If you were a king, queen, or foreign diplomat visiting the U.S. president in Washington, D.C., you might stay at Blair House, the president's ultraluxurious guest home. To get Blair House ready for its many visitors this holiday season, the U.S. State Department honored Better Homes and Gardens® with an invitation to help decorate the home as part of the Magazine Holiday Showcase.
Once the Blair House halls, walls, mantels, and rooms were decked, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hosted a special holiday event for the families of government employees serving overseas. Better Homes and Gardens editor in chief Gayle Goodson Butler traveled to Washington to share the special night with Clinton and the families.
Better Homes and Gardens designers used Christmas decorating tricks you can easily re-create in your own home. You might not be hosting dignitaries this holiday season, but you can make your guests to feel like royalty.
During the year, the crystal chandelier adds light and glamour to the parlor. To complement this fixture, a lush 9-foot Christmas tree mimics the chandelier's classic style and glow. Round ornaments in hues of persimmon and copper, a trendy take on the more traditional red, gold, and silver holiday colors, trim the tree. Rows of coral poinsettias in gold glass cylinders form a unique tree skirt. To give the tree a magnificent glow, white Christmas lights are wrapped around each branch.
A classic Christmas decoration is the tree. To play off this tradition, a row of mini conifers tops the mantel. Not only do these conifers mimic the shape of the Christmas tree, they contribute to the theme of decorating with natural elements when combined with the pomegranates sprinkled across the mantel.
Find an element in your room and repeat it. The Greek key motif ties the parlors together. In the back parlor, the Greek key design appears on this silver cake stand. Mercury glass ball ornaments top the cake stand and add holiday flair to this classic piece. The Greek key repeats on the brass trim of the sofa and the yellow-green accent pillow.
A silver punch bowl is the perfect home for a mini forest. Line the bowl with plastic to protect the surface, and rest the mini conifers' 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.
"The new Christmas tradition is moving away from red and green," interior designer Elaine Griffin says. "Instead, pick colors from your room and go one shade lighter and one shade darker." For Blair House's parlors, Griffin and Better Homes and Gardens interior designer Joe Boehm were inspired by the coral upholstery and the notes of salmon and rust red in the front parlor. They chose a palette of coral, pomegranate, and sharp yellow-green for the rooms.
The key to fresh holiday decorating is contrast. Modern accents contrast with the room's classic furniture to update the space. Accent pillows in bold colors add punch to the room. The design on the green pillow is a modern spin on the classic Greek key on the sofa's frame and works with the silver cake stand in the back parlor to tie the rooms together. The geometric pattern on the other pillow adds modern flair to the reds throughout the room.
The red lacquered desk is a standout piece in this parlor. Its rich color inspired the pomegranate hues in the Christmas color scheme. Because of the desk's inherent wow factor, it didn't require a lot of holiday decorations, just a few strategic pieces. A coral poinsettia, a cake platter topped with pomegranates, and a yellow-green bowl filled with gold Christmas ornaments bring the color scheme to this area of the parlor. A gilded starfish is a fresh take on a traditional Christmas star. To complete the look, a glass urn beside the desk is filled with bare branches.
Cover the mantel with plastic wrap to protect the surface from water damage or sap from evergreens. Tuck the plastic wrap under, and decorate with ornaments, poinsettias, evergreen clippings, and more. Fill tall glass vases with ornaments in a variety of shapes and sizes to create a quick and easy holiday decoration. Silver, gold, and mercury glass Christmas ornaments highlight the brass accents throughout the room.
The back of Blair House opens to a courtyard bordered by adjacent government buildings. Simple outdoor Christmas decorations were all it took to make this area holiday-ready. Stainless-steel balls hang from the trees like oversize ornaments and reflect the sunlight during the day. Unadorned wreaths add Christmas cheer and highlight Blair House's Federal Era architecture. A few large mercury glass balls float in the Victorian-style fountain, the courtyard's focal point, adding holiday shimmer by day and reflecting the Christmas lights at night.
Rather than fill this large urn with a classic topiary, garden designer John Carloftis created an unexpected arrangement. He filled the urn with a grand, fan-shape arrangement of magnolia branches, winterberry, and fresh ornamental cabbages. The red winterberries add color to the courtyard and connect this area to the parlors. Large stainless-steel balls nestle in the foliage and mimic the round ornaments on the Christmas tree inside. This arrangement can be repeated on a smaller scale for indoor holiday decorating.