When it comes to seasonal decor, Christmas doesn’t have to mean red and green.
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That also applies to collections. For years, West has been gathering silver baby cups, as well as porringers, shallow bowls with pierced handles that were originally designed to serve gruel or pottage.
(Hint: Silver requires polishing but if you keep your collection small and don’t mind the maintenance, it will add luster to a room. “Tending to pretty things is part of the deal, but it doesn’t take long,” West says.)
In the dining room, four chairs with open-framed backs and seats upholstered in cream and blue zebra-stripe fabric surround a circular table.
For intimate holiday dinners, West sets a small bouquet of ivory-colored rosebuds in a silver vase at each place setting. He arranges his collection of snowy Staffordshire dog figurines on the dining table, playfully interspersing among the Waterford crystal and the linen napkins. There’s a small gift, fancifully wrapped like a jewel box, for each guest.
Outside, behind the cottage, formal gardens laid out like open-air rooms expand the entertaining space during warmer months. “The day we bought the house, Jeff went up on the second floor, looked out and saw this vision for the gardens,” Cox recalls. “It’s perfect for the property.”
In front, the cottage is framed with manicured boxwood hedges, a ready source of yule greenery. Miniature boxwoods, rugged enough to withstand winter, are planted in the window boxes. Boxwood adds color, texture and a bit of sheen to wreaths and other arrangements, with the added plus of being hardy and long lasting. “Even when it dries, it looks pretty good—and there are no needles,” West says.
He mixes boxwood with fir, pine and other greens for a festive blend of shapes and scents. Citrus fruits—lemons, oranges and clementines—provide an instant jolt of color. West combines dried oranges with hydrangeas and pine to fashion garlands he drapes over the mantel.
Instead of a wreath, West decorates the door with a basket filled with more hydrangeas and pine cones. “It looks very rustic and natural,” he says. “And decorating the door is a great way to tell guests that you are happy to see them.”
• Red and green aren’t the only Christmas colors. There is a bounty of hues to explore at holiday time. Consider glimmering gold and shimmering silver, various shades of blue and, of course, snowy white. Or reinterpret red and green as pink and celadon.
• Approach greenery like it’s a tossed salad. The mix is more interesting if you blend several kinds of greens. Options include fir, Scotch pine, boxwood and magnolia leaves.
• Don’t stand on tradition. Instead of a traditional tree stand, experiment with various platforms and containers. Jeff West anchored his tree in a big, blue-and-white jardiniere. A vintage quilt is a creative alternative to a tree skirt.
• Inspire yourself. Look for decorating ideas in magazines. Don’t forget the charming vignettes designed by the pros for shop windows and displays.