From the December 2017/January 2018 Issue  

A Tale of Two Christmases

Writer Meg Fox  |  Photographer Peter Rymwid  |  Designer Jackie Currie-Taylor, Allied ASID  |  Location Colts Neck, NJ
  • Façade | Warm LED exterior lights on shrubs and trees complement the Colts Neck property’s traditional façade. “I wanted it to feel warm and inviting but not overdone,” homeowner and designer Jackie Currie-Taylor says.

  • WELCOME | Faux wreaths maintain their looks season after season.

  • FOYER | Pulling from the cream and gold tones of the home’s décor—plus a dose of holiday sparkle —the foyer is welcoming, festive and sophisticated. Timeless ornaments from homeowner Jackie Currie-Taylor’s 25-year collection adorn the tree along with gold table crackers, wide wired ribbons and other trimmings. The Union Jack heart bauble—a gift from a friend when the family moved to the U.S. a decade ago from their native England — “always takes pride of place on the foyer tree,” Currie-Taylor says.

  • FOYER HALLWAY | Two decorative reindeer in brushed gold, a large luxury wreath, glass candlesticks and ornamental garland in cream, white and gold create an eye-catching vignette in a foyer hallway.

  • DINING ROOM | A lush, full-length table garland—embellished with mainly silver flowers and ribbon—brings the yuletide spirit to the holiday table. Silver is the primary metallic here, but hints of gold appear for a sense of consistency among rooms. Guests are always treated to a small gift such as homemade chocolates, personalized cuff links or a witty gag gift. “It all depends on the guest,” the host says.

  • SWEETS | “We always have a sweet/candy tray with an endless supply of chocolate treats that guests cannot resist,” Currie-Taylor says.

  • SITTING ROOM | In the sitting room, the designer played up the rich jewel tones of gold, blue and teal. “I switch out my regular groupings and objets d’art at Christmas time and add candles in blues and golds along with trinkets and trays,” she says. The starburst mirror and other gold statement pieces add warmth and glamour. A gray, mirrored credenza functions as a drinks station for entertaining guests and storing glassware. TREE | The tree is decorated in gold and teal baubles, ribbons and peacock feathers. “I love the smell of a real Christmas tree,” Currie-Taylor says.

  • MIRRORS | Two mirrors were hung side by side to create the long linear pattern, which reflects light from the double-height windows. Peacock feathers adorn three wreaths, strategically placed to balance the Christmas tree décor on the opposite side of the room.

Home or away, the holiday spirit — and traditions — linger

For designer Jackie Currie-Taylor, Christmas means lots of gatherings with family and friends, whether spent at home in Colts Neck or in the United Kingdom. “We alternate between Christmas here in the U.S. and the U.K., says the British-born Currie-Taylor, whose firm is Gravitate Interiors + Design in Colts Neck, New Jersey.

No matter where her family spends it, “We always begin Christmas Day with a champagne breakfast and exchange of gifts,” followed by a viewing of Queen Elizabeth’s message at 10 a.m., she says. “It’s a tradition!”

Another ritual is the annual family outing in search for the perfect tree. “I love the smell of a real Christmas tree,” Currie-Taylor says, preferably a Norway spruce or Douglas fir with good proportions and dense foliage. “This is when Christmas really starts for me,” with the tree in place and decorated with baubles and more. “We play Christmas music and carols, open a bottle of wine and eat homemade mince pies.”

When holidays are spent abroad, the family forgoes a real tree at home, but “I still insist on everything else,” Currie-Taylor says. She develops a checklist for each room in November then begins decorating around the first week in December. For clients, the process may start as early as September, she says, beginning with a walk-through of their home, discussions on parties planned, general entertaining needs, themes and color schemes. This allows time to order supplies and install the decorations before the holidays or as early as Thanksgiving.

In Currie-Taylor’s own home, furnished in transitional style, the holiday scheme mostly follows the color and style of each space. Generally, she stays with a neutral palette of white, gold, silver and gray with accents of color and sparkle. “I am not a fan of traditional green and red,” she says. And because the majority of her decorations are faux, she reuses them from year to year but always with a new twist or update. More recently, she tweaked the holiday accents in the main sitting room with jewel tones of gold, teal and other blues, which “everyone loved.”

Whether decorating a client’s home or her own, Currie-Taylor always looks for interesting areas to create an eye-catching vignette (see sidebar tips). In the foyer, “the perfect place to draw people in,” she staged a small but densely decorated Christmas tree that plays up the tones in the room. She also hung garlands with ornaments in cream, white and gold along the staircase and on a breakfront nearby.

“I love when guests walk through my home and get a little bit of the wow factor in each room,” Currie-Taylor says, noting she’s careful to create a link in color or theme between spaces. While gold is the primary metallic in the foyer and silver reigns in the adjacent dining room, she visually linked the spaces by bringing in hints of gold in the cutlery, wine glasses and on the edges of the dinner service: Royal Doulton’s Biltmore pattern, which is nearly 30 years old. “With over 150 pieces, it is a cherished possession and is my go-to for dinner parties and on special events.”

When entertaining, “the tablescape [and menu] plays an important role in creating that special feeling of Christmas,” she says. “I love to give each guest a table gift,” whether homemade chocolates, personalized cuff links or a witty gag gift. “It all depends on the guest!”

Dinner is usually served in late afternoon and lasts until early evening while everyone chats and savors the taste of Christmas. Later there’s often a game of charades. In addition, “I always purchase a large jigsaw puzzle that everyone contributes to during the holiday period,” so the race is on to complete it by New Year’s Eve, Currie-Taylor says. “It’s a great way to have something for everyone to do during those quiet moments.”

When does she surrender the holiday spirit? “I begin to take down Christmas decorations after New Year’s Day, but I always take down my Christmas tree on [January 5] the Twelfth Night,” Currie-Taylor says. “My mother is superstitious and said it’s bad luck if removed before or after!

Insights from Jackie Currie-Taylor

On creating eye-catching vignettes
• Group objects in odd numbers. Three and five work well and are stronger visually than a group of two or four.
• To create depth, hang décor in front of mirrors or place a collection of items on a mirrored tray or charger.
• Change up your throw pillows, throws and candles for more festive pieces during the holidays.
• Buy a mirrored tray. Place tall glass vases or pretty jars on top and fill with brightly wrapped candy.
• Less is more. Editing is extremely important. Take photos of your décor on your phone or device and study each area. This gives the feeling of looking at the scene with another set of eyes. What you don’t see in real time is sometimes easier to spot in a photo.
• Candles add ambience and warmth in the evening. Currie-Taylor always use battery-operated versions for safety reasons. Good quality ones look very realistic.

On mixing metals
• Christmas is the perfect time to experiment with mixing metals. Silver, gold, bronze and copper can be friends. Just don’t overdo it and don’t let them compete with each other. Select a dominant metal and then use one or two others to complete the look. Having a primary metal will create unity, and the accent metals will guide your eyes through the room.

On trending holiday looks
• There is a noticeable move away from the traditional Christmas colors of red, green and gold to colors we wouldn’t normally associate with Christmas, including grays, blush and on-trend rose gold metallics.
• Textured tone-on-tone white schemes, flocked trees, icicles, snowy white animals, silver, fur and feathers.
• Accents colors in ice blue, egg blue and prairie green.
• Hot metallics: copper, rose gold, champagne and oxidized (tarnished) silver.
• Black accents are starting to ease their way into the holiday season as well as classic black-and-white combos with an accent color.