House dressing - advice on interior decorating

by Mary Jo Bowling


Seasonal decorating ideas from professional designers

As the holidays approach, you'll want to bring festive flair to your home decor. To give you some timely decorating help, we asked two prominent San Francisco designers to share some of their favorite ideas.

Mantel makeovers

Interior designer Richard Witzel who offers holiday decorating classes in his design store, takes a "more is more" approach a this time of year. "It's a season full of richness and warmth," he says, "and we can capture its beauty with many of the things we already have in our homes."

* Fruit topiary. Seasonal fruit, such as apples and pears, make beautiful topiaries. Use an attractive urn or vase as a base and top it with a purchased polystyrene pyramid. Long wood skewers, cut into thirds, attach fruit to the form; position larger fruit at the base and smaller fruit, such as crabapples, at the top. Embellish with decorative ribbons. Tip: Apples will last about a month if they're sprayed with a polyurethane finish.

* Easy fruit centerpiece. Fill a large brass or ceramic bowl with winter greens, then add fruit. A large pineapple makes an effective anchor for the arrangement; surround it with pinecones or smaller fruit. For a more opulent look, spray some of the fruit with gold or silver paint and add matching ribbons or decorative balls.

* Swagtime. Simple swags, made from eucalyptus or magnolia leaves, ivy, or grapevines, are an easy way to dress a mantel. Long-lasting greens can be embellished with fruit, berries, and flowers. Swags can also be placed on table runners for additional flair (see page 112).

* Mixed media. Artificial fruit can look stilted and contrived alone, but when paired with "living" counterparts, it can be very dramatic. The different textures - a gold metallic pear in a bowl (see photo on page 112) contrasting with a swag of fresh magnolia leaves and pepper berries, for instance - add richness and depth to the setting.

* Candle groupings. Decorative candles are most effective when clustered in groups of three, four, or five. Vary the heights and diameters of the candles to avoid a look that's too symmetrical.

DESIGN: Richard Witzel & Associates (415/674-8300)

Extra sensory perception

For interior designer Geoffrey De Sousa, the holidays are heightened by sensory pleasures. Starting in autumn, he says, the home should take on a tactile quality: "Fabrics like chenille and velvet look and feel warm, and create the feeling of a haven from the weather outside."

* Seasonal colors. An autumn-hued chenille or velvet throw draped over a chair or sofa brings warmth and seasonal colors to a room. A yellow armchair (photo at left) takes on a holiday spirit with the addition of a cranberry-colored chenille throw and richly detailed velvet pillows.

* Forgotten furnishings. Move a great seasonal-colored rug or chair to a place of honor. In addition to enhancing the holiday mood, it will refresh the room.

* Runners rule! Don't limit runners to the table; drape them on the arms or backs of chairs to introduce a dressy look, as shown at left.

* Shade of difference. Exchange white lampshades for a darker hue as winter approaches. "Try a color like amber or red," De Sousa says. "There will be a total change in the light quality - it will be warmer and richer."

* Nod to nature. During the holidays De Sousa likes to decorate with natural objects, whether found in the backyard or at a flea market. Bare winter branches are a favorite find, tucked into a vase (see photo). De Sousa loves their sculptural quality.

DESIGN: Geoffrey De Sousa, De Sousa Hughes (415/626-6883)