens off the living room, thus combining two of my favorite things: winter gardens and drinking.  

Meanwhile, House Beautiful features the New York apartment of home-furnishings impresario John Rosselli. The flat, in a 19th-century building several blocks from the home he shares with his wife, designer Bunny Williams, is where he stores his collections, a trove that includes “everything from 19th-century Chinese porcelain, to animal-head walking sticks, to miniature landscapes.” 

Talk about maximalism: He needed a second apartment for his overflow.

The photographs show layer upon layer of stuff, played against a backdrop that might make many sneeze but fills me with (you should pardon the expression) joy. Of course I was instantly smitten, as we share a taste for such items as antique crewel curtains and leopard-velvet-cushioned dining chairs. Not to mention mountains of books.

Also featured in the issue is the Wyoming home of Christian Burch and his partner John Frechette, inveterate scavengers, who’ve packed their home with finds from rummaging across country (selling the excess at three local shops). It’s an . . . interesting . . . combination of fine art mixed with curiosities such as an antique bank vault and a truly ghastly 1950s mustard-yellow crushed-velvet sofa. Burch never frets about his buying whims “. . . if I like it it’s going to work.” Well . . . work for him anyway.

If you’ve already given away the Baccarat flutes, the grandma’s silver service for 12 and the Sèvres custard pots, it’s time for some shopping. Maybe Burch picked them up on his last swing to the East. 

Chins up! Next month spring will be just around the corner and we can once again devote ourselves to tulips and blackspot. 

Meanwhile, we’re on our own for holiday decorating. 

—Stephanie Cavanaugh

LittleBird “Stephanie Gardens” finds inspiration where she can and complains when she can’t. Fair enough.


MyLittleBird often includes links to products we write about. Our editorial choices are made independently; nonetheless, a purchase made through such a link can sometimes result in MyLittleBird receiving a commission on the sale, whether through a retailer, an online store or Amazon.com.


5 thoughts on “Green Acre #176: Holidays? What Holidays?

  1. Susan — I tried to look up Evan Rose and came up empty… How do I see her stuff? Thanks… Stephanie

  2. Susan Pellish says:

    Even Rose in Shepherdstown offered hand made, hand painted, butterflies, dragonflies, bees of various sizes for a trees this year. This made for an insect tree in my front room, and perfect additions to wrapped packages and bows.

  3. Maggie Hall says:

    Ooh! Might just have to nick the close-up photo of your stunning butterfly laden tree for next year’s Christmas card!

  4. Kate Perrin says:

    Thank you! I’ve been stewing over the lack of holiday cheer, visuals and decorating inspiration in my latest pile of shelter publications and even debating their renewals. After days of layering mounds of seasonal decorations and pulling out the Christmas china and glassware for this weekend’s luncheon I was starting to wonder if I was now politically incorrect or a decorating dinosaur. Sorry — no open plan, all shades of grey for me. Bring on the red, green and sparkle to fight back the winter dark!

  5. cynthia tilson says:

    Fun column! You had me chuckling at “high end shelter magazines”!

    Excessively, extravagantly, ironic
    Is such a welcome tonic
    To a lack of reason
    For ostentatious treason
    Breaking hard fast rules of fashion
    During the days of ‘Sparkle Season’

    “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take at least one thing off.”
    Coco Chanel

    Less is always more…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.