Decorating with a Collection

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly we go from Fall to the Holiday Season!  I love this time of year; the changing colors, the crispness in the air, but it is also a bittersweet time for me.  My daughters and their families live in another state, as well as my parents, siblings and their families.  I haven’t been home for the holidays since I moved away some 10 years ago.  Every year at this time I long to go “home” to share the holidays with my family.  This year seems even more difficult now that I have a granddaughter.  I would love to share these special family holidays with her and the whole family!

I have begun to pull out the boxes of decorations; a whole collection of houses, shops and people – enough to create several “villiages.”  Christmas ornaments my daughters and I have collected throughout their childhoods.  Garlands of lights and swags of greenery, holiday “themed” dinnerware and linens, down to the guest fingertip towels to decorate the bathrooms.  No detail is overlooked.

With so much to do during this season, I decorate in stages.  After pulling out all the “stuff,” I start with simple centerpieces that I can change up.  The base of my centerpieces usually starts with a basket or tray, some candles, and other natural materials such as stones, shells, pinecones…  This Thanksgiving, I am going to use a black wooden tray filled with mixed nuts (the ones in the shell).  Pewter candle sticks placed among the nuts with pumpkin colored candles (not the scented ones, they tend to distract from the meal being served).  This a simple, but elegant look to a dinner table.  You could even go out to the garden and select a few branches or flowers (we live in an area where we have flowering plants all year long) and lay them among the nuts.

I have used wrapped candies at Christmas as my base; edibiles are something guests can enjoy to snack on before or after a meal.  Coordinate the colors of the candies, candles and tray to make another fun centerpiece.  Christmas bulbs in one color and various sizes, a white tray and clear glass vases with greenery or a string of lights looks terrific!  Fill a basket with pillow stuffing, looks like snow and place a Holiday figurine or little house decorated for the holidays atop of the snow, and add couple of candles makes a great coffee or end table piece. 

This year I am going to make centerpieces for my daughters; reminding them of holidays past and to cherish each year as they set up their own homes for the holidays.


I’m always looking for little “touches” to change the look of a room, a table or shelf because I get bored with the same ol’ same.  I walk from room to room always on the look out for a new way to display a favorite something of mine.  I like candles; the way they smell, the flickering lights that dance across the various surfaces beneath them and I love putting a bunch together in a collection.  Someone brillant came up with the idea of “candlescape kits” and it is very popular!  I know that you have ideas and items around your home that you can create these candlescapes from your favorite things.

My grandmother’s old mason canning jars is a favorite of mine.  I group various sizes and heights in a tray, add sand, pebbles, shells, I have even used coffee beans before to fill the jars and dropped in tea lights. 

How about using several small clear plain bud vases, fill with sticks, small budding branches, or flowers and arrange on a bed of bannana leaves and place candles around the vases in a pleasing arrangement.

This next one is very easy and so elegant, also my favorite!  Take several clear glasses, jars or vases and place them on a mirror.  Using candles of same color, but of various heights and place them in and around the glass containers of choice.  You can even add some clear or colored glass florist stones to the arrangement.  You will love the way the light reflects on all the surfaces!

So go ahead and make your candlescape; it’s addicting!

Everyone is “Going Green” today.  You hear the term in the tv commercials, your favorite decorating shows and there’s all sorts of new products that have hopped on the train.  It isn’t anything new, just a fresh awareness of the importance of being green.   

I know what you’re thinking… “what does this have to do with decorating?”  Everything!  Beyond the new home building materials, the cleaning products, the renew, reuse and recycle things you can do to help your enivornment; you can use these same concepts in decorating. 

Adding real green plants to every room is a great way to start.  Every room deserves a little “life” by simply adding plants using the same ideas from “Decorating with a Collection.”  Use baskets or similar containers to hold the plants and place them in groups of uneven numbers or an unusual or large plant can stand alone.  There must be a balance of using green plants in a room as with any other decorating element.  Also, using natural items such as shells, rocks, drift wood in recycled containers to hold them brings a bit of nature indoors. 

Simple…  This is a perfect excuse to create a theme for your next dinner party and go beyond the food you are serving!  

Holidays are always family time and we try to make it special; serving favorite dishes, playing games and just enjoying the time together.  At Easter we associate the holiday with bunnies, duckies, and activities like egg hunts.  It is also the marking of Spring, a time of renewal and reflection.  

Dress your table in it’s Easter best.  A beautiful tablecloth, a throw,  or a flat sheet will work.   As with decorating a room with layers, you decorate a table in layers.  Using a second tablecloth or other fabric; pool it in the center of the table.  Next collect small houseplants, figurines, candles, and even river rock or jelly beans to be arranged as the centerpiece on the table.  Don’t forget to carry this theme to the buffet and other areas of the house where your guests will be!

For a Mexican Fiesta you could use things like: chili peppers, clay pots, Mexican tiles, sombreros….  Pots and hats can be lined with foil or plastic wrap and used for serving food and holding utensils.  The tiles are perfect trivets for the hot dishes.

A seafood buffet looks great with fish-netting, Adirondack chairs, sand, plastic buckets, shovels, and shells.  Blue and white serving ware and fish themed dinnerware adds a finishing touch. 

Have a flair for the tropical?  Those surongs that us gals love to wrap around ourselves make great table coverings.  If you are lucky enough to have palm trees; clip a few fronds to use as place mats.  Grass skirts and more of those surongs (you know you have one in every color) tied around the chairs adds a lot of fun!

One last one and then you are on your way to creating a theme for your next dinner party;  have an elegant affair that you need to host?  No problem!   Costume jewelry can be attached to napkin rings, pooled around bowls filled with flowers floating in water, a mixture of candle sticks with same color candles centered on the table. 

Stretch yourself next time you have a dinner party, pick out music, fabrics and serving ware to match a theme and take it to the next level.  You will have fun doing it and your guests will love it!

I think my mom had been waiting for the moment I moved out of my parent’s home!  I instantly became the “Collector.”  Don’t want it, don’t need it?  “Give it to Carla; she can use it.”  So I have a rock and seashell collection, three sets of formal dinnerware (most people don’t even have a need for one set), countless teacups, a handful of one of a kind chairs… are you starting to get the picture?

If I showed an interest in something cute like a birdhouse, a little porcelain replica of a cottage, baskets and containers (you know the kind gifts are packaged in at Christmas);  what did I end up with?  You guessed it!  A collection! 

Twenty some years later I have to admit I still have a few of those collections.  And, yes as my tastes change my collections have changed or have been edited to just my favorite pieces.

A collection can make a huge decorating statement if used correctly.  Go shopping around your home and bring together all the pieces that make up your “collection.”  Play with the pieces to create a pleasing arrangement; once you have a display you like – let’s put it to work!  Display your collection on top of an entertainment center, above kitchen cabinets, in a bookcase or even on a coffee table. 

Use a collection in an unexpected way.  I use three of my collections together to keep my bathroom organized.  Mason jars that my grandmother used for canning (these hold part of my rock collection, q-tips, cotton balls, brushes…) and  a couple of my baskets make everyday items easy to reach and it looks great!