Every winter, the Applewhite elves appear at our client’s homes throughout the Bay Area to deck their halls with holiday cheer. Glowing candles for lighting happy faces, crackling fires for warming family, friends and hearth, and a generous dose of mother nature are as good as it gets for sharing love and gratitude of the season.
In the spirit of holiday nostalgia, we are sending you images of California homes we spruced up for the holidays. Some old, some new, each different in style, yet unified by their seasonal decorations from nature’s bounty.
Holiday Home Styles
The English Country home in the top photo was constructed in the early 20th Century on a lushly forested site in Marin County. The colors of the gourds on the table, candles and basket filled with fresh blooming thyme reflect the hues in the autumnal landscape framed above the mantle. Decorations are spare as is the architecture of the home.
A unique iron railing aggrandizes the stairway in the kitchen of an Italianate country home in Sonoma’s Valley of the Moon. Here, opulence is at its peak with soft green monkey pod ferns, rosy pink banksia, and snow-white tallow berries garnishing the handrail above the outrageously shaped iron balusters.
My beloved Spanish Revival home built in 1927 on a small island in the San Francisco Bay is currently undergoing a massive remodel that has been the subject of many of my recent blogs. In the photo, you can see one of the home’s five fireplaces and part of the rustic two-story turret before the entire structure was mostly reduced to rubble and re-built. The shapes in the whimsical wrought iron element above harmonize with the arched opening of the fireplace and the small arched niche to the right. I wove branches of red berries from a tree in the front yard throughout the ancient ornament, and filled the fireplace opening with Christmas-colored candles and greens from the property.
The brick turret is presently being rebuilt. What you see in this image is the concrete core. The next step is to wrap the core with the 100 year old bricks that we saved when the turret was dismantled. And here is a sneak preview of that fireplace in its new incarnation. Follow along on the blog to see the entire home’s progress. It’s getting exciting!
Nature’s Festive Decor
A close-up of the stone mantel on the living room fireplace of a transitional Mediterranean home in Tiburon is a perfect example of decorating with nature. The vibrant earthy gathering of redwood branches, bay leaves, dates, banksia, pomegranates, eucalyptus and tallow berries reflects the flavor of the rustic Italian-inspired home. Many of these plants will last several weeks without water which makes them an excellent choice for decorating holiday mantels. Daily spritzing helps, prolonging freshness and fragrance.
An imposing fireplace is the focal point in the living room of an elegant French Country home in downtown Mill Valley. Here it takes on a holiday mood with an elaborate mantel arrangement composed of a fragrant bay leaf garland adorned with red pomegranates, yellow lemons, and orange and gold bittersweet branches.
Sometimes less is more as reflected in the entry of this grand Mediterranean home overlooking the San Francisco Bay. The charming French buffet topped with an antique Louis Phillipe mirror makes a bold statement along with the slanted wood ceiling, thick stucco walls and old French floor pavers. The elves restrained themselves and hung only a fresh cedar garland on the mirror and placed a tray of red, green and gold candles on the buffet in a bed of greens, to set an understated holiday tone as guests arrive.
Simplicity prevails in the case of a massive fireplace in the great room of a Sonoma country estate in the Valley of the Moon. A blazing fire roars under a mantel filled with red and gold candles that mimic the stripes in the two oversized French antique chairs. Spare and bold just like the home it presides in, yet projecting the holiday spirit, this space beckons friends and family to gather around the hearth.
This 100-year-old cottage tucked onto the eastern slope of Mount Tamalpais in Mill Valley dramatically juxtaposes styles. The distressed country red mantle garnished with rusty iron stars stands below a large vertical piece of abstract art that soars to the pitched roof above. Reindeer, candles, mistletoe, holiday greens and orange and pink banksia fill the room with glowing holiday spirit.
I hope you have enjoyed our look back at festive holidays past. Whether you live in a tiny cottage, a rambling Mediterranean home with a view, a tract house – as I did for many years – or a hillside estate in the country, you can make time for creating a warm and welcoming home for the holidays using nature as your finest décor – no elves necessary!
Christmas 2022 will only happen once in our lifetimes. So relish the magical moments with all your senses, a big heart and open arms for the love and light that comes through your door. Nature, people, animals and our homes are the true gifts of the season. Enjoy, be grateful and feast on your life!