A Charlottesville shop owner decorates her family’s home for the holidays

December 14, 2011

The Christmas season is when people tend to pull out all the decorating stops. The more red and green and lights and wreaths and garland and bows, the better.

Christy Ford’s approach couldn’t be more different.

With a family of five, three children under the age of 8, a pair of dogs, two small businesses and a house with “five homes worth of stuff” crammed under one roof, the Charlottesville resident’s holiday decorating is decidedly understated.

“I veer toward a more simple, organic look,” she says. “I don’t do red, and I don’t have a big supply of Christmas decorations in the basement. I go to the grocery store and load up on fruit, and that pretty much does it.”

With a smattering of fruit, flowers and greenery cut from outside, Ford gets most of her decorating done. She refers to her holiday style as “loosey-goosey,” but the look, like the rest of her home, exudes the enviable combination of easygoing and elegant.

Decorating is second nature to Ford, who is the co-owner of And George, a home furnishings shop in Charlottesville that she runs with her mother, Jan Roden, an interior designer. Ford is also the co-founder of the Scout Guide, a regional shopping and travel book and blog that supports local businesses.

Originally from Vienna, Ford, 41, and her husband, Ryan, 40, fell for the charming college town after visiting from New York for the weekend. On a whim, the couple moved to Charlottesville, and Ford and her mother (who also eventually moved to Charlottesville) opened And George.

“It was all really serendipitous,” Ford says, “and we’ve never looked back.”

The couple moved into their five-bedroom, English-style cottage in 2002, before they had children. Today, their brood includes Henry, 7; Ruby, 5; Tulip, 4; George, their 11-year-old English bulldog (and namesake of the shop) and Henrietta, a mixed-breed who was given to George on his second birthday.

While Ford’s holiday look changes from year to year, she always pulls from the same pool of staples, starting with a simple color scheme. This year, she chose blue, green and orange.

Next, she fills her home with fruit (kumquats, clementines, pomegranates, sickle pears), nature (such as leaves, rocks, moss, stems and shells) and live greens, including eucalyptus and dusty miller leaves and magnolia and pine branches.

The placement of these accessories is as organic as the items themselves. Ford’s technique is informal and unfussy: Small fruits sit in beds of moss in the mouths of vases, at the bottom of hurricane lamps and in small bowls. Leaves, branches and tree stems are loosely placed along mantels or are spontaneously stuck in wreaths. Kumquats strung by Ford get wrapped around a swag of boxwood garland hanging beneath a mantel. Clementines are piled atop a white ceramic pedestal.

Not surprisingly, Ford prefers an“irregular, wonky” Christmas tree. Should their tree appear too perfect, she’ll cut out stems and reuse them as decoration.

Trimming the tree is a true family affair, says Ford, with the children serving as head stylists. One year, they used “lots of leaves” to complement the ornaments. This year, feathers were their accessories of choice.

“The kids decorate the tree, and it falls down every year because there are so many ornaments and they are all on the end of the tree,” says Ford. “It’s already fallen once and we had to get another one. That was a drag.”

Her children, who also like to decorate their personal spaces, make their own holiday wreaths. Using inexpensive artificial wreaths from Michaels as a base, they add pieces of nature gathered on family hikes to create their own designs and for hanging in their rooms.

Other Ford holiday traditions include decorating a gingerbread house and making cookies to distribute to family and friends on Christmas morning, a mother-daughter tea that Ford and her girls host for female friends and family (a tradition started by Ford’s mother), and a “date night” for Ryan and older daughter Ruby. They get dressed up, attend a performance of “The Nutcracker” ballet and cap off the evening with ice cream.

Despite having a packed calendar every Christmas season, it looks as if the Ford family might be adding yet another tradition to their holiday.

“Henry wants to carol this year,” says Ford, contemplating the idea. “The kids are big singers, though they are not very good. We might just have to give it a go.”

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