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A Secret Touch

Getting a little professional design help from Lillian August



Photos by Rana Faure

I love decorating for the holiday season—bringing out festive linens, creating seasonal sparkle, and adding fresh greens throughout my home. But these last few years, I’ve been in a holiday decor rut. It’s the same-old, same-old. It occurred to me that I routinely add new pieces to my wardrobe and my home accessories. So why not my holiday style? 

Fashionable salvation arrived when I attended Holiday Design 101, at Lillian August Design Center in Norwalk. In-store designers Marla Turner (pictured at the bottom of the page on the right) and Terrance Rhodes (pictured at the bottom of the page on the ) transformed a corner of the store into stunning dining room, living room, and conversation alcove tableaus. They walked attendees through their design choices, providing creative tips on how to add extra “bling and zing” to our entertaining style. “I like to think of everyone as a celebrity,” says Turner with a smile. “So our overall goal was to evoke a glitzy, fun, holiday vibe that could work for Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s Eve, even an Oscar party.” 

“We chose a primary palette of white because it’s clean, crisp, and pure,” adds Rhodes, also a talented floral and landscape designer, “and then added accents of black, grey, and gold. The inspiration was a blending of interior design and the fashion world. Kind of Alexander McQueen meets Hollywood.”

The design duo begins their presentation in the dining room, explaining how various elements were strategically layered to create a striking and glamorous look. The shimmering, over-the-top gold-and-crystal chandelier evokes a super-luxe disco ball and serves as both the focal point and jewelry for the room. The rectangular dark walnut dining table showcases brushed brass legs, echoed in the similarly styled brass legs of the dining chairs, which are chicly upholstered in a neutral buff linen.

Instead of place mats, open-weave metallic gold runners travel the length of the table on both sides. Delicate white china place settings with gold rim detail are accented with modern, gold-hued flatware and gold-rimmed stemware. Starched white linen napkins are tightly rolled and tied with a gold ribbon, and then adorned with an aromatic sprig of cedar. “Anyone can do this,” says Rhodes. “Boxwood, pine, cedar, and holly all add a nice holiday touch.”

Four towering gold candlesticks heighten the sense of drama and serve as a counterpoint to the two all-white flower arrangements. Amaryllis, roses, spray roses, hydrangeas, variegated cedar, and magnolia leaves are gathered in low profile, textured white ceramic vases. Two small orbs covered with white carnations sit in the center of the table. “Carnations are often viewed as the poor relation of showier, more expensive flowers,” says Rhodes, “but used creatively they can add a modern touch.”

Clear-bubbled glass paperweights of varying sizes are positioned between the flowers and candlesticks, adding visual interest and another reflective surface. A nine-by-twelve-foot rug in hues of silver, grey, beige, and cream subtly threaded with gold in an understated Art Deco pattern ties it all together. Connecting the dining room to the conversation area is a tall gold-and-black lacquer étagère displaying various objets d’art including a gold Buddha head, design books, a piece of gypsum on a Lucite base, and a delicate white bowl with a gilded interior. A large pop art print in black, gold and white, fronted by a vintage Louis Vuitton bench with Lucite legs, adds a fun rock ‘n roll note. 

Next is an inviting conversation/bar area that brings old Hollywood to mind. Depth is added by the use of a four-paneled black-and-mirrored screen in a geometric pattern as a backdrop. The inviting setting includes a three-tiered, wheeled bar cart in brass and Lucite that holds holiday stemware along with decanters and gold bound fashion design books (Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Hermès). Flanking the cart are two chairs upholstered in white cowhide with faux elk horn frames and large gilded Ikat throw pillows. The overall effect is so glamorous, one can easily imagine Marlene Dietrich slinking in, clad in a 1940s Jean Louis gown. 

The living area is equally glamorous, with a sophisticated 1970s Halston-era feeling. “We incorporated different textures to add dimension to the living room design,” says Turner. “We used lacquer, fur, hides, stone, sequins, velvet, gold and silver lamé, and charcoal gray shearling with pops of white.”

A pale gray linen-upholstered sectional gets a style upgrade with the addition of throw pillows in various fabrics andtextures. Above the sofa hangs an exquisite black and gold child’s ceremonial kimono framed in a black shadowbox.

Triangular black-and-gold floor lamps with square ivory shades heighten the room’s drama, and a charcoal gray leather bench and dark cowhide club chair provide a masculine balance for the more feminine touches. A gold and green malachite accent table contributes a welcome pop of color. 

The effect of the overall design was dazzling. I found myself fantasizing about being invited to a swanky soiree in those fabulous rooms. I left the workshop feeling energized and inspired, excited to add new textures, accessories, and yes, even a bit of upscale bling to my own holiday décor. And guess what? You can, too.

 

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