How do designers decorate for the holidays?

A holiday dessert buffet designed by Ken Fulk in New York on November 9, 2022. (Photos: NYTimes)
NEW YORK, United States — It is that time of year again. Go ahead and get a little carried away with decorating your home. No one is likely to accuse you of bad taste.اضافة اعلان

That is one of the gifts of the holiday season: the opportunity to go all out with color, lights, greenery, and flowers. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Kwanzaa, the changing of seasons, or some combination of traditions, there is no right or wrong way to go about decorating.

But a little inspiration is sometimes helpful. So, the New York Times asked a few top interior designers — Ken Fulk; Stephen Alesch and Robin Standefer, founding partners of Roman and Williams; and Rayman Boozer, founder of interior design firm Apartment 48 — for a glimpse of how they create holiday magic in their own homes in Manhattan.

An old-fashioned celebration

Fulk got his start in interior design at a young age, when he took over decorating his family home on the outskirts of Charlottesville, Virginia, for the holidays.

“I still have that childlike excitement about it,” he said of holiday decorating. “It’s the opportunity to go the extra length, to use the good china, to break out the silver, and to be generous, in all forms of that word.”

A tree decorated by Ken Fulk in New York on November 9, 2022. 

To decorate his Tribeca loft, which serves a dual purpose as his pied-à-terre and New York office, Fulk and his assistants mixed vintage artifacts with a flurry of magnolia leaves, flowers, lights, and favorite serving dishes to create a warm, inviting atmosphere with a dash of nostalgia.

When adorning his Christmas tree, Fulk repurposed vintage objects rather than using store-bought ornaments. For sparkle, he threaded hooks through individual pieces of crystal that had come loose from chandeliers. He did the same with vintage tassels and epaulets, and tied old ribbon intended for military uniforms around individual branches (all of which came from Tinsel Trading, a company founded in New York and now based in Berkeley, California). To finish off the tree, he added bunches of foraged pheasant feathers (which came from Jamali Garden in New York’s flower district).

The pièce de résistance was the dessert buffet, where he mixed conventional holiday elements with decidedly unconventional ones. To create towering vases bursting with flowers, he combined cut amaryllis, a classic winter bulb, with peonies, which are difficult to find after early summer, adding pomegranates and more magnolia leaves. He filled big silver bowls with heaping arrangements of mandarins, persimmons, and pears. He heaped silver- and gold-rimmed porcelain serving platters with cookies, meringues, chocolates, and nuts, and placed them below a tower of French macarons from Ladurée. Finally, he arranged taper candles in mismatched candlesticks at various heights across the spread, to give the whole expanse a romantic glow.

“I’m still that guy who loves holiday rituals, whatever they may be,” he said. “It’s not about the material stuff; it’s about those experiences and shared times.”

Natural decor that is good enough to eat
Every winter, Alesch and Standefer layer cut greenery and flowers into their loft with such abundance that it can feel as if nature has run amok. In doing so, the couple celebrate not just the holidays but the end of fall and the beginning of winter.

“We’re preparing for winter, and collecting all the treasures of the harvest and the last green before it dries up,” said Alesch, who is an avid gardener at the couple’s second home, in Montauk, New York.

Over time, Standefer added, she and Alesch have become increasingly focused on decorating in a way that minimizes waste, by using locally grown plants and foodstuffs that can be eaten, dried or composted at the end of the holiday season. On a recent day, they mixed real nuts, grapes, cherries, pears, and mandarins, scattering them throughout the apartment, on living room side tables and on a large cabinet with glass doors that serves as a bar. Everything is edible, and the arrangements offer a sense of fun that keeps guests on their toes.

The only downside to decorating with food, Standefer said, is that Alesch cannot stop eating the decor: “We fight for cooking versus decorating.”

To decorate the Christmas tree, they hung antique Czech glass ornaments collected over decades alongside new, natural ones made from strawflowers affixed to balls of paper-mache. Then they draped a garland of sliced, dried teasel between the branches of the tree. Behind the bar, they swagged a second garland made from teasel and sweet gum and poppy seed pods.

A cross-cultural holiday, with gumdrops
When Boozer decorates his apartment for the holidays, he mixes old and new.

“I don’t always take all the stuff out of the closet,” Boozer said, describing his cache of holiday decorations, “because I feel like it can get really repetitive.”

This year, he decided to mix mementos from his years growing up in Alabama and Indiana with souvenirs from travels to places such as Mexico, Morocco, and France. “It’s a true reflection of who I am,” Boozer said. “I like to travel and pick up things when I go.”

For festive lighting, he dropped LED candles into paper bags to give his apartment a warm glow, as his mother and grandmother used to do with real candles.

Another of her favorite creations: a gumdrop tree made from twigs and sweets. To build his own, Boozer used twigs found on his fire escape after a storm. He coated the branches in white glue and sprinkled them with glitter before standing them in a vase and pushing pieces of candy onto the tips.

“Everyone thinks I overdo things, but I’m actually doing it for myself,” he said. “I think that’s what Christmas is about: abundance.”

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