Typically, I do not like fake things. I do not like fake sugar, fake wood or fake news (who does?). If given the choice, I will almost always opt for the real McCoy: a real Christmas tree, real flowers and real candles. But lately my discerning eye has been fooled. Technological developments and improved manufacturing capabilities have made it possible to create some of the best impostors ever. Some are so good that even I may change my ways. Yes, they are pricey, but trust me, if you are going to buy fake, buy the best fake you can find.
This is almost sacrilege (my husband grew up on a Christmas tree farm!), but the artificial trees from Balsam Hill are the best I have ever seen. The company offers a dazzling choice of evergreen varieties, shapes and sizes — including Fraser fir and Norway spruce look-alikes, from under six feet tall to over 15 feet, lit and unlit trees, and even trees pre-lit with LED color and clear lights. (You can alternate between the two with one click of a remote control.) Trees start at about $349, and each comes with a stand, storage bag and extra bulbs. The company also sends a pair of “shaping gloves” to wear while you shape and bend the branches into realistic formation. Full shaping instructions, including photos, are available on the Balsam Hill website.
Undeniably, these artificial trees make life easier — no watering, no needle dropping, no light hanging and no messy cleanup. But one thing is missing (and it’s arguably the most important): the smell of a real tree. Until companies figure out how to have artificial trees emit a real scent (I am sure that’s coming soon), I suggest having a good-quality evergreen-scented candle or diffuser, such as the Fraser fir scent from Thymes, in the same room as your tree.
Although decent fresh flowers are readily available at grocery stores these days (Trader Joe’s is an excellent source for cut flowers and Whole Foods for orchids), most of us limit our purchases to special occasions. However, flower arrangements, potted plants and orchids from Diane James made with fake stems (the company describes them as “faux floral couture”) are pretty enough — and realistic enough — to make you second-guess their status. The company’s eponymous founder studied fresh floral design in Europe, and over time she perfected a “just-from-the-garden” style that she applies to faux arrangements. All bouquets (small ones start at $143) come in vases filled with “faux water” (a proprietary blend that resembles polyurethane) and are loaded with permanently arranged fabric blooms. Each flower is botanically correct in color and style, and many of the petals are hand-trimmed by one of six floral designers who work in the company’s Connecticut-based studio. The arrangements are seasonal, and the company debuts two collections a year.
The most impressive invention I have seen in a while is the dripless, waxless candle from Lucid . Here’s how it works: The very real-looking “candle” is made of a synthetic material that never burns down. (You can even put it in the dishwasher to clean it.) The candle holds liquid paraffin, which the company sells by the bottle. Just twist off the candle’s top and fill the candle with the fluid. When you put the top back on, the candle’s fiberglass wick falls into the liquid paraffin and draws it up. Light the wick and only the liquid paraffin is burned, so there is no soot and no dripping — no more wax all over your tablecloth and no more scraping wax out of votive holders! And unlike battery-operated candles, Lucid candles have real flames, so the glow is exactly what you would expect from a traditional candle. Fun fact: These candles are based on a design that the Lucid parent company has been making for use in churches for 30 years. The company has spent the past several years perfecting the technology for home use. The new designs will be available next month through Lucid’s website (lucidcandle.com). The candles range from $56 to $110, and the liquid paraffin is $13.50 for a one-liter bottle.
Over the past few years, faux fur throws have become a staple in decorating magazines and catalogues, but all are not equal. The first time I felt a really good faux fur throw was at the home of New York-based decorator Katie Ridder; I really couldn’t tell whether it was real. When asked where it was from, Ridder shared that she regularly orders the faux fur throws from Restoration Hardware. She uses them in her projects at the foot of beds and along the backs of sofas in living rooms and family rooms. The throws, made from synthetic fibers, add textural interest to rooms as well as a soft and silky touch. Available in a number of different sizes, colors and exotic replicas, the throws start at $109.
Mayhew, a “Today” show style expert and former magazine editor, is the author of “Flip! for Decorating.”
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