Christmas decor in the personal spaces of three Charleston designers
Ever wonder what interior designers choose when decorating their homes for the holidays?
What’s behind the doors of those who have that natural instinct to pull it all together?
The Post and Courier visited three local designers for a peek at their decor. We also took the opportunity to learn a bit about why they chose what they did.
A tree bathed in clear lights, several well-placed peacock feathers and a star are the main features in Marian Chatfield’s minimalist Christmas decor.
In fact, the interior designer, whose personal style is clean and uncluttered, has almost nothing else.
The well-shaped 8˝-foot Fraser fir, dressed in 1,400 lights, stands against the red and cream Oxford stripe drapes she normally uses.
“I’m famous for blowing circuits when I put the lights on a tree,” says Chatfield, owner of Chatfield Interiors. “These are the new LED lights. I don’t think you can blow a circuit with them. You can string 10 of them together. That was the real attraction.”
The red in the drapes quietly coordinates with the bright red found at the back of her bookcase and the lighter coral upholstery of her slipper chairs with their slightly winged backs.
All add to the slightly festive feel in a subtle way.
When Chatfield and husband Paul Ripa, who live off Long Point Road in Mount Pleasant, had more space, she used more decorations.
“I used to put ornaments on the tree like crazy when we lived at Dunes West,” says Chatfield, a member of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID). “That was a huge open space. This is not. I am a neat freak, so I like minimalism, a lack of clutter.”
In the dining room, a grapevine tree with silver stars sits on the table. A bust of Hermes in the foyer wears a string of lights.
“I do one house (for a client) and I do whatever she wants. We kind of go over the top. I enjoy doing it for other people; I just don’t want to come home to it.
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Chris Fulp stands beside his Christmas tree with a satisfied look on his face. The design consultant at Morris Sokol has sought to create something extra special for the holidays and feels that he’s succeeded.
The tree is just inside the door of the 1960s West Ashley house where a plastic Santa and big bulbs inspired by ones of yesteryear greet holiday guests on the stoop.
Fulp is particularly pleased at the sight of his ornaments, shiny, bright, frosted and hanging on the tree.
“All of them are vintage, from the ’60s and ’70s,” says Fulp, who decorated his Fraser fir to echo the Christmas trees of his youth. “I still wanted that childhood experience.”
Most of his estimated 1,000 Santas, snowmen, candy canes, feathered birds and such are from his family’s collection.
He picked up the rest in antique shops throughout the year. Fulp also has 1,000 lights in a range of colors.
Under his tree are packages wrapped in paper with the old-fashioned poinsettia designs. While Fulp found the vintage wrapping paper, he reasoned it was too expensive.
While passers-by can’t see the details on his tree, they will get the feeling that it’s old school.
Those who go inside will see so many things, including the tiny star near the top, cut from a piece of tin by his grandfather. Also on the tree, is the angel he made in first grade using corrugated cardboard, yellow yarn and a black marker.
It’s that kind of tree.
The tree in Margaret Donaldson’s dining room is very personal. The 11-foot Fraser fir is decorated with objects recalling the times of her family’s lives.
There’s the balsa wood circle she received at 12 from her parents’ travels; the clay angel given to her husband, Rob, at age 5 by his godmother; many ornaments belonging to her three sons; and a ceramic bone and silver bell bearing the name “Halle,” the family dog who passed on this year.
“We have never done a themed tree,” says Donaldson of Margaret Donaldson Interiors and a member of the American Society of Interior Designers. “It’s not about following decorating trends, but about the birth of Christ and sharing time with family and friends.”
The 1905 home in Mount Pleasant’s Old Village, where her family lives, was built by her husband’s great-grandfather, Sidney Townley Donaldson.
At Christmas, clay angels that her sons made in early elementary school, 10 to 20 years ago, line the dining room mantel.
Hanging from the mantel are three stockings. One belonging to her eldest son, Rob, was knitted by his great-aunt and is identical to one she knitted for his father.
One belonging to her second son, Thomas, is canvas needlepoint that Donaldson made based on the design of her felt childhood stocking.
The third son, Jenks, used a store-bought stocking until he was 8. Donaldson, overcome by guilt over his not having a special stocking, let him choose his own needlepoint design and made it. Jenks’ stocking is special because he recalls seeing her make it, she says.
Also in the dining room, there is boxwood in silver julep cups and ornaments are paired with other silver pieces on the table. The sideboard holds oil-burning candles once sold in Details Details, a Calhoun Street shop she once co-owned that since has closed.
In the living room, the fireplace is the main focus, where hanging above is a 3˝-foot-diameter wreath with a big red metallic bow. The wreath features holly berries, cones and pecans.