Step Inside Decorator Margaret Hornung's Winter Wonderland
When she was just five-years old, Margaret Hornung went to the woods near her Connecticut home and harvested her first Christmas tree after a family outing to a tree farm went awry. It wasn’t exactly the Norman Rockwell experience my parents envisioned,” she recalls. “We were arguing and frostbitten. I was so annoyed that when I got home, I promptly went out and chopped down my own little pine, which I decorated with my own little collection of ornaments.”
It was a revelatory moment for the Weston-based decorator, and the start of a lifelong obsession with decorating for the holidays. She dresses a dozen trees for her home each season, layering them with the thousands of ornaments she has collected over the years—some are from antiques shops and flea markets, some from wholesale sources; some are Pottery Barn finds. “I love glass, I love vintage. I’m also keen on angels, stags, hearts and birds,” she says. Regardless of their provenance, all have a special place in her heart. “I treasure each and every one.”
To deck the halls of the Georgian-style Colonial where she, her husband and three children have lived for the past 18 years, she starts pulling out boxes in mid-November. Most years she dresses eleven trees, five mantels and a variety of tabletops. It can take up to three weeks to get the house adorned in its seasonal finery, a labor of love that she does with minimal help. “My kids gave up decorating trees years ago because they thought I was too controlling,” laughs Hornung. “They love the end result, though. Over the years, they became accustomed to large holiday parties and giving tree tours to their friends.”
Strategically placed around the house, parts of which date back to the 1960s, the trees are thematic and styled to complement each room’s color palette. Each drips with ornaments—some of which are quite heavy—and every one is cabled to keep from toppling over. “I learned the hard way,” she explains. They range from the sweet (the pub room’s simple pine that’s covered in crafty looking ornaments) to the elegant (the celestial tree in the dining room, with its 12-inch glass crescent moons and golden-winged angels) to the whimsical (the 14-foot children’s tree in the living room, with hundreds of glass ornaments that depict characters from storybooks and nursery rhymes).
In the newer section of the house, where much of the décor is black and white, Hornung created an all-silver tree for the hallway, with its custom mosaic tile floor, and a black and white tree for the family room, whose sleek lines and floating coffered ceiling have a contemporary edge. “I wanted something a little more modern in feeling,” she says. The tree, which sits in front of the French doors, is festooned with zebra-striped balls, Harlequin jesters and “just enough silver accents to give it a little sparkle.”
Although she loves all of her creations, Hornung has a particular affection for the white feather Buddha tree that sits atop the second-floor landing. “I love the way the light streams through the windows onto the tattered golden Buddhas,” she says. “It has a lovely, transcendent quality.” Nearby is an angel, part of a collection that she started years ago. “We try to cater to all religions,” she says. “For me, Christmas is really about the magic of the season and getting friends and family together to celebrate.”
A version of this article appeared in the December 2012 issue of CTC&G (Connecticut Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: Winter Whites.