Saturday, January 9, 2010

Is There Such a Thing as Winter Decorating?

After I packed away the gingerbread house and the nativity snow globes, I thought, now what? How can I infuse the house with winter? Do I even want to?

December packs a wallop, food and design wise, so perhaps we need the month of January to recuperate from the full time job that Christmas has become. Maybe we need the clean, Zen-like emptiness that comes from halls that aren't decked.

Me, I tend to spend the winter in the kitchen. No decorating, just lots of eating and playing with dishes.

I don't think I'm the only one.
Winter is a cold, spare season when we hunker indoors, sip hot tea, and flip through gardening catalogs. In the kitchen, we opt for hearty, one-pot meals.

We are nesting, gathering strength and trying to keep warm—all the more reason to have pleasing objects around us, and to be comforted without adding stress.

Now that the holidays decorations are gone, our homes seem bare. If you're like me, this is most welcome. Yet the soul cries out for just a little decorating. If you want to add winter items to your home, where will you find them? Home Goods is filled with Christmas markdowns or Easter bunnies--a great time to score deals. But little is offered in the way of winter decor.

Grocery stores can’t offer inspiration because produce shelves overflow with root vegetables. A bowl of turnips isn’t as appealing as a bowl of plums (or maybe it depends on the turnip).
Then there's the color dilemma.

We don’t feel comfortable with red because we left that color in December (though we’ll be happy to see it in February).
January is colorless, an in-between time that’s completely ignored by retailers. Maybe this is a blessing. Just think, a cottage industry could rise up from this neglected month and we'd all be driven crazy.

No rest for the weary tablescaper.
What is winter decorating, exactly? A lone snowflake should be the logo, but this whimsical symbol got swallowed by Christmas.

The season is about contrasts—warm breath rising above your head in a column or a steaming bowl of chowder in a bone white bowl. Winter is frost on the windows and a fire in the hearth. It’s about creating heat and light in a dim, cold world.

Personally, I think decorating with food is the way to go--what could be better than an edible centerpiece? But what if you aren't into cooking? Where can you find inspiration? The backyard is a place to start or just "shop" your house.

  • Twigs. Curly willow in a vase.
  • Vines
  • Shiny objects—glass, mirrors, crystal, mercury glass
  • White flowers. A single white tulip. Orchids are clean and elegant (if you can keep them alive).
  • An all-white tablescape
  • Clear blue glassware and white dishes
  • Ivy trailing through silver candelabras
  • Comforting collections: teacups and teapots; egg cups.
  • Crystal candlesticks on a silver tray
  • Tureens
  • Edible centerpieces (apple cobblers, potato gratin, a tureen filled with soup or chili)

Nature is telling us how to decorate through the seasons: winter is about nurturing and cozy simplicity. But it's also time to rest and think--just be sure you make time for playing.

We should do that every day of every season.

For me, it's also a time to think about getting organized. The days are smoother if I'm not engulfed by clutter. (Though I do love it.)

This is how my kitchen looked last year. Pretty spare, to be sure. It's not like that now. No way. After a year of writing, this tidy scene is nothing but a dim memory. I'm going to roll up my sleeves and get busy.


  1. It's cake stands and tureens for me .. AND rethinking the window coverings in my bedroom.

    I have a confession, every year the Vikings are in the Super Bowl race, I don't take down my Christmas Trees. (Until they either win the big game or lose in the playoffs.
    Go Vikings!)

    One year I threatened to leave them up until the following season BUT I was outvoted.

  2. I agree with everything you've said...I'm ready for a clean slate after the Christmas rush as well. In fact I ususally do a clean sweep, make donations, and rethink priorities in January. I love simplicity after so much color that is used during the holdiays...I'm also ready for a bit of silence too. Quiet, calming foods, and coziness...that's my January.
    I LOVE your blog. Your home is lovely, warm and inviting. I'm not very handy in the kitchen, but I always dream of preparing wonderful, tasty things you present. You are inspirational. As always, thanks for sharing!

  3. Hi Michael,
    Winter is an odd month, isn't it? I left my sled and skates from my Christmas decorating on the front porch...still seems right for winter. Snowmen are a good decorating item for this cold, winter month. I do like that winter brings us indoors for more reflective moments...a chance to read more, plan for the upcoming year. Thanks for such a soothing, thoughtful post...really enjoyed reading it! :-)

  4. January is sparse and I feel it -- with all of Christmas back in boxes and back in the basement. But I like that sparseness -- it is a sense of transition. It's sort of like when you take all the plants out for the summer -- the house seems so bare.

    Changes in the season are not just outdoors -- they're indoors as well.

  5. Michael, I agree. I even put my snowmen away this afternoon. I want a clean look for a bit before I pull out some Valentine decorations. I also agree that the cold weather keeps us in the kitchen more. I bake more often, eat lots of soup, and we've begun to pop popcorn each afternoon. Yum!
    Have to say I'm thrilled to learn of your books. Where have I been? Looking forward to working through the list. Congratulations on the SIBA award. ~ Sarah

  6. Beautiful!!

    I am starting to decorate for Valentine's Day, decluttering and looking at seed catalogs. Looking forward to warmer days.

  7. I leave my snowmen out for another month and decorate my matel for Valentine's Day as I take the Christmas down. I also leave my vintage sled and ice skates on the front porch mainly because we have so much snow I can't easily take them in. Thansk for sharing.

  8. So true...I just want to rest in January, at the least the first couple of weeks. Things tend to get very busy at work and it takes be a couple weeks to get everything, redecorated. Right now, I have many places throughout my home that have no decoration or very sparse decoration because I have not yet had the time to 're-do'. I'll call it a clean slate, but it's actually pretty ugly to look am ramping up as the first two weeks of the new year are already passing into history.

  9. After all the "frou frou" of Christmas, I enjoy the leaner look--at least for a little while. You are right--all I want to do is read,cook and that order. Just saw "It's Complicated" this afternoon and Meryl's Streep's garden in the movie made me even more ready for spring...and a full time gardener to make it look like that :)

  10. I find that all that snow outside serves as my decoration. I like the inside to be a bit bare after Christmas.


  11. Christmas always seems like everything looks so heavy and cluttered that I am already lightening things up physically and color wise. A lot of yellow right now. Can't wait to see what you do. Hugs, Marty

  12. G- you are indeed a prolific writer. Your words just soothe the page. What an amazing gift you have. I am sooo with you. I relish the calmness and some would say, bareness, of my home after all the glitz has been packed away.

    The thing I blogged on, and alwasy seem to yearn this time of green plants. Simple ferns and lily's and ivy's. Not sure why. I hope to have a post put together for your FF. I have been cooking and baking while I've been sick. My husband finds it strange, I find it soothing in a strange kind of way. I made homemade cannoli's and took them over to my neighbor. Have a great week...hugs, Barb ps, I will be in Savannah March 26-28 for the Historic Homes Tour. Trying to get a group of us bloggers together. Hope you can join us. I will post about it soon.

  13. Hi Michael Lee! What an interesting post! I had never really realized that January is a holiday-free month with no real theme for decorating! I like your idea of decorating with comfort food. lol I know that I have been sitting near the fire with my Russian tea during all of this cold weather! I hope you are staying warm there on your farm! Have a great week!...hugs...Debbie

  14. My Christmas decorations are still up. I love my white lights and they way they make everything glow. Soon, I'll take them down. My daughter's birthday is in February and she loves Valentine decorations for her birthday. I'll get on that next weekend.
    Paula Grace

  15. One of my goals is to finish cleaning out and get a cleaner look. I had planned to get it accomplished this month, but don't know that will happen. Just to much stuff in here for the amount of space.

  16. That was lovely! I always think it looks so bare after Christmas..but then I get used to it..

    I get into a funk when it is so cold and covered with snow and ice. As long as everything is clean, I am happy. The only thing I decorate is my keeps me thinking! a few weeks, like you said, a little red to brighten things up..and pink and some frills.
    Winter shall always does!

  17. Loved this post. I have done a display on my corner china cabinet of white dishes and red glass hearts, with a red berry and pine garland and mini white lights. I received several mercury glass pieces for Christmas and am using them on the mantle with glittered dried hydrangeas and ivy...I love the way it all sparkles and looks pretty without being too much.

    I love your blog and read it often. Thanks so much for sharing!

  18. I like your perspective! It was a little of what I was thinking, but didn't know how to quite say! LOL! :) Your home is gorgeous in any month, and I absolutely love the tablesetting in the header picture! ~Rhonda

  19. My Christmas bins were just lugged downstairs last night. For some reason I didn't properly tidy up the kitchen or the rest of the house until they went and now I am eager to clean up.
    So my clean slate is awaiting my creativity. My mantle is empty, my console table has a lamp and nothing else, my hutch is almost bare.
    What to do, what to do? Visit blogland of course. It is so full of ideas.

  20. I just came into ownership of 22 trunks of dishes and serving ware.

    No one in our family knew they were there...locked away and forgotten.

    Now, it is my hope to bring them out into the light..

    To love them once more.

    I really enjoyed reading your views and garnering new ideas for decor!

  21. Oh girl I'm so happy to see you came up for air again ha ha!! now you know I loved seeing Mister again he is just too dang is he feeling now and what about your mama...
    Now girl years ago they use to have the January white you rmember them of course it was all about buying sheets, towels and linens but I also think of January as a white time...Of course toss in some blue and I'm in heaven...Hows your book coming....come by and see me some time my Dear friend....hugs and smiles Gl♥ria

  22. I adore dishware. About a year and a half ago I moved into a relatively small home. Most of my beloved dish and glass ware are in storage :(

  23. It will be March till I can put my houde back together.With no Christmas decorating,I am ready to change things. Ready to get my house back. Kathy

  24. As always your tablescape is spot on, inspiring! I have left some of my Christmas out since it is Winter-friendly. My wreath and a swag that I use on the mantle is winter greens and elk horn so they stay until the crocus start peeping up, then I consider it springtime!

  25. Great post! To me January is all about white. Maybe that is because we don't have much snow here in Tennessee!

  26. Love the tureen idea...Thanks very much!

  27. You had some very good ideas for enhancing the winter decor. Funny about the grocery store in winter, I made a roast chicken with root vegetables last night and the only real color were the carrots.

  28. Thanks for the tips in winter decorating. I wasn't really sure where to start. The tureen is a great idea!...Christine

  29. This post was actually beautiful to read. You made January sound poetic!

    Justine :o )

  30. What a perfect post for this month.
    I too love the idea of pot soups, crock pot dinners and all things white. I think this reminds me of our white fireplace against the windows and the snow outside. Lovely post gollum.

  31. I really appreciated what you've done to brighten an otherwise drab month. I bring primroses and dried hydrangeas inside. My January decor is very spare, but I like it's zen-like mien after the flamboyance of Christmas.

  32. Michael, My heart could have written this post! I feel exactly the SAME way! But you write so well and my pen could never be as eloquent as you! Thank you for giving voice to my thoughts.
    Your pictures are lovely, as usual!

  33. So Michael, am I the only one who wants to know what the source might be for those gorgeous white doilies around the white desserts -- never have seen those before and would love to know! Beautiful pictures and ideas and I appreciate your stopping by and for doing your wonderful Fridays. Jane F.

  34. Paper Orchid makes the wrappers. I found mine here:

  35. You can also go to the Paper Orchid website and look at the catalog.

  36. Hi Gollum :)

    I have a hard time believing that your house looks anything but immaculate LOL

    You've just inspired me to get cracking on my garden shopping ;)

    I hope your New Year is starting out beautifully!


  37. Hi Micheal, What a beautiful post. You're right, January is a left out month as far as color and holidays go. Hadn't really thought about that before tonight. I always try to get reorganized and shake things up around here abit. I like seeing the Christmas put away, the rooms look larger and more fresh and you can move things around, they look new again. I enjoyed reading this post so much.. hugs ~lynne~

  38. I like the way our house looks in Jan, once all the Christmas decorations come down it's clear and that is how I want to start the new year lol. You have gorgeous treasures and display them so well. I love your library. hugs, Kathy.

  39. You are so right. I've read so many bloggers talk about nesting, editing accessories and cleaning now that the holiday decor is gone. I can handle the nesting and cleaning, but unfortunately, not the editing. Your kitchen always makes me drool. laurie

  40. Great post! Once Christmas was over and done I could not wait to get my house in order. Winter seems like a great time to clean, rearrange, and start fresh.