If in doubt, add it to the holiday décor
By By Alison Pratt
Photographs by Rana Faure
For Rachel Volpone decorating her house for the holidays is an extension of her approach to life. “I’m a maximalist,” declares Volpone. “More is more. That’s why I love working with interior designer Molly Hirsch. She understands scale, texture, and makes sense of the craziness and traditional that I like to think I embody.”
Volpone and Hirsch are putting the finishing touches on the holiday decorations in Volpone’s Spectacle Lane house. They have constructed a series of holiday vignettes throughout the house that make use of Volpone’s art, objects around her house, and products available at the annual Festive Home sale at the Ridgefield Guild of Artists on Halpin Lane.
Designer Christy Kinsman, owner of the new Little House Shoppe in Copps Hill Plaza, had the idea to pair designers with artists for this year’s Festive Home, and collaborated with artist Claire Watson Garcia to create a glamorous, ethereal vignette. “Pairing artists and designers is such a great idea,” says Volpone, who by all accounts is a central figure for local creative types, and whose work is featured in Hirsch’s Guild vignette.
Neither Hirsch nor Volpone is a swag and bow person. “Some people think holiday, and they think green and red, but it doesn’t have to be. It doesn’t have to be so serious,” says Hirsch. The high point of the decorations for her is a Magnolia wreath, painted with red lacquer. “I’ve been pining for this wreath for years, and am so glad I can finally use it,” says Hirsch, who has put the wreath on the kitchen window. “I’m imagining that will be up all year,” coos Volpone.
In Hirsch’s Twin Ridge home, she brings out decorations that conjure memories of past years. “Because I’m a designer, people expect my holiday decorations to be perfect. But, they aren’t. I love my daughter’s honking paper things that she made when she was three,” says Hirsch. For Volpone’s home, the pair has selected art from her basement studio as well as using existing decorations and Festive Home merchandise. Above Volpone’s kitchen stove, Hirsch added green-beaded trees to the family’s tea collection display. A graphic painting of a bowl provides the perfect backdrop.
Volpone, her husband, and three teenage daughters moved from Main Street to this house two years ago. Since then, Volpone’s mother Rita has moved in. “It’s fast and furious around here,” admits Volpone. She says that she has worked to recreate the “layers” of an old house in a newer one, and that decorating for the holidays is another layer for her. On almost every wall and surface is a story. Many of these stories are about Volpone’s artist friends and her commitment to the Guild.
The holiday vignette Volpone and Hirsch staged on the living room mantle is romantic. Set against a rectangular vintage mirror, they have arranged light green frosted houses from Cody Foster, a nostalgic Kim Hanna work, a vintage painting from Volpone’s collection, and pink garlands. “We are going for the Sugar Plum Fairy look,” says Volpone, who points out that the installation hides the poorly painted feet in the otherwise lovely vintage painting
In another corner of the living room, is a sculpture of a cake that Volpone made with her friend Kim Hanna, who partners with designer David Brown at Festive Home. Volpone and Hanna’s tiered cake recalls a wedding and is a tribute to artists Cy Twombly and Robert Rauschenberg. For Volpone, surrounding herself with friends’ art, “is like having your friends over. You have a little piece of them around.”
Hanna is Volpone’s occasional collaborator, and shares her basement studio space. “Creative people are always around here,” remarks Hanna. ”She’s a really inclusive person.” Hanna echoes Kinsman’s comment that, “Rachel always makes room for creativity,” and the importance of the Guild in supporting the creative life of Ridgefield.
Under the front living room window, sits a sculpture by Ridgefield artist Penny Coleman, that Volpone calls, “Unfinished Angel,” which is up year round but has particular resonance in the Yuletide season. Another seemingly seasonal decoration is in the family room. Volpone has filled two cloches with purple, pink, and silver Christmas ornaments that she displays all year, like flowers that don’t die.
Volpone’s dining room might be the most striking room in the house. “We thought about neutral walls with grey cashmere chairs, which would have been beautiful, but that’s just not going to work,” says Volpone. Instead she chose coral orange drapes and aubergine walls with black trim. Several of the dining chairs are upholstered in floral, one in stripes, reflecting the room’s eclectic style. Volpone cites Stephen D’Louhy of Floë Painters as another of her frequent collaborators. Under her instruction, he painted the dining room ceiling to conjure a vintage mirror. “I am obsessed with old mirrors. I love the idea that someone looked in them before.”
The dining room sideboard is a large Argentine bar bought from the boutique Hazel & Sid, no longer on Main Street. Volpone had D’Louhy paint the bar like a Tibetan chest. Above that hangs one of Volpone’s striped acrylic paintings. For the holidays, Hirsh and Volpone have added a red lacquered magnolia swag, and a large silver bowl filled with gilt tree branches and head-sized pink glass balls. “I don’t know if that bowl is ever going to make it to the Guild. I love it,” says Volpone. Buddha heads of various sizes and colors peer out of the tableau.
On the dining table, Volpone has combined a Persian Rally quilt with sparkly vases from a discount store. For the walls, she has retrieved her unfinished painting of a woman, who has become known as Olivia to Volpone’s friends, and hung striking silhouettes of her daughters by Guild artist Antonio Muñoz.
Both Hirsh and Volpone advise homeowners not to be too cautious when it comes to decorating. “Art should be part of your every day life,” says Volpone. “Surround yourself with what you love. Decorate your life.” Her advice is worth considering. With a looming Festive Home deadline at the Guild, a post-storm photo shoot, and a full house, Volpone should be at her wits end but handles the situation with grace and humor. “I love my home and the Guild. Energy comes out of them,” she says with a smile.