Marston Luce's natural kind of Christmas

Scenes from the living room in the home of Marston Luce, owner of one of Georgetown's major antique shops.
By Jura Koncius
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 8, 2010; 2:22 PM

Anyone familiar with Georgetown antiques dealer Marston Luce knows his Cleveland Park house would not be dripping in icicle lights this time of year.

"Christmas has become way too manic," says Luce, whose residence is decorated with the French and American painted furniture, folk art and pottery that he has sold in his shop for 30 years. "It should be a quieter time to be at home with just a few beautiful decorations."

This year he gave himself a holiday treat. He hired flower designer Jeanette Momeni to gently bring in the festive winter season with well-placed fresh flowers, plants and other natural decor. But no Christmas tree.

Serendipitously, Momeni had recently opened Fleurgreige, a European-style flower shop upstairs from his Wisconsin Avenue store. German-born Momeni shares Luce's love of European antiques, finely edited interiors and soft colors.

Using some of Luce's antique urns and pots, she styled combinations of bay leaves, protea, black privet and antique red hydrangea. On an 18th-century French dining room sideboard she arranged a woodsy tableau of a log covered in lichen, vintage silver stars and greige-colored candles wrapped in moss. The 1820 American pine mantel in the living room was dressed up with pots covered in lemon leaves (double-sided tape and wire does the trick) and filled with loose arrangements that include Luce's favorite Cezanne roses: cream with a tinge of green and pink. The seasonal gray brunia berries Momeni used "are as Christmasy as a poinsettia in my eyes," she says.

Momeni and Luce clicked on many levels, especially because she has lived in Paris and he has a second home in the Perigord in southwest France. "Marston and I are in different fields, but we share the same design sensibility," says Momeni. "He would rather have too little than too much. I agree. My things don't take over a room; they blend in harmony."

Their collaboration actually began weeks earlier, when Momeni decorated Luce's store window for the holidays. The woodland garden theme was inspired by a twisted wisteria branch Momeni found at a local flower market. They nestled two 19th-century French cement deer in gray reindeer moss, filled the corners with birch logs and branches and hung a 19th-century French silver leaf chandelier over the whole scene.

Soon, people were crowding around the fairy-tale window. "It's a bit of a magical fantasy, a peaceful forest scene," says Momeni.

After the window's debut, Luce, a native of Mobile, Ala., asked Momeni to dress up the 1929 center-hall colonial he shares with Dink, his Jack Russell terrier. Luce, 61, bought the house 20 years ago with Julie Southworth, his late wife and business partner.

Luce wanted the holiday decor to be natural, handpicked and long-lasting. He and Momeni walked through the first floor - entrance hall, living room, dining room and breakfast/sitting room together - discussing what would be appropriate and beautiful.

"Marston does with antiques what I do with flowers," says Momeni. "He is always stepping back and analyzing everything like a painter. He wants to achieve a restrained look."

This look has served Luce well. Over the years, his national reputation for having an eye for high-end antiques and garden treasures has brought a long list of celebrities and celebrity decorators through his door: Oprah Winfrey, Barbara Walters, Bill Blass, Mario Buatta and Bunny Williams among them.

Luce finds Momeni's organic decorations "very luxurious." He plans to light fireplaces and candles for small holiday gatherings. "It's ready to go. My house just needs some people in the rooms and the smell of good food cooking," says Luce. "It would be too selfish to keep this only for myself."

The restrained look isn't surprising from someone who served rack of lamb instead of turkey this year for Thanksgiving. "You don't have to have a tree," says Luce. "You can celebrate Christmas a lot of ways. Why not do something different each year?"

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