Growing up, I watched my mother stock up in the produce department every December. Not for making seasonal pies or fruitcake – she was buying our holiday decorations. Between fruits and nuts from the local market and greenery gathered in our backyard, my mother created beautiful centerpieces, elegant arrangements for the mantle, and festive vignettes for all the nooks and crannies throughout our home.
I’ve carried on this tradition and now haul my own bags of “pretty produce” home from the market when it’s time to put up the Christmas decorations. I use a variety of grocery items to add color to the standard holiday pine wreath and greenery swags. Incorporating vibrantly colored fruits like cranberry-hued pomegranates, orange clementines, or sunny lemons adds visual interest and feels a bit more sophisticated than the standard red bow and “plastic-y” ornaments that generally come affixed to store-bought wreaths. Mix in a few large walnuts (with the shell on) or cinnamon sticks for yet another layer of texture. Affix these items to a wreath with thin wire from your craft store or just group them with your greenery on the mantle or a console table in a way that pleases your eye. It’s a simple way to bring a little holiday elegance to a space.
I also incorporate produce into centerpieces for my dining table. My own table quickly becomes crowded with layers of table linens, my Grandmother’s china (an intricate pattern of turquoise and gold – she was so chic!), water goblets, wine glasses, serving platters… With so many layers of dishware, linens, and gorgeous foods heaped on the table, it’s nice to keep things simple when it comes to centerpieces. I pick one type of fruit – an elegantly shaped golden pear, a preciously tiny clementine – and place just a few pieces on a silver tray or pretty cake stand. Arrange a few branches of greenery around it with a couple of candles, and call it a day. We all bring out our very best tableware for holiday entertaining, so keep the centerpiece simple and let your cherished pieces shine.
The consummate hostess, my mother is the type to make sure there is a fresh arrangement on every guest’s nightstand – even if that nightstand is a makeshift table next to the basement futon. It’s taking the time to add a special touch to these types of spaces that make a home feel extra welcoming, so remember your powder room vanity and the little table in the hall when you’re decorating. A simple piece of greenery and a little pinecone tucked into a small vase can be a lovely and effective addition to neglected bookshelf.
A word of warning about greenery! Though the thought of gathering pine boughs and rustic berries from the backyard or a walk in the woods is very romantic and holiday-esque, it can be a risky endeavor! Make sure you know the precise species of branch you are trimming. That beautiful vine growing up the tree at the edge of your yard – the vine just calling out to sprayed a metallic gold and wrapped around your antique candle sticks for the perfect mantle display – just might be poison ivy. Or poison sumac, as was the case for this unlucky nature-hunter. Gathering it up and bringing it home landed me with a terrible rash and three weeks of heavy prescription medication, so please proceed with caution. This decorator now sticks to wilds of Home Depot for her greenery fix.
Try mixing up your holiday decorations a bit this year and incorporate a few items fromunlikely places like the supermarket. Get creative and enjoy the season!
[blockquote class=blue]Kitty Burruss is an interior designer with Barbara Sternau Interior Design. She lives and works in Briarcliff Manor.[/blockquote]