Jeffrey Bilbuber’s latest book The Way Home, Reflections on American Beauty, follows the great successes of his previous books, Design Basics and Defining Luxury, and is his most personal effort yet. Bilhuber creates spaces for clients (who range from Anna Wintour and Elsa Peretti to Iman and David Bowie) that combine seemingly effortless high style with great comfort and charm. The new book focuses on his latest projects from around the country to give us “rooms that are reflections of personal histories and family life, not grand gestures of presentation.” Below, the always spot on and amusing Mr. Bilhuber talks to us about the decorative elements of his own family Christmas, which will be spent with his four-year-old son Christoph.
It’s all about aromatics – it’s the fragrance which matters most to me, and now it’s being driven by lots of blue spruce and pine. The equivalent at Thanksgiving is the scent of the turkey roasting in the oven. During those few hours that it’s in the oven, I float through the house.
I am going to buy every Rigaud pine scented candle I can fit in the car, and I mean the good old green [Cypres] ones with the daffy red bows – it’s the only time of year I’ll keep them tied on.
There also will be the scent of real spruce and pine. Christoph and I are going out to find our own tree in a forest that’s about an hour and a half from where we live. There’s something about going out with a four year old and cutting down a tree for the first time that is ceremonial. For months, he’s been practicing by cutting branches with his little saw.
I have this wonderful collection of American 19th century cut-glass compotes. There are a few dozen of them and they are really quite dazzling. Last weekend I went to the little farm store down the road and bought scoops and scoops of peppermint pillow candies. So I decided to go very “Nutcracker” and fill all the compotes with these great looking red-and-white candies. I’ll place them high on the mantles but I’m certain that Christoph will conceive of ways to get to them.
My grandfather gave me his collection of Native American blankets. They include Navajo and Arapaho in red and brown and orange and ivory. This past weekend I put them all over the living room and in the entrance hall. They look great in a very graphic, indigenous sort of way. I think I’m trying to fight the foofiness of Christmas and figure out a more handsome picture. We’re cutting a tree and putting blankets around – it’s much more of a man’s holiday!
New Orleans-born Suzanne Rheinstein, owner of West Hollywood’s (and Taigan’s) Hollyhock, embodies the subtitle of her gorgeous book At Home: A Style for Today With Things From the Past in both her work and in the way she lives. In her own home, she decorates for the holidays by combining her sumptuous Southern tendencies with West Coast sensibilities and sources. For her it’s all about context, and plenty of greens and flowers.
In Southern California, you don’t want a green-and-red Victorian Christmas. With the light and the weather, it would look ridiculous. Red velvet just doesn’t do it here. So I use coral reds and lime greens.
After the economy crashed, my daughter Kate jokingly said she longed for the over-the-top 80′s, so we did the entire retro thing. I did the banister in evergreen garland entwined with pleated coral Fortuny ribbon that I’d saved from that era. In the early 90s, I had done almost exactly the same thing for the cover of House Beautiful. We stuck gold spray-painted magnolia leaves into the garland and used them on the dining room table as well.
Every year I order 12 dozen 12-inch clay pots of paperwhite narcissus and group them on the landing outside the front door and down the front steps. It’s also the one time of year I love florist flowers like super long French tulips in white. I have a Sheffield plate hot water urn I always mass them in. But I love using the things that come from here too, like rosemary and holly. (A lot of people don’t realize that’s where the “Holly” in Hollywood comes from – it grows beautifully here.) Both greens look so pretty mixed in with the paperwhites.
One year, we didn’t have curtains yet and I hung natural pinecone wreaths from beautiful three-inch vintage satin ribbon in chocolate brown in all the windows.
Last year, I gave a dinner at Hollyhock in honor of Margaret Russell, who is now editor-in-chief at Architectural Digest. Down the center of the table we did a “runner” of magnolia leaves, showing some of those gorgeous soft brown undersides, and we also used silvery gold pinecones and lots of votives.
When her much admired father died in 1998, Alexa Hampton became president of Mark Hampton Inc (the firm’s celebrated commissions had included Blair House and the White House private quarters). It immediately became clear that her talent more than matched her famous name, and further proof was offered with last year’s publication of The Language of Interior Design. Among the interiors featured are a restoration of a McKim, Meade, and White apartment across from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a gracious Uptown New Orleans manse (whose rich green dining room is featured on the cover), an eclectic house by the sea, and the designer’s own Manhattan apartment. In the book, Hampton gives detailed advice on everything from paint to fabric schemes, and shares a lot of her own story. Below, she shares where she’ll celebrate Christmas and the whimsical way in which she decorates her own place.
Because my apartment is relatively small, we always celebrate at my mother’s house with a big tree, wreaths, and ornaments hand-painted by my father.
Back at our place, for our three munchkins, we hang stockings by the fireplace. On Christmas Eve, when the kids are finally asleep, we decorate the entire apartment with strands of silver tinsel everywhere. It is truly messy, but oh so fun. I suppose that it’s only appropriate that when Santa visits our house, we attribute decorating skills to him!
Shop Hollyhock on Taigan.com for At Home: A Style for Today With Things From the Past by Suzanne Rheinstein and The Way Home: Reflections on American Beauty by Jeffrey Bilhuber. Shop Books & Books on Taigan.com for The Language of Interior Design by Alexa Hampton.