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Winter Wonderland

Tue, 11/26/2019 - 12:20
East Hampton Gardens Photos

Local pros agree: The rules of good interior design are universal, even when it comes to decking your halls and swagging your walls with garlands, wreaths, and lights. Think “less is more” and the “rule of threes.” Think themes, like vintage or forest, and complementary color palettes.

“When you have a house that’s well-designed and all the elements are correct, you just need to add a few items. Go with the basics and spread it throughout the house,” said Allegra Dioguardi, a Westhampton Beach-based interior designer, in a recent interview. (Ms. Dioguardi, who has also staged houses for sale across the East End, goes by the moniker “Styled and Sold” online.)

Michael Giannelli, the owner of East Hampton Gardens, loves Christmas and applies the classic principles of design to holiday décor.

“We use a lot of what clients have, and then add or subtract,” he said. “I want to walk in and feel like the elves have been here.”


We Three Kings

According to a classic design principle, groups of three are ideal. But, really, groupings in general help create an impact.

Mr. Giannelli, who said his own house “feels very much like the store” around the winter holidays, recommends gathering similar items together for a holiday display. Create a congregation of candles, or candelabra, on a table or sideboard. Put mini-trees, like a small forest, together on a shelf.

Mr. Giannelli advises keeping the groups bundled close together, rather than spread out; or, if you’re going for the classic three, group two together with the third item a short distance away.


O Christmas Tree

A big, classic Christmas tree is the final thing Mr. Giannelli will put up after the rest of the house has been fully fah-lah-lah-ed.

To decorate it, he recommends starting with lights, working from the inside of the boughs outward to the tips. Then, for the ornaments, he starts at the top and moves down. It might be easiest to follow the top-down method for ornament placement by working in vertical rows: from peak to shoulder height, shoulder to hip, hip to floor, and so on.

Whatever styling has been chosen for the rest of the house — an elegant bronze or gold theme, vintage, Victorian, winter white, whatever captures your fancy — can be extended to the tree.

Mr. Giannelli likes slow-twinkling white lights, and lots of them. In his store on (how appropriate) Gingerbread Lane, “for each three-foot tree we’ll use 60 feet of lights,” he said.

Ms. Dioguardi agrees that white lights are the best. She loves tiny, battery-powered fairy lights on shiny copper threads.

He and Ms. Dioguardi have something else in common: Each of their ornament collections is carefully curated. Mr. Giannelli and his partner buy each other a beautiful ornament every Christmas, and complement those with “10 to 20 styles of ornaments, and 10 to 20 of each style.”

Ms. Dioguardi said she has “never bought a box of ornaments,” but has acquired hers over the years through her travels.

Mr. Giannelli also puts an emphasis on handmade Christmas ornaments. His store even sells fair-trade Nepalese stockings and wooden snowflakes handmade by physically and mentally challenged individuals, through the Augusta Training Shop. “It’s brilliant. They’re beautiful,” he said. “I get choked up talking about it.”



Boughs of Holly

Elements of nature are a perennial and near-universal theme for holiday-season decorating, whether the holiday in your house is Hanukkah, Christmas, or just a bit of pagan light-worship.

Mr. Giannelli recommends boughs of greenery draped on the mantel, twisted down the banister of the staircase, or curled into a centerpiece surrounding a candle on the festive table. He recommends faux greenery, because it doesn’t pose as much of a fire hazard as fresh does. He likes the look of twinkling lights, tartan ribbon accents, and small birds peeking out here and there (and not limited to French hens or turtledoves).

“When you layer in that woodland feeling, it makes a warm, cozy place,” he said.

Ms. Dioguardi also decorates with greenery, and gathers sticks from around her yard, spray-paints them gold or silver — combining a natural element with a bit of sparkle — and collects them into tall vases. She also collects pinecones as accents.

“I literally do deck my halls with boughs of holly,” she said. “I like to see different colors of greens and berries mixed in.”

She also favors glass bowls of exotic fruit. Pomegranates and kumquats are particularly lovely, she said.

“My holiday decorating style is probably very old-fashioned,” Ms. Dioguardi said, “and I tend to like using organic, natural things that have texture and pops of color.”


The pros weigh in on holiday decorating for Hamptons interiors. Guess what? Even though it’s a Clark Griswold season, good taste should still apply.

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