The relaxed, natural charm of a country house spruced up for the holidays can be an inspiration for anyone’s celebration. Here are six ideas Brooke Gilliam shared with us about her recipe for a country Christmas.
1) Use vintage quilts or coverlets as tablecloths. Unearth a quilt from your linen closet or adopt one from a flea market or thrift shop. Gilliam found one recently for $50 at the Strasburg Emporium that she’s using on her dining room table (no pad needed). “It’s a great alternative to using that perfectly ironed and starched formal linen tablecloth,” Gilliam says. “Using a quilt makes a table setting feel more personal and more vintage.”
2) Move tables around. In the country, holiday dinners are often served to a large crowd of friends and neighbors, so extra tables need to be set up throughout the house. Gilliam likes to seat guests in unexpected places, such as the front foyer or in the family room next to the fire. Pull in an outdoor table if you need more seating.
3) Plant your garden to provide holiday greenery. Gilliam wanders outside with her clippers and returns with armloads of beautiful and fragrant branches. She’s fond of using rosemary indoors, for its look and its fragrance. She’s planted hawthorn, nandina, holly, crab apples, pines and magnolias.
4) Don’t be afraid to mix real and faux.Gilliam has a collection of fake glittery branches and shimmering leaves from Target that she brings out every year and arranges with greenery from her back yard. She also collects natural curiosities, branches with wasp’s nests or mosses, to add to the look. “Cut fresh greens and stick them in vases and behind mirrors. It looks and smells great, and it’s free,” Gilliam says.
5) Visit a country town for inspiration. Gilliam headed out to Culpeper just after Thanksgiving to refine her holiday vision. “Culpeper is such a cool place now; the shops are a mix of organic, industrial, antique and modern,” Gilliam says. “I got a great sherpa rug to wrap around my tree like a tree skirt.” She also spotted a gift-wrapping idea she is using: wrapping gifts with kraft paper, tying them up with twine, then tucking in a pheasant feather.
6) Stockpile candles, and use lots of them. Gilliam keeps candles in many shapes and sizes on hand: tapers, votives and pillars. She loves the unusual colors (especially olive) and the style selection at Yummicandles.com, and also the elegant 36-inch tapers at Creativecandles.com. “I’m a huge fan of candles everywhere and low light. It makes you look good,” Gilliam says. “Guests can’t see if your house isn’t as clean as you would like it to be, and it makes for a romantic atmosphere.”
— Jura Koncius