Holiday Reflections

Tastemakers share their favorite decorations, traditions and gifts

“A Scalamandré red zebra umbrella, of course! It’s the ultimate weapon against pelting sleet—and is so huge that it’s impossible to lose. What hostess wouldn’t just love one?
—Steven Stolman, president of Scalamandré

“Always something purple. When I was growing up, I remember the rich purple in ornaments, garlands and lights during the holidays in contrast to the normal reds and greens. Perhaps that’s why it’s my favorite color now!”
–Campion Platt, decorator

“We have a set of silver bells that I have been collectingand giving to my daughter Mimi
each year since she was born.I connect them with a red satin ribbon and they are magical.”

—Jeanne Burris, president of Near & Far Association, Inc. 


“Since flowers finish a room in any season and especially for the holidays, I decorate with my own silk floral designs. They’re so life-like and easy to maintain that I can spend the rest of my holiday energy entertaining guests.
—Diane James, president of Diane James Design

“My favorite ornaments are those made by children. A Christmas tree should never look like it belongs in a department store.”
—Bob Appelbaum, president, Clarence House

“I don’t have a favorite decoration; instead, I love to shop for new holiday
decorations every year at the MoMA Store.”

—David Kleinberg, decorator


“Each holiday my late partner, Tom Fox, would haul out this funny-looking antique feather tree and put some of his huge collection of Dresdens—small decorations or gifts that were made mostly of pressed paper and have become very collectible—on it. The Fox-Nahem crew still delights in this whimsical tree every holiday; it is very special to me.”
—Joe Nahem, decorator

“Nothing says holiday for me better than 
doing all decorations in the style of Luca della Robbia, everything real and from nature—fruits, vegetables and foliage. Beautiful colors. Works perfectly outside and inside.”
—Joseph Cicio, retail consultant

“My favorite decoration for the holidays is the Christmas stocking that my mother made for me when I was a child.
It has a picture of a snowman smoking a pipe with my name and bells above. It is a festive reminder of the holiday season.”

—John Barman, decorator

“I’m in love with shrines, so what better occasion than Christmas for creating miniature mise-en-scènes? I like making crèche-like tableaux with Neapolitan figurines of all sizes depicting somewhat ambiguous scenes of everyday life. I suppose it’s the grown-up version of playing with dolls, but with more theatrical results!”  
—Ippolita Rostagno, jewelry designer

“Adding branches of red berries to the evergreens in your garden not only puts a festive touch on your landscape, but it also helps to feed our birds throughout the winter.”
—Roxine Brown, garden designer

“I love rosemary wreaths. You can place them throughout your home, and they give off a wonderful scent.”
—Vicente Wolf, decorator

“My go-to holiday decoration is anything natural, especially fresh holly with lots of 
red berries, green ivy and simple garlands. 
I love these because I grew up with them in 
Ireland, and I always remember going for walks in the country, picking holly and ivy during the holidays!”
—Jarlath Mellett, designer

“Handmade environmentally friendly ornaments.”
  —Kazumi Yoshida, design director, Clarence House

“Every year, on my gates, I do fresh 
evergreen wreaths with dried pomegranates, oranges, cinnamon and a big raffia bow. 
It’s classic and looks so beautiful in the 
winter snow. As an added bonus, it also smells wonderful.”
—Robert Stilin, designer

“Magnolia leaves make for a stunning 
garland, using ribbon or even something 
more natural. I have jute tassels from years 
ago that look fabulous holding up the corners of my garlands over my mantel.”
 —Sheryl Green of Lux, Bond & Green

“Revisiting the collection of pinecones my father and I gathered
in our backyard in Savannah. They add a festive feeling
to my table and fill me with great memories.”

—Elizabeth Dow, artisan

“We have a family Christmas dinner 
tradition started by my grandmother 
during the Depression—a special table 
decoration we call the Jack Horner Pie. 
It is a decorated inverted box that sits in the center of the table. The decor can be the same or different each year. Small gifts 
are wrapped and placed under the box, with yarn tied to place cards for each family member at the table. At dessert, starting 
with the eldest member, you pull out your gift and open it. It is always a special anticipated event and teaches patience to the youngest person at the table! My grown children still love it and of course select and wrap my gift as a surprise.”
—Carol Santora of the American Red Cross

“One of my favorite online haunts for unique hostess gifts is
The American Bar book makes the perfect gift for anyone who loves to entertain. Otherwise, when I’m in Paris I tryto stock up on Corso Como branded olive oil and chocolates. The packaging is playful and food is always appreciated.”

—Amy Smilovic, fashion designer