A designer brings an enchanted Christmas fantasy to life
Novelist C.S. Lewis spins a tale of a mystical world visited through a wardrobe. Writer Lewis Carroll brings readers the mystery of a place that is “other” through a looking glass. Similarly, designer Rebecca Robeson weaves frosted fantasies and magical wonders through the entrance of her Scripps Ranch home. “When you open the front door, the first thing you see is the vignette creation with the tree. It looks like a set from Cinderella, and it just takes your breath away,” she says. “Iridescent snowflake ornaments trickle down from the ceiling as though they are falling from the sky to create snow on the white-flocked tree.” It’s not just the glitter of rotating glass balls, the sparkle of tiny white lights or the sheen of satin-ribbon garlands that make this tree a work of art. Rebecca had to modify the tree to make it fit in the perfect spot. “I always wanted to see a tree in front of me at the entry, but the staircase comes out too far. And if a full tree gets placed there, no one can walk through,” she explains. “If I put a skinny tree there, it would look ridiculous. Then, I had a bright idea: If I pushed a flat-back tree up against the mirror, the tree would look round.”
She discovered that, although flat-back trees are available, they don’t come frosted, most of them are skinny and short, and a decent one costs about $1,400. So instead, Rebecca purchased the tall, full, artificial tree she wanted and cut off half the limbs. The frosted tree came prelit, which meant that each limb had to be unwired and the strings redistributed. “To get a twinkling, magical effect, I ran a string of lights down the tree’s center — not out to the tree tips,” she says. “I pushed a lot of balls to the center of the tree, too. Instead of icing the outside of the tree, the balls and ornaments pick up the reflection of the lights deep within the tree, giving it extra dimension.” On the adjacent staircase, which is reflected in the mirror, a freeform garland trails like a mink stole flirting with the white, faux-fur tree skirt and the adjoining living room’s chaise throw. For the living room’s accent wall, Rebecca created a mosaic Christmas tree artwork from broken mirror pieces. Suspended along the wall, silver snow-flakes holding tea lights cast geometrically patterned shadows. A neighboring wall’s 28 feet of built-ins provided a natural focal point. Rebecca placed a crystal nativity scene in the center section. “The openings on each side of the built-in are similarly decorated,” she says. “Figurines, such as reindeer, are made of related material — either frosted, crystal or mercury glass. The settings are comparable, but not exact matches.” Above the peaceful pageantry, a crystal angel plays his trumpet atop another handmade-by-Rebecca garland.
The dining room, on the other side of the house, sparkles too. Crystal icicles dangle from white thread on an elegant, “frosty”-branched wreath that encircles a chandelier made of five crystal-pendant tiers infused with a soft prism of rainbow color. Underneath the light, a table setting for seven features gold and silver place mats and dinnerware. “Originally, this space was a small family room,” Rebecca says. “Its location next to the kitchen made it the perfect spot for dining, and now I have ample space for the 84-inch round table.” The dining room’s fireplace brings coziness. For the holidays, the mantel, which Rebecca added, features another nativity theme. Above the pastoral scene, she crafted a wreath from pages torn out of an antique book. “At the time I made the wreath, I did not know the book was a Bible,” she says. “When I discovered what I had done, I was crushed. I spoke with my husband, who reminded me that God’s word is written in my heart. Now I am at peace about it. In a way, it actually makes sense that a wreath of Bible pages would be part of a nativity vignette.” The 20-inch-deep, step-up hearth spans the width of the room. Rebecca bought two similar, 30-inch-deep, vintage sideboards, which she fit on each side of the fireplace by cutting down the back legs. Decorations on the chests bring in the crystal element of the chandelier. Rebecca places them on shredded, iridescent tinsel that creates the wintry feel of snow and conceals any cords.
“It’s all smoke and mirrors,” she says, laughing. It may be illusion, but Rebecca’s 3-year-old granddaughter is a believer. When her parents instructed her to get in the car for a trip to Meme’s (the name she uses for her grandmother), she piped up, “But how can we get there by car? Meme lives in the North Pole.”
7 Pointers on Holiday Decorating
1. Plan decoration placement well in advance of the holidays. Purchase items early in order to have the best choices for your home.
2. Remove and store all your existing accessories from areas you plan to decorate so that you have a blank slate.
3. Select a color scheme to carry throughout your home.
4. Use one or two themed elements — like natural substances such as pine cones and twigs or translucent items such as crystal and acrylic components — that tie your décor from room to room, thus connecting the spaces.
5. Decorate in unexpected ways and in unexpected places. For example, create magic by hanging snowflakes and icicles from the ceiling in spots that add enchantment to your holidays.
6. Hang your icicles or snowflake ornaments from white thread and sewing pins. The thread is practically invisible, and the pins leave tiny holes that don’t need repair after the holidays.
7. Add scads of lights. The more lights, the merrier. But always use lights on dimmers, and be wary of blinking or flashing lights. Use them sparingly, as they can add chaos, not magic.
7 Tree-Trimming Tips
1. Place bauble ornaments deep inside, near the trunk.
2. Leave the outer branches for more decorative, collectible ornaments and icicles.
3. Use a dozen or so rotating motors for your favorite ornaments. This adds life and animation to your tree.
4. Run a string of soft, twinkling lights down the center of the tree for a true sense of magic.
5. Position larger balls and ornaments on the bottom and smaller decorations at the top.
6. Make sure balls and ornaments have enough room to hang properly. If you have an artificial tree, you can move the branches to provide space.
7. Create a crescendo at the top of your tree — an explosion of goodwill and cheer.
— Rebecca Robeson
To accommodate double gates, Rebecca split a wreath down the middle before decorating each half individually with ornaments and lights.