A Floral Designer Decorates her Home for the Holidays

Natural touches and foraged finds fill the home of a Connecticut floral designer.
Holiday family room with fireplace and Christmas tree

Photograph by Nancy Hill

 

Floral designer Sarah Shaw can wander into a field of grass and emerge with a bouquet of wildflowers. And when she enters the thicket of a flea market or antiques store, she comes away with finds that might otherwise go unnoticed by most shoppers. “My business partner, Christine Bloom, and I love to forage, finding flowers, plants and ferns along the roadside and in the woods, even in my backyard here in Westport,” says Shaw, referring to the work she and Bloom do for their company, Hedge Floral Design.

Shaw also likes what she calls “kooky lines,” especially those that characterize her diminutive three-bedroom home where she raised two daughters. She admits that such details are what drew her and her then husband to purchase the house nearly 25 years ago. Shaw points to a series of arches that mark the approach to her sunken living room as an example. “Why would the original builder in 1929 have included these archways from the entry hall,” she asks rhetorically. “We joke that one of the owners had gone to Morocco on a trip and decided to install here in Connecticut the kind of Moorish arches she found there.”

white bedroom with cat and windows

Photograph by Nancy Hill

Other decidedly nonlinear lines appear throughout the interiors—deeply recessed dormers in the upstairs master bedroom, fitted with severely angled triangles; tray ceilings that include an extra flourish; undulating stairway banisters and curvaceous treads; and the monumental stone fireplace in the living room, at once geometric and organically sculptural. “As a result of these kinds of lines, I’ve learned to work with what is. I try to make it all cohesive,” Shaw notes 

Shaw credits part of her ability to put things together to having grown up in a Victorian farmhouse in Ohio, with summers spent in an old house in Massachusetts. “I gravitate to things that are handmade,” she emphasizes, “objects and furnishings that aren’t showy or glitzy.” Because she describes the interiors in which she grew up as being rather spare, Shaw has learned how to choreograph interiors with a minimum of elements. “When you have fewer pieces in a room, it forces you to ‘take in’ the atmosphere,” she insists. “You can really contemplate the lines, for instance, of an interesting chair, appreciate sunlight that filters in, the ways the curtains capture breezes, wall colors.” 

Because she likes to move and reposition her belongings, creating new tablescapes and roomscapes, Shaw revels in seasonal décor. “I’m always self-editing in response to whatever season it is,” she explains. “At Christmas, I tend to gravitate to darker colors, like magenta, whereas most of the year, my aesthetic is more tonal—beiges, grays, whites, almost Scandinavian.” 

stairway with plants in antique house

Photograph by Nancy Hill

Part of her Christmas decorating involves incorporating a single object that serves as both a focal point and a reference for what else to include. Here, she chose a wreath made of gold-hued corn husks that hangs on the fireplace mirror. Her tree, meanwhile, incorporates large-scale, German-made sunburst ornaments. “Those big, repeated elements make the green of the tree really stand out,” she says. 

As for other ornaments, her home is filled to the eaves with vintage pieces she’s collected over the years. “I start decorating for the holidays at the last minute,” she confesses, “because I’m a crafty person by nature and I don’t always know how to organize my creative self.” She keeps the decorations out until a week or so after Christmas, then: “I turn the page on the holiday, though I do keep out bowls of ornaments until sometime in January, just to keep a little sparkle inside.”

A print version of this article appeared with the headline: The Art of Choreography.