“I love Christmas. I’m always thinking ahead, trying to get ready.” Being the consummate designer and collector she is, Bunny Williams knows how to prepare for the holidays. Lucky for us, she shares her best tips and tells us how she’ll be using pieces from her own magical collection of gifts and accents to deck her halls at Christmastime.
Ballard Designs: How do you prepare for the holidays?
Bunny Williams: One of the most important things about getting ready for the holidays — so that it doesn’t become this big stress — is to plan ahead. We all procrastinate and we all put it off. Suddenly, it’s the middle of December and we’re panicked, and the holidays aren’t that enjoyable, because we haven’t thought about it ahead of time. I know that’s true for myself. It’s like anything: if you really do sit down and plan it out, you’re going to have a much easier holiday. I start planning and making my list in early November. Get it out of the way!
BD: What’s first on your list?
BW: I always start with my Christmas wish list. I want to give myself plenty of time to order gifts and get them in the mail. The thing I love about this collection is there are so many wonderful things that make great gifts. Not only do we have the holiday ornaments and decor, but other special items as well, like the charging station, cachepots, salt and pepper dishes, a set of napkins. Personally, I’d love to get any of these things as a Christmas present!
BD: Packages are wrapped and ready, what’s next?
BW: We usually have Christmas here, so I focus on getting the house ready. When I’m thinking about Christmas, I want it to be festive. I often decorate with things that are red and green and white because those are the colors of Christmas. For example, I love to bring in pots of paperwhite narcissus and put those in my cachepots. They’re always in bloom in the market at that time, and they have that wonderful scent that adds to the atmosphere in the house. Cyclamen are also available this time of year, so I might put those in a cachepot for the table. And then I get the greens I want to decorate the mantels with.
BD: We can’t resist a good mantelscape! What’s yours?
BW: I love to do fresh wintergreens. I try to decorate the mantels by the second week of December. I love magnolia and pine, and I either cut them here or I buy them from a florist or the Christmas tree farm. But what makes the wintergreens so beautiful on the mantle is giving them a little sparkle. The glittery trees and the deer in the collection are perfect for adding that extra sparkle. Then I add a few votive candles to light at night. It’s the waxy color of a magnolia leaf with the sparkle of the Christmas decoration that I think makes it seem very festive and very holiday.
BD: Let’s talk Christmas trees.
BW: I always have a huge Christmas tree. I really enjoy having it, so we put it up in the middle of December, and leave it up through the first week of January. I like to cut it fresh, so I know it’s going to last longer. I love to collect Christmas ornaments — I even have about four left from my childhood — so my collection grows every year. I love to add to it. I think they become very sentimental. There are things you put on the Christmas tree every year, and when you take them down, you can’t wait to see them the next year. So, naturally, my collection for Ballard includes a few Christmas ornaments.
BD: You’ve got a great little set of felt animal ornaments.
BW: One of the things that is so special to me is to see children participate in decorating the Christmas tree, so I always love ornaments that don’t break. I think children love getting out their favorite little animal, and because it’s so soft and made of felt it’s easy for them to put it on the Christmas tree. I find that the soft ornaments usually end up at the bottom of the tree, which is where the kids can reach, and at the top are all of my beautiful glass ornaments and the things that are more fragile. It works, because my dogs don’t run into them!
BD: Speaking of Christmas trees, you designed several tabletop trees for the collection.
BW: We all love our Christmas trees, so we have three stylized versions: a wooden set of trees, mercury glass trees, and a set of glittery cone-shaped trees. Having a variety allows people to find the look that suits their style. When I decorate the barn, which is more rustic, I might use the natural wood trees with twigs and have it be a little less formal. In the dining room, I might use the glittered trees with the gilded fruit for a more elegant look. The mercury glass tree is almost contemporary, so you could do a more modern setting with a group of the glass trees. We also designed these wonderful beaded pagoda candle covers, which I think could be holiday. I use the battery-operated votives with them, so I’m not lighting candles all the time, and they look beautiful in the center of a table mixed with greens.
BD: Your new holiday collection is filled with decorative fruit accents. Why is that?
BW: I always love to have containers filled with fruits and things like that. And in the winter, I love a big bowl of apples or pomegranates. Seeming them always reminds me of Christmas. The faux fruit makes it easy to keep, but they are so realistic I think somebody might want to bite into them! The gilded fruit looks especially beautiful mixed with wintergreens on the mantel or dining room table. Instead of doing flowers, I’ll cut the stems of the greens very short — I’ll mix magnolia with pine — and put votive candles down and intersperse them with the gold deer and the glittered cone trees. At the base of the trees I’ll have the gilded fruit and pomegranates. That makes a beautiful centerpiece for a table instead of just having a bouquet of flowers. You don’t always have to have flowers in the middle of the table!
BD: Your fruit also looks beautiful in what we think is the showstopper in your holiday collection: that spectacular golden bowl.
BW: Yes! We created this amazing and very large bowl that looks like molded fabric. The original was actually stiffened fabric dipped in gold. It’s absolutely stunning filled with fruit, and I think it’s beautiful for the center of the table. You could also put the pots of paperwhite narcissus, an ivy plant or a fern plant in it and use it as a cachepot on the table.
BD: What was the inspiration for your charming angels?
BW: My mother and some of her friends had a little club, and would get together every year around a big table in our attic to make things for the church Christmas bazaar. They made these little angels, and I remembered them when I was doing this collection. Because I don’t have the originals, we had to design them based on my memory. It’s amazing that we were able to reproduce them so perfectly with their gauzy wings and tinsel halos.
BD: We know you love candles and use them throughout the house when you’re entertaining.
BW: Particularly at Christmas, when you might be entertaining. Whether it’s a cocktail party or dinner or simply having the family over, nothing gives a get-together more atmosphere than candlelight. So we have a whole collection of votive candles that can go on the dinner table. We also have these beautiful hurricanes. One has a brass column with a glass cylinder on the top that you put the candle in, and then there’s this beautiful brown, mottled glass. Not only do I put hurricanes on the dining table, but I’ll also put them on a side table or on my mantel. When you walk into a room at night, and the lighting is lowered and the candles are lit, you get instant atmosphere and it changes the mood of your room. It gives you a really romantic feeling. I always tell people to turn off a few of their lamps and light some candles instead.
BD: Any other tips on making the holidays a little easier?
BW: Think about what you want to decorate, how much you want to do. I don’t over-decorate my house, because the house is warm. I used to do the stairs with garlands and then I found that it was drying up and I was vacuuming up the garlands all the time. So I tend to keep it easy and focus on the mantels and tables.
BD: What are the family Christmas traditions you look forward to each year?
BW: When I was growing up, we always had a really wonderful Christmas Eve dinner. We would always dress up and we got to open one present. And my father would read The Night Before Christmas before we went to bed. And on Christmas morning, we got up early and couldn’t wait to open the Christmas presents. We tend to carry on the same tradition even now with my brother and his family. We get up a little later than we used to, because everybody’s a little older, but we open our presents and then have a very late breakfast. John will scramble eggs or we’ll have some delicious breakfast later and sit around the fire and open Christmas presents. By that time, everybody is ready for a nap!