Q&A with Suzanne on the Holidays

Award-winning designer, Susanne Kasler, returns for her second Ballard Christmas and she didn’t come empty handed. Last Holiday, Suzanne introduced her incredibly popular line of gift-wrapping papers in all her favorite colors. This year, she’s added colorful ball wreaths to coordinate the signature look. And if that weren’t enough reason to celebrate, she also brought stunning beverage tubs, a new Fir tree with burlap-wrapped ball and a cuddly white collectible bear who answers to the name of “Astor.”

We sat down with Suzanne to talk about her new holiday collection, what inspired it and how she gets ready for her favorite season of the year.

Ballard Designs: What was on your decorating mind as you imagined this year’s holiday collection?

Suzanne Kasler: I’ve been dreaming of a white Christmas for months. And I guess that’s why I started with a darling white bear. Every year I add a Boyd bear to the collection my mother has given me. And last year, we brought that tradition to Ballard. So, as soon as we started planning this year’s collection, I visited Boyd and asked them to make a special bear just for us. His name is Astor.

BD: Everyone loves a white Christmas. What are some of the other big themes inspiring your decorating this year?

SK: I think we’re all feeling drawn to that “undecorated” look this season – simple and uncomplicated. And that’s what I love about doing the Christmas collection for Ballard. We can get that natural look and still enjoy lots of the classic colors and accents we love to rediscover season after season. We’re still bringing in red and green, but layering with lots of natural jute. And this year, I’m mixing in my signature white.

BD: You’re introducing your first forever-green trees this year.

SK: I’m so excited about my new trees! We worked hard to get the details just right and the quality of the greenery is amazing. We even wrapped the root balls in burlap, so they tie in with the whole natural Christmas theme. You have the option of putting it in your own container, using one of my white containers or you can stand it on its own. We’re all buying the small ones for table decorations. This is the tree for people who don’t do trees any more.

BD: Tell us about the little alpine sled. You’ve used it everywhere.

SK: During the planning for this year’s collection, we all went to Paris, Avignon and Montpelier for a little inspiration. I had always wanted to do an old-fashioned sled as an accent and found an antique on that trip that was just what I had in mind. We added my version to the collection and I’m finding new ways to use it every day. I love the scale and how great it looks as an accessory at the door, beside the fireplace or under the tree.

BD: Wow, everything looks so lush and festive in this scene.

SK: I wanted everyone to see how great my new greenery looks on a stone fireplace. To keep that natural “undecorated” feel, I did linen/burlap stockings trimmed in jute upholstery tape and a matching tree skirt.

We brought back our pinecones with the ice crystals this year. They’re so gorgeous in a bowl or hanging on a tree. They just add a little bit of sparkle with all the white lights.

I also created a larger version of the votive lantern we introduced last year. These look so great in quantities. I place one of the small ones at the head of every place setting and mark them with the guest’s name.

The coir mats in green, red and a natural taupe border are a quick way to mix in classic colors and your own holiday message if you want.

BD: You’ve hung stockings on the hallway tree, too.

SK: I’m always looking for different ways to add a touch of Christmas. You can style a special area like the entry with stockings like we did here. The antlers are very chic and add a fresh, unexpected touch to the Christmas decor.

People are so busy and traveling, it’s hard to find time to decorate. What I loved about this vignette was how simple it was to do – we just plugged in two of those darling trees and added my snowflakes as a little decoration. And you see Astor the Bear sitting on his sled. It’s an easy, chic way to start showing Christmas.

BD: There are lots of special little details here, too, like the embroidered ribbons.

SK: When we were in Paris, I was really inspired by the ribbons we found there embroidered with Christmas scenes. We designed our own and added a snowflake-bordered rug to tie it all together.

The cocktail napkins make a wonderful hostess gift. You can wrap them in our beautiful natural papers and my new ribbons – gorgeous sage, red and bronze. And then I tie each of the presents with a small ornament.

The zinc beverage tub can also be a planter that you can use it all year round. And I raided my vintage postcard collection to create the Perpetual Calendar. You just want every little single thing on this page!

BD: Your ornaments were a huge hit last year and it looks like there are even more this season.

SK: One of the things I love most about Christmas is rediscovering things you have a memory of getting the year before. And each year, I like to add something to my collections, so there’s always a new memory to enjoy next season.

This beautiful collection of muted color ornaments is based on my own collection that I keep stored in these little natural craft boxes. What amazed all of us was how accurately we were able to reproduce the colors. They look great in bowls and beautiful used singularly. I use them for wrapping – I tie a single ornament on top of each gift.

BD: You told us about your new Christmas trees earlier, but not why you think a forever-green tree is such a good decorating solution.

SK: First of all, I love having a tree that comes pre-lit. It saves so much time. I’ve gone to the gift shows for years looking for the perfect tree. We all want that real look. And what I love about our new trees is that they do look so natural, but are safer. You can put your tree up for the whole month without worrying about keeping it watered or drying out. We created dozens of samples before we came up with this incredible Frasier Fir.

BD: This room says Christmas in every way, but it doesn’t look overdone.

SK: Since I was thinking of a white Christmas this year, we took all the toys and showed them in white. Then we mixed in the red-and-white sofa and my new mini-ornament wreaths. Blending classic Christmas with Ballard’s natural textures just felt right this year.

BD: We can’t stop talking about Christmas without mentioning your wrapping papers. They sold out last year.

SK: That’s right! So this year, we added great new colors. You can buy the tags, the ribbons and the paper and they all work together in one beautiful presentation. It makes getting gifts ready so easy. Everything you need is there and you can do all combinations – bronze paper with bronze ribbon and bronze tag. Or you can mix it up. It doesn’t matter which piece you pick up – they all work together.

Our dream this year was to make Christmas beautiful while keeping it beautifully uncomplicated. I think we succeeded, don’t you?

Caroline McDonald

Caroline lives for pairing together patterns, mixing furniture styles, and oogling over our newest furniture pieces. As you can imagine, her little 1920's craftsman is in a constant state of flux. Here on How to Decorate, it's her goal to help you turn your home into your own little slice of paradise.


  1. Reply

    Nancy Rodgers

    December 26, 2011

    I purchased two Suzanne Kasler cream wall brackets last year. The brackets were deeper than the wall brackets that are currently listed on Ballard.com. They were 10.5″ wide, 8.5″ deep, and 10″ tall. I can display the Ballard topiaries on them. Will these deeper cream wall brackets come back in to stock?

  2. Reply

    Liz Scolnick

    November 26, 2011

    Can she make mini tree skirts – 30-40″? Would be great in the burlap w/ ribbon trim.

    • Reply

      Ballard Designs

      November 29, 2011

      Liz: Unfortunately, at the moment, we do not make 30 to 40″ tree skirts. I have sent your request to our buyer and he will investigate the feasibility of making them.
      The Style Studio Team