Let Nature and Christmas Color Tie Rooms Together

See how a garden focus and a fresh color scheme play out at the Blair House in Washington, D.C., where Better Homes and Gardens dressed two parlors and a courtyard in Christmas finery.

Vicki Ingham


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Natural Textures Warm an Elegant Setting<<stronger SEO? Balance the Fireplace? Decorate a Magnificent Tree
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Carry Christmas from Room to Room

    Holiday cheer flows all through the house when you use a theme to tie rooms together. See how editors from Better Homes and Gardens, along with interior designer Elaine Griffin and garden designer Jon Carloftis, used updated holiday colors and a mix of metallics to unify two parlors and the courtyard of Blair House, the President's guesthouse. Fresh greenery, pomegranates, and miniature trees provide a natural connection between indoors and out.

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Find Your Christmas Color

    Look to your furnishings to determine the color of your decorations, advises designer Elaine Griffin. "You always need that little shine," she says, "but you should take hues from the main colors in the room." In this case, red and coral-tone furnishings provided the foundation for the decorations' color scheme. On the mantel, the red and coral tones of rug and upholstery translate into fresh pomegranates that stand out against a fresh evergreen garland and a row of mini conifers.

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Repeat the Hue

    Sprigs of crystal garland tucked into the evergreens repeat the color of the pomegranates on a finer scale and add a bit of sparkle.

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Make a Merry Accent

    Bring the colors and materials of Christmas decorations from the mantel into the room with accents and arrangements on tables and other surfaces. On an ottoman, this simple arrangement of juniper sprigs, gold mercury glass ornaments, and a coral bow rests on a sleek, square, gold-tone tray.

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Create Mini Christmas Trees

    Turn a silver punch bowl into a petite garden of miniature conifers. Line the bowl with plastic to protect the surface, and rest the plant pots on floral foam to raise them to the desired height (the soil surface should be just below the rim of the bowl). Mounds of soft green moss hide the underpinnings and provide a cushy bed for shiny red ornaments.

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Put Ornaments on Display

    Repurpose serving pieces to display collectible Christmas ornaments. In the rear parlor, a footed silver dish on the sofa table holds a collection of vintage-look mercury glass ornaments. The delicately colored balls reinforce the room's silver theme, and the Greek key design on the vessel's rim refers discreetly to a design element in the adjoining front parlor.

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Splurge on the Tree

    Poinsettias ring the base of the Christmas tree, creating a decorative link to the front parlor where florals become the focus.

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Tied Up with a Bow

    Whether you decorate your tree with assorted balls or with an eclectic ornament collection gathered over the years, you can use a bow topper in a dominant color to emphasize the color scheme. Coral ribbon tweaks the Christmas color scheme in both parlors toward the warm side for a fresh take on tradition. Repeating the color at three levels -- at the treetop, on the coffee table, and on the ottoman in front of the fireplace -- moves the eye around the room and creates a unified effect.

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Vary Ornament Colors

    Ornaments in shades of wine, red, and copper add variety to the coral color scheme that continues into the front parlor. Leafy garland and silver and gold balls in a variety of shapes and textures underscore the theme of gleaming metals that runs through both spaces and into the courtyard. "Pick a color from your room, go one shade lighter and one shade darker, then add metallics," Griffin says.

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All that Glitters

    Gilded starfish on the coffee table reiterate the unifying thread of silver-and-gold metallics that pulls all three spaces together, and the shapes make an elegant pun on the Christmas star. A container of coral color roses brings the color of the tree topper into the center of the room.

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Decorate the Fireplace

    A few ornaments find their way from the tree to the firebox to bring shiny color to this area. Use tacky wax to hold balls in place on birch logs. Mixed greens tucked under the andirons and silver-leaf urns positioned in front of them soften and enrich the look.

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Color Inspiration

    Think beyond red and green for your color scheme, and harmonize hues with what you have. Inspired by the coral upholstery and the notes of salmon and rust red in the front parlor, the design team settled on a Christmas color scheme that ranges from coral to pomegranate. To complement the orangey reds, they chose a sharp yellow-green for greenery and accessories. In the front parlor pillows and bowls help carry out the holiday color scheme.

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Simplify Accessories

    White and red bowls filled with pomegranates, shiny coral ornaments, and sprigs of greenery sound a holiday note without cluttering the drum table beside the sofa. The red bowl and ornaments are perfectly keyed to the sofa pillow, emphasizing the unconventional color scheme. Everyday containers that carry out your color scheme become instant holiday decorations when you group them together and fill them with greenery, fruit, or ornaments.

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Repetition and Rhythm

    This red lacquer desk offers a perfect foil for subtle holiday touches -- red pomegranates, a yellow-green bowl, and gold and red mercury glass ornaments bring together elements and colors that appear throughout the room. The same rules for creating pleasing tabletop displays with everyday accessories apply to holiday arrangements: Choose objects of various heights and arrange them in an irregular line to lead the eye up and down and in and out of the design.

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Focus on Poinsettias

    Coral poinsettias with a dusting of white down the center of each leaf blend with the colors in the upholstery in both parlors. Displaying them as a focal point on the mantel emphasizes the front parlor's floral theme. Gold-tone pots pick up the gold of the picture frame and, along with the silver mercury glass ornaments nestled in the greenery, reinforce the theme of shiny metallics that runs through all three spaces.

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Silver and Gold for the Mantel

    The mantel is the front parlor's natural focal point, so it's the best place to bring together the key elements of the Christmas decorating scheme. Here, silver ornaments and antiqued gold glass pots set the metallic theme that continues into the courtyard, where the look is more modern. Poinsettias and fresh greenery underscore the natural, floral theme in this room.

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Add Sparkle and Shine

    Mercury glass ornaments of different shapes and sizes mix with simple shiny balls. Their aged effect ties the ornaments into the formal look and historical character of Blair House. "Play opposites against one another and textures against one another so you have a lot of matte and shimmer," designer Elaine Griffin says.

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A Fresh Wreath Says Christmas

    A wreath of mixed greens brings together the pomegranate and metallic themes. Silver mercury balls tie in to the mantel treatment and to the tree in the next room. Dried pomegranates clustered in threes reinforce the color scheme and the fruit motif. Using the fruit in four places in this room -- on the side tables, on the red lacquer desk, and in the wreath -- is an easy way to unify a space.

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A Pinecone Bouquet

    In a nod to the overall garden theme that unites the two parlors with the courtyard, a low arrangement of pinecones and magnolia leaves -- used in the courtyard -- decorates the tray table in the front parlor. Layering the rustic pinecones, shiny leaves, and sleek metallic tray atop a chinoiserie table is another example of how to mix textures, shapes, and eras to great effect.

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Add Festive Color

    The coral and wine-red fabrics in the felt applique pillow bring bright, contemporary color to the sofa. It's easy to give rooms a quick, mini makeover by changing pillows for the season and using them to emphasize your Christmas color scheme. "We brought in some fun, fresh, and modern touches that add life to an historic property," says Joe Boehm, senior interior designer for Better Homes and Gardens.

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Decorating Outdoor Spaces

    Carrying the indoor theme to the outdoors is often a matter of gently embellishing what's already there. "When viewed from inside, the outside decor really needs to have continuity with the interior," garden designer Jon Carloftis says. For this courtyard, they relied on the colors first, "then we put our energies into what people would see out the windows," he says. Arched niches are the perfect spot to repeat the wreath shape.

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Berry Bright

    You don't have to overdo a color to carry it from another space. Instead, use it simply but in large scale. In this urn Carloftis used only winterberry branches to repeat the coral and pomegranate hues from the interiors. Mixed with magnolia branches, the grand fan-shape arrangement provides all the impact needed.

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Plant a Little Sparkle

    Overscale stainless-steel balls nestle into ivy growing year-round in the courtyard planters. These balls are giant cousins to the ornaments indoors but bring a more modern look to this outdoor space. Berry branches can be pushed directly into the soil to add height and holiday color.

    Resource: Large stainless-steel balls, CB2

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Holiday Snow

    Large-scale stainless-steel balls float in the fountain and rest on the terrace like contemporary sculpture. Ornaments made of fine curly wire hang like snowballs from the courtyard trees and show the spherical theme in a different texture. "We really wanted to use the existing trees somehow, and wanted it to look like snow," Carloftis says. "By hanging the lightweight balls in the trees at different levels, it really looks like falling snow, and you can leave them out after the Christmas season is over."

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Christmas Gazing Ball

    Look to outdoor furniture for spots to add holiday decor. On a wrought-iron table, a silver ball rests inside a ring of boxwood -- a classic Christmas green for Colonial Era homes. You could use a fresh fir or pine wreath instead and repurpose a gazing ball from your garden. "I love relying on all things natural, and that was key in this space," Carloftis says.

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