It is December, and nobody asked if I was ready.

– Sarah Kay

Every year I think Christmas is still far away. But suddenly it’s here. I’m never, ever ready! To be honest, I’m not good at “making a list and checking it twice”. I lead a busy life, so I need to make room for Christmas. Does anyone else feel that way?

I wait to the last minute to order cards. Call me old fashioned; I still send ones that need stamps. I don’t buy gifts early as some of my friends do who shop in July. And when giving a party, I freak out over what I’m going to cook, wildly asking friends for suggestions of beautiful seasonal dishes that even I can make as effortlessly as they do. But regardless of the simplicity of the dishes, effortless cooking for lots of people is a myth to me.

Next you probably think I’ll be spouting bah, humbug. But nothing could be further from the truth. I love everything about the holidays except the “getting ready” part. And even that I adore in some areas. You guessed it – making home feel like the holidays. I’m lucky – sometimes I even get to do this for clients in a wide-ranging variety of houses. Yum!

Creating a warm and glowing atmosphere with heart is as good as it gets, particularly when nature is present. It’s a way to show love for your friends, family and home. And what better time than the holidays – with inky nights and blazing fires, shimmering candles, and children’s brilliant faces. Even snow if you’re lucky!

This week, in honor of the season, we are featuring images of California homes we decked out for the holidays. Some old, some new, each different in style, yet unified by their Christmas decorations from nature’s bounty.

Country Homes

The English Country home in the top photo was constructed in the early 20th Century on a lush 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 beautiful landscape framed above the mantle. Decorations are spare as is the architecture of the home.

Italian Country
Italian Country

This stairway in the kitchen of an Italian Country home in the Valley of the Moon in Sonoma was built in 2002.  Here, as reflected in the second image, 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.

A Spanish Revival home built in 1928 on a small island in the San Francisco Bay has five fireplaces, each opening on the perimeter of a round two-story brick turret. The third image shows one of the home’s rustic turret fireplaces in the dining room with a decorative wrought iron element above. The shapes in the whimsical element harmonize with the opening of the arched fireplace and the small arched niche to the right. I wove branches of red berries from a tree in the front yard throughout the iron element and filled the fireplace opening with Christmas-colored candles and greens from the property.

Spanish Revival Home
Spanish Revival

The close-up of the stone mantel on the living room fireplace in the fourth photo is in a transitional Mediterranean home built in 1999 in Tiburon. 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.

Rustic Mediterranean
Rustic Mediterranean

A grand fireplace is the focal point in the living room of an elegant French Country home completed in the year 2000 near downtown Mill Valley.  It takes on a holiday mood as shown in the fifth photo with an elaborate mantel arrangement made with a fragrant bay leaf garland adorned with red pomegranates, yellow lemons, and orange and gold bittersweet branches.

French Country
French Country
Grand Mediterranean
Grand Mediterranean

Sometimes less is more as reflected in the entry of this grand Mediterranean home overlooking the San Francisco Bay, built circa 1998. As shown in the sixth photo, the beautiful French buffet topped with an antique Louie Phillip mirror, makes a bold statement along with the slanted wood ceiling, thick stucco walls and old French pavers on the floor.  So, we 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 a holiday tone as guests arrive.

And finally, simplicity prevails in the last image of a massive fireplace in the great room of a Sonoma country estate completed in 2003. A big roaring fire under a mantel filled with red and gold candles, mimics the stripes in the two over-sized chairs adjacent to the fireplace. 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.

Sonoma Country Estate
Sonoma Country Estate

Happy Holidys

I hope you have enjoyed our review of decorating for the holidays. No matter if you live in a tiny cottage, a Mediterranean home with a view, a tract house as I did for many years, or a hillside estate in the country, make time for creating a warm and welcoming home for the holidays.

Christmas 2017 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!

Love and Holiday Blessings to all,

Showing 8 comments
  • Merrilee F.

    Over the top Beautiful! Merry Christmas to you!

  • Deborah H.

    Beautiful and warm. Love your style Linda.

  • Lynn

    I love the theme of soft golds and reds in your designs, Linda – it lends itself so well to the natural Christmas decor. Always beautiful. And, I love that stairway in the second photo – wow!

  • Donna B.

    Thanks for sharing the visual warmth of the holidays. It is inspiring.

  • Courtney E.

    Linda- I was fortunate enough to attend your first design seminar in Sausalito in the wonderful old hotel which is sadly, no more. I knew then what a wonderful gift that I was receiving from your loving,soulful and encourageing insight into home life and ways to have your home nuture you. I love and need what you offer to make everyone have more joy in their home life. You are a true blessing and joy.

  • Marlies Carver

    I could have written your Christmas comments as far as getting ready. I am never “ready” and every year I tell myself I’ll do better next year.
    All your pictures are so gorgeous – love to look at them – thank you for sharing.

  • Deb Rehmann

    Simply beautiful!

  • Kirby Kendrick

    How incredibly creative you are, Linda, to design such diverse Christmas trimmings…from the sumptuous to the sublime! Thank you for these ideas you have generously shared!

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Linda Applewhite DesignTaos Spring