Projects: Holiday Decorating the Natural Way

In a recent post I mentioned a small project that I made a Pinterest board for, which I filled with images of handmade clay ornaments and paper decorations, vintage photos of winter sports and a technique for making clear glass as shiny and silver as mercury glass. The project was completed last weekend as part of a tour of local inns and home kitchens, a fundraiser for our town’s high school. Happily, I wasn’t in charge of anything other than a bit of holiday decorating for an inn here in Rockport located in one of the most amazing spots around, right on Eden Road.

Eden Road is a locally famous stretch which clings to a spit of land between the rocky coast and a few hardy houses. Thacher Island, with its legendary twin lighthouses, is directly just off to port or starboard (as a Midwesterner I’m not sure I can pull off seafaring references). There’s not much you can do in terms of decorating when you’re competing with a view like that, so why compete at all? I decided to just go the natural route — with just a bit of added shine — as the inn itself, built one hundred years ago in perfect turn-of-the-last-century rambling summerhouse vernacular, epitomizes natural style with its stone fireplace and wicker furnishings. It’s a place entirely comfortable with itself with little interest in impressing anyone by being fashionable. Instead, the inn relies on the basics of comfort: plenty of upholstered places to sit, good lighting for reading, tables to put your drinks on, ottomans to put your feet up, a fireplace when it’s cold, a sunroom when it’s not, a porch with a few lighthouses in view, and innkeepers that are so nice the same people keep coming back year after year.

I had great help from some high school students, the inn owners, the event organizer and her daughter. Even my six-year-old and three-year-old pitched in, though they were slightly less useful. Together, all of us managed to decorate a mantel and a Christmas tree that made its way through the stairwell at 9 feet tall. Here’s a sketch of the room and a breakdown of our handmade, natural Christmas at the Inn.


1. The view! As you come in, the two large picture windows opposite the entryway highlight Thacher Island and its lighthouses. So after this everything else is secondary. But I could still draw even more attention to the windows by hanging a fresh wreath on each one, adorned with nothing more than a red striped burlap ribbon.

2. Over the fireplace I put together a gallery of vintage photographs depicting Christmas and winter sports in black and white. The frames were mounted with the same red striped burlap ribbon. Two black urns were filled with greens and twigs and tiny white lights while fresh greens (lots of pine in honor of the inn’s name) lined the mantel itself. Mercury glass votive holders were placed among the greenery.

3. On the sofa table facing the entry I placed a large branch in a silver vase. Originally, I intended it to be an Advent tree, much like my own here at home, but I settled for a tree filled with tiny candy canes affixed to white tags hanging from it, tags with the same vintage images as the framed pieces over the fireplace. Continuity! And the candy canes could still be pulled off the tags, one a day, just like an Advent calendar, only without all those pesky numbers corresponding with the days of the month to keep you honest. Around the branch I stacked boxes with scalloped edges in a natural brown finish and more striped burlap ribbon.

4. The tree. I’ve never decorated a 9-foot tree, and it was a feat, at least for me. I was going with all red ornaments and had dreams of stumbling across a cache of 200 vintage red bulbs that someone just wanted to give to me…for free. Instead I went to the Dollar store, and what I gave up in credibility I gained in savings. But to keep it real, I made white clay ornaments and painted little red birds that I glued to clothespins and placed throughout the tree. It looked like a flock of red birds were scattered on the branches of the tree, and the sight made me happy.

The owner of the inn saw the direction in which we were taking the room, and promptly went out and bought yards and yards of fresh garlands, wreaths galore, and some whopping white and red poinsettias, which, when amassed together, look overwhelmingly lovely. All of this worked well against the background of the lodge-like room, with its deep couches upholstered in dark colors, real wood panels in the entryway and stairwell and a fire blazing away in the stone fireplace. To see such a room, intended to be a communal gathering spot, filled with live greenery and flowers and branches and little white lights felt like an early sort of Christmas present.

I hope your holidays are filled with a sense of old-fashioned beauty, a warm hearth, and your own version of a natural Christmas, wherever you are.

4 thoughts on “Projects: Holiday Decorating the Natural Way

  1. Wowee, Miss Sarah!

    You’ve done it again: worked your magic and mixed old-timey charm with a bit of cheek. Love that alchemy – so fresh!

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