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Dash of Glitter

Carey House




As a child, every Christmas my siblings and I smothered our Christmas tree in so much silver tinsel that it looked like an artificial tree. I loved everything shiny and sparkly. Our mother, always encouraging us artistically, gave us glitter and paints to embellish Santas, reindeer, and other shapes we’d created using molds and plaster of Paris. We made paper chains with strips of construction paper, and after having a contest to see who could make the longest one, draped them over doors and windows. These childhood rituals probably explain my fascination with all things sparkly and handmade. So this year, for the holidays, I decided to recreate some of the Christmas of my childhood. And to help me pull it off, I enlisted the help of two talented, creative friends, Laurie Davis and Jennifer Paganelli. Both have built successful businesses making handmade glittery, sparkly holiday decorations and home accessories with a vintage sensibility.

My house is filled with paintings, antiques, and vintage accessories I’ve collected over the years from regular trips to flea markets, consignment shops, and antique stores, so I knew Laurie and Jennifer’s creations would complement my own collections. Taking a cue from the soothing blue and green color scheme of my décor, we decided to diverge from the traditional red and green holiday decorations. Instead, we would work with a palette of blues, greens, silvers, and whites.

During past holidays I’ve set up and decorated several small silver and chartreuse tinsel trees purchased over the years, so I decided it would be fun (and easy) to go with a large artificial tree too—reusable, no needles debris, nothing to lug out after the holidays—and forgo the cut tree. I couldn’t find anything locally, but a quick search online turned up a company based in Fresno, California, that sells artificial trees in a wide range of unnatural colors with whimsical names like Purple Groove Tree and Lemon-Lime Sublime Tinsel Tree. I ordered the Smurftastic Blue Christmas Tree (the customer representative explained that it matches the hue of those little blue characters in the 1980s “Smurfs” cartoon). The tree looked wonderfully sparkly on the website. Unfortunately, when it arrived, the matte blue branches did not measure up to the photographs online. Undeterred, I packed it up, shipped it back to Fresno, and ordered their Silver Stardust Tinsel Tree. This time I was not disappointed. The sparkly silver tree arrived in two days, pre-strung with 500 small clear lights. It came with its own tree stand and took just five minutes to set up.

Although I’m an incurable collector, I’m also an editor—not just of words, but of stuff. So while I may have vintage typewriters, sprinkler heads, suitcases, and kitchen accessories scattered throughout the house, I don’t do clutter. I subscribe to the “less is more” philosophy. Too many objects can overwhelm the eye. As Laurie, Jennifer, and I discussed our decorating plan, I knew we wouldn’t need more than just a few touches of sparkle in any one room to create a holiday mood. The one exception would be the family room, which serves as holiday central in our house. It’s where we always put the tree and hang out on Christmas morning.

Before we started our marathon decorating session, I pulled out all my holiday props—my tinsel trees, silver glittered birdhouses, vintage glass ball ornaments, silver glitter and cut glass wreaths, and glittered branches. Laurie contributed a dozen mercury glass candlesticks and bowls, and dozens more of her trademark glittered ornaments—pears, sea stars, sand dollars, and other sea creatures, and nesting birds. Jennifer brought more sparkle—miniature glittered trees, sequin-encrusted trees, glittered crowns and hostess aprons, jeweled pendants, and stockings, throws and pillows made with her Sis Boom Collection fabrics. I’d also found some fabulous artificial garlands at Town & Country nursery that we could use to embellish mantels and stair rails. Plus, like the silver tinsel tree, I could reuse them year after year.

The artificial tree did require some shaping, easily achieved by separating the wire branches and bending them to create a “natural” look. Once we were satisfied with the shape, we put up a selection of Laurie’s sea creature ornaments and my vintage glass balls. In keeping with a minimalist look, we didn’t overload the branches, just hanging enough to dress it up. I had planned to crown the tree with a six-inch-high Wild Things stuffed animal. Since our children were young, it had always resided at the top of our Christmas tree, in an act of irreverence and because our kids love the book. But the poor guy just didn’t fit in with all the glitter. We replaced him with one of Jennifer’s whimsical glittered crowns, which we all agreed made the perfect tree topper.

We draped an artificial green garland across the mantel of the fireplace in the family room, and in a lone departure from minimalism, created a random arrangement of candlesticks, glittered sea stars, and miniature silver Christmas trees among the leaves. Despite the clutter, it worked; the different heights and textures played off of each other. We wrapped another garland around the banister, intertwined with one of Laurie’s glittered pear garlands.

Throughout the rest of the house, we created vignettes using a combination of Laurie and Jennifer’s creations, and a few objects from my own collections: in the kitchen, an arrangement of tinsel trees of varying heights and colors; in the library, several miniature tinsel trees and a bowl of vintage ornaments; in my office, another tinsel tree hung with vintage balls and topped with a glittered sea star. Every room received a touch of sparkle—not so much that it overwhelmed the space, just enough to catch the eye and signal “holiday.” By the time we finished, we had sprinkled glitter throughout the house, and all over ourselves. No matter what time of day, the house sparkles. When the sun streams in, it reflects off the tinsel and glitter; at night the light from the lamps, candles and fireplace shimmers against all the metallic surfaces. Everything looks so lovely I may decide to keep a few of the vignettes on display even after the holidays end.

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