There is so much goodness to share so I’ll just dive right in! A month or so ago I was selected to be among a group of awesome and talented designers who will be donating their time and vision to help decorate rooms in the new wing of the Ronald McDonald House, Stanford. Conceived in conjunction with the San Francisco Design Center (SFDC), and titled, “Where Hope has a Home,” this amazingly worthwhile project will provide a safe, comfortable and beautiful space for families with critically ill children to be together and heal. The current RMH has had to turn away families for lack of space and this new building will enable many more to benefit from the loving environment that the home provides. My own daughter was treated at Lucile Packard for a rare heart condition. Though it was the most terrifying experience of my life, the staff and doctors at Stanford were outstanding and provided the care needed to save her life. I am so honored and humbled to be able to give back in one of the biggest ways – by providing a space in which those on a stressful journey may find a moment of peace.
For so many reasons, Fall is my favorite time of year. Although we don’t really have an extreme change of seasons here in California, there’s a chill in the air, leaves on the ground and families come together to share love, laughs, and warmth. In my opinion it’s also the best ever when it comes to seasonal decor! I’m always looking for unexpected ways to evoke the feeling of Fall without going all thematic with it. You’ll never find a turkey or Pilgrim in my house but you’ll probably find a whole mess of twigs, branches and fantastic gourds in vintage urns, bowls and baskets.
When it comes to creating gorgeous seasonal vignettes the first place you need to look for inspiration is outside your front door. Fallen branches are my go-to every year for Fall decor because they’re perfect for bringing the outside in. It’s really windy where I live and branches are all over the ground most of the time. If you like a little more bling and a little less rustic, you can spray paint the branches gold. It’s a great metallic to mix with the oranges, browns and yellows of the season.
Whether they’re blooming, studded with acorns, flame-colored leaves or bare as can be, branches add dramatic elegance. When used in a simple vase, their height and shape are all that’s needed to make a statement.
I’m in love with the spare simplicity of this beautiful vignette. Pulling together objects you already own and displaying them in a different way is a great way to start. You can get this chic and welcoming look by arranging a grouping that includes a rattan basket filled with dried hydrangea, metal containers, a branch or two, an old black and white portrait or an offbeat oil and the single white pumpkin. It’s welcoming and interesting and can be changed up so easily by adding elements such as pine cones, or gold objects.
I was late in getting this post up but I adore this vignette. Something about the tiny bones, art and single spray vine says just enough to let you know it’s Halloween without having to try hard. I think it’s mysterious as well as melancholy. I’m always looking for beautiful natural objects to add to the mix. Found animal skulls, empty bird nests, naturally shed antlers..all of these things say “change of seasons” to me and I love the grace of things we don’t usually see, touch or understand.
I am ALL about white pumpkins. Stacked, grouped, piled in a basket, I think they’re absolutely stunning on a Fall mantel or used as a table centerpiece. They can be romantic when mixed with dried flowers, weathered architectural finds or mercury glass. Carve a white pumpkin and use it as a vase. Mix store bought nuts still in their shells such as almonds, pistachios, and walnuts with mini white pumpkins to add the sense of Fall in an unexpected way.
I’m also a fool for feathers! Pheasant, Crow, spotted Chicken…When grouped loosely in a vintage container they can totally change the feel of a vignette. By themselves, the papier mache white pumpkins allude to Halloween, but adding pheasant feathers to a modern white vase is decidedly Thanksgiving. Again, it’s the simplicity of the grouping that makes me smile. So much can be said without having to be over-the-top with your displays.
For a little more traditional Fall display, you can add vinyl transfer letter to small gourds, pumpkins, burlap garlands or even vintage clock faces and spell out phrases and welcome guests. Empty frames layered on top of one another is an awesome way to add depth. Look for worn, chipped frames with age and patina and add in a few rustic objects to finish off the vignette.
Milk glass is always perfect for any vignette but filled with dried wheat, grasses, or millet, as shown above, makes a perfect Fall addition. The great thing about dried elements is that you don’t have to worry about soil or water. A collection of smaller objects surrounding a milk glass urn such as dried leaves, small gourds, dried flowers and even seashells would speak to Fall warmth and wonder.
You definitely don’t need a lot of objects to make an impact and add beauty to your space. Think creatively, forage outdoors for found objects and make sure to use things that inspire you. Use color and shape to guide you – warm tones and soft curves – and play with different groupings until it feels right to you.
All the best,
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Whether you’re like me, and the thought of having large groups of people over gives you hives, or you’re the frequently entertaining-type, it’s the time of year to invite folks over to fill our homes with the love, laughter and warmth. Inviting people to come into your home is a universal sign of generosity, and guests should feel welcome and special when they enter your space.
I have always loved the extra effort that’s made during the holiday season. Making sure the house is clean, decorating for the season, using the “good” china and creating a sense of abundance through food and drink makes me feel honored and appreciated as a guest.
Setting the scene in your holiday home doesn’t have to be a complex endeavor. Using tarnished and well-loved silver bowls filled with piles of white gourds or tiny orange kumquats adds a sense of whimsy to the table setting. I’ve always leaned toward eclectic (can you tell?) and I love the organic and unexpected. It’s a guarantee that I’ll be serving drinks in vintage glassware as I find it far more interesting, and I’ll be opening cupboards wide to see what I can use to hold flowers, drinks, displays and of course, food!
Taking those Halloween pumpkins and turning them into a interesting modern table display is a chic way to re-use what you already have. The pumpkins above have been spray-painted with low sheen acrylic and grouped with similarly shaped ceramic bud vases. They would also look amazing with mismatched milk glass, or even other painted fruit like pomegranates and squash.
Silver always works to add sparkle and elegance. Make votive holders out of vintage goblets and looking glass spray. You’ll get the look of antique mercury glass except it will be that much cooler because you made them yourself! Take objects from elsewhere in your home and incorporate them into vignettes on the table, such as the silver pheasants that were previously on the bookshelf. Vintage linens make excellent table covers and if you don’t happen to have the right size, then layer several for a Victorian-romantic style and sprinkle with dried petals.
Creating impromptu bouquets from garden herbs and produce is a very unexpected way to decorate. I am extremely fond of purple artichokes and every time I’ve used them in an arrangement, they are noticed. By visiting the vegetable aisles at the organic market you can find fantastic things to add to your holiday vases. I really hate the taste of kale, but it’s gorgeous in a bright white vase mixed with black basil and artichokes. Bud vases look amazing filled with delicate stems of rosemary and thyme and placed around the room. Add a few appropriately sized fallen branches or twigs and you have a gorgeous conversation starter!
Serving up hot cocoa and butterscotch Schnapp’s (my fave!) in vintage jadeite mugs with a side of hand-made marshmallows is fancy twist on a very simple, but heart-warming treat. In fact, using vintage glass in unexpected ways adds both color and beauty to your party setting.
Filled with unscented soy wax and cotton wicks (available at most craft stores), you can create gorgeous candles that that guests can take home as a parting gift when they leave.
Use vintage dessert cups to hold varying shades of succulents and mix them in with the candles. You cannot go wrong with such a pretty display! These also make wonderful take-home treats for visitors as succulents live a long time, and guests can replant them in their own gardens.
Create a unique buffet-style station of small-bites or sweets by clearing off a console and displaying foods with props that fit the occasion. The tall stalks of wheat in clear vases and white gourds make this display appropriately Thanksgiving-ish. I love giant glass containers filled with branches so that I can drape the branches in strands of beads, pearls, or strings of tiny white lights.
Not everyone has the budget or the room for an actual bar cart, so an easy way to set up a great little libation station is to use a table-top set with trays, glasses, and a selection of alcohol and accoutrements. Another option is to use your fireplace mantel if you have one. Even in a small space, you can set up a station in the kitchen that still looks party-ready.
Allowing folks to serve themselves creates a more relaxed atmosphere with a better flow. It’s always awkward to have to ask the host/hostess for more wine and it’s tiring to keep track of who is running low. Of course you still need to keep your eye on that hard-drinking friend you have that may need to crash on the couch but most people can handle serving themselves.
So whether you go big or small this season, think creatively about how to turn your space into a warm and welcoming space that makes your guests feel both relaxed and special. They should feel like they can serve themselves, but also feel as if they’re being taken care of. When you open your home, you are also opening your heart, and I hope that you’re able to fill both with loads of love!
Best wishes, Melisa
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Desiree and Jeremy were married at Crystal Springs in Burlingame, California, in June 2012. We are so grateful to Carlos Hernandez for taking such awesome photos and for allowing us to use them on our site.
The ceremony overlooked one of the most gorgeous nature preserves in Northern California, and it was important that we didn’t take anything away from the natural surroundings, so we chose to decorate the gazebo with a simple bough made of King Protea, vintage pearl strands, and an early 1900’s papier mache garland made for a theatre in London.
Included in her flowers and in her groom’s boutonniere were two small, turquoise, skull stick pins that she had carefully chosen to make her day more meaningful.
We also designed a floral hair comb of bright pink roses and Dusty Miller for the bride to wear under her mantilla-style veil at the ceremony, and reveal at her reception.
For the guest sign in table, the bride had provided family photos and some very special accessories, such as a rosary, a gorgeous Frida Kahlo art book (to be used as the guest book), and a large, turquoise vase, that we filled with flowers. We created a sort of altar and added mismatched mercury glass votive holders, a scattering of spray roses, and an antique, handmade, lace table cover.
All of the reception tables were covered in different handmade lace table covers that we had individually tea-dyed to create a rustic look. We created centerpieces out of vintage silver compotes surrounded by mismatched mercury glass votive holders.
The Sweetheart table was covered in a lace tablecloth and included a set of cups, filled with succulents, that spelled out “Amor”. We added mismatched mercury glass votive holders to give it extra sparkle
The bride chose an amazing spread of candy for her guests that they could mix-and-match and take home as favors. We found a source for her on Etsy that made vintage-style adhesive labels that the guests used these to seal up their glassine bags of treats.
We also found a phenomenal Ex Voto (votive offering) for the couple to use as the cake topper.
We are so lucky to have been a part of this special couple’s day and we know they’re destined for a life of love, laughter and endless adventure!
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With Valentine’s Day upon us, it seemed appropriately cliche to talk about love. Specifically a few of the things I love. When it comes to tokens of affection, I love the idea of giving someone something really unexpected and thoughtful, like a tiny box. I am mad about boxes!
One of the things I most enjoy about floral design is coming up with unexpected arrangements. I have always had a little love affair with the baby artichoke as used in floral design but only recently decided that it is perfectly married to the hydrangea. Combining the two in a striking blue and white Chinese vase and popping in some blue berries and meadow grass made the whole thing feel kind of otherworldly to me. Something I would have on my own mantel or dressing table. I don’t tend to veer toward arrangements that are too soft or feminine. I like them to be weird. That’s really my number one criteria. If it’s pretty and weird, I’m sure to love it.
Last week I got an email from a woman in San Luis Obispo asking if I could do some flowers for her boyfriend, who lives nearby, “just because”. When I asked how she had heard of me she mentioned that she had been in my shop when she was in the area and remembered me. How cool is that? I was happy to be a part of surprising him and hoped to meet her request of designing a tall, elegant, but not feminine arrangement.