09 December 2013

Holidays in the Country with Howard Slatkin


 As the holidays begin to snowball a bit- take a moment to go to the country-invitation by way of friend and interior designer Howard Slatkin. Howard's Christmas decorations in the country are elegant and natural. I can almost smell the pomanders-and the scent of Nest candles burning.

 Trees made of pomanders in the country home of Howard Slatkin

What special traditions have you made a part of your yearly holiday celebration?

In my family we like to make gifts to give each other and as none of us are especially talented with crafts it is a bit of a challenge but the point is the thought and care, not the perfection.  And that it is not about material items, not about money spend, etc.  as little commercialism as possible is my motto!  For example, every year my niece gives me a scrapbook album which her mother helps her with. Ali is fourteen now and she has made them for me since she was three. They are truly my most cherished and valued possessions.

When do you start decorating for the Season? Do you ever use faux greens-or the sort or are you a believer in fresh and only fresh?

I do not do much at home in New Jersey as we spend Thanksgiving at home in East Hampton and Christmas in Palm Beach, where somehow ever greens look a bit odd to me, with Palm trees visible through the windows.What I do for the month of December is use greens from the garden----- box and Holly especially--- and place them on tables and sometimes above mirrors.  I will decorate with home-made pomanders, so beautiful and so redolent of the spicy fragrance of the season. And of course Nest Fragrances burning in every room.

 Chinese export porcelain beasts guard a Nest candle

My favorite Nest scent is Bamboo---- it calms me almost immediately , it must have a direct effect on my dopamine. I suppose I am now addicted. I will light the bamboo candles before I turn lights on in a room.  

A  Nest candle burns amidst Chinese Export porcelain

For holidays I use two scents---- the classic Nest Holiday scent when guests come in December; it is an evergreen/spice scent and people love it and it says "holiday" to them and they always comment on it, so while it is not my favorite I bow to my guests ( as I do with food I serve----caviar, truffles, foie gras and lobster, not my faves, but guests are so happy to eat that stuff. Me? I want chicken pot pie or pasta!). I only let people I truly like into my rooms so their happiness and well being take priority ( somewhere I must have some Southern blood!)

My other December scent is White Narcisse as narcissus will forever be associated with holidays and happiness to me-----my mother always had pots and pots of paper whites  from the greenhouse in the front hall, in bedrooms and even one pot on each step. Bliss.

Is it a favorite flower to use during the holidays?
Yes- their scent and flower say "holiday" to me. And also hint that Spring is just a few months away. 

 Do you decorate a tree?
I put out some tabletop trees I have made over the years with vintage little fruits and berries and a glue gun.  I don't do anything in the New York apartment unless I am giving a dinner there in December.  

The trees with fruit I made myself----- with those vintage fruits I used to easily find at flea markets and shops like Tinsel Trading, but no longer seem to find.

Do you have a most cherished tree ornament?
I have one little tree I made fashioned with some bits and bobbles of jewelry of my grandmother and looking at it makes me think of her and I smile.

 One, of a pair, of icicle trees, vintage ones found years ago, that I have ornamented with pearls and emerald ornaments made from necklaces left me by my grandmother.

 Do you change up decorations-holiday and interior decoration for the Season from year to year?
As I am a traditionalist, I want to bring out the same things each year, ones that have become imbued with memories over time.

My fave holiday decoration of all, Bowls of Pomanders-made from clementines and oranges. Not only do I love the scent, but they I love the history and romance of them. Alas I don't make them, but my beloved housekeeper Dina makes them annually, which makes them even more special to me.
A Chinese export monteith with some pomanders

What is the best Gift to give? and to receive?

Whatever someone would most appreciate: cash, a jewel, a scented candle. And books, the best gift of all to give.  I will give ones I enjoyed during the year, sometimes vintage copies, and this year mine!  I love to receive home made cookies or jam, nothing of monetary value or from a shop.  Except books---- always the best gift.

The beloved Winnie Slatkin with her first present of the season!

What is your most vivid childhood memory of the holidays?

Going to the Metropolitan Museum with my parents to see their magnificent tree, then a ride in a horse and carriage to have lunch at Tavern on the Green and later off to Radio City to see the Christmas show---- such wonderment and special memories and the next day ice skating on the ice rink in Central Park and then  to see the tree at Rockefeller center (we would have lunch at Saks at the table by the window so we would have a postcard view of the tree and skating rink.  Bliss!

As a very special holiday celebration Howard is giving away his smashing book Fifth Avenue Style to little augury readers. The book debuted in October. Howard weaves readers through every glorious room in his New York apartment-from inception to reveal -by way of  beautiful photography from Tria Giovan. 

I was lucky enough to visit with Howard at the apartment this fall and each and every detail in his rooms has been executed to perfection. It is an extraordinary place to behold-and the book takes you through it all with equal detail.

There are several books to be had- 5 signed copies to be exact! I for one am dying for a signed copy myself-so 5 (for Fifth Avenue) of you are going to be ahead of me.

To garner a copy-I would love to have your comment (add it below at the end of this posting)- along with a snippet of your favorite Holiday memory. I have a favorite memory to share with you later in the week when the winners are announced.

(all photographs are used with permission of Howard Slatkin)


  1. Dear Patricia—Mr. Slatkin's mother's fondness of narcissi is my own: I brought a large pot home from the flower district here in New York (6th & 28th) today, placing it in a Victorian Cloisonn√© pot from the flea market. As I write, the sweet fragrance fills the apartment.

    One favorite Holiday memory is spending Christmas in Bilbao, Spain, when I was 11. My father worked for US Steel, and was transferred there for some months before my mother and my 4 siblings could join him. When we arrived shortly before Christmas, giddy with excitement, my mother found a 4 foot tree, stood it up in a bucket of oranges in our hotel room, whereupon we decorated it with chocolate gold coins while drinking champagne. It was a wild, crazy wonderful start to the next three years. Of course, I didn't want to come back.

    Wishing you a Wonderful Holiday Season!


  2. What a lovely, beautiful holiday posting! The book is divine beyond! I used to go to the divine little "cottage" in Manhattan....when it was Howard Slatkin....every single thing in it was a complete treasure!
    Then; it became the home of my friend "Mish"!

    Now; I have no idea!

    That book "takes the cake"; (as my mother would say!!)


    Lovely, beyond! Thank you!


  3. Ooh, I would most certainly like to be entered in this generous giveaway--that is if it is open to non-US residents...?

    One Christmas memory came to mind immediately: I was 7 or 8 years old and we had just moved into a giant Victorian home in Mason, Michigan--it was like a castle to young, impressionable me. And Christmas there was wonderful with stockings in front of the fire in the Sitting room (where the cookies that we had been left for Santa the night before had been artfully munched), then my Dad would roll back the oak doors to the Parlor and we would race in to find our presents under the tree. Well, that year my Sister and I were delighted but my Mother was a little disappointed--there wasn't much at all for her. My Dad was always as generous as he could afford, so how could that be? Just as she was about to start making breakfast, he called her into the Music Room (how I loved that house, that room had a piano and a bar) where windows opened out onto the garden below. She arrived just in time to see the trainer Mike Budd unloading then trotting Tameli through two feet of snow! He was her first Arabian horse, a gorgeous and fiery grey gelding. Of course, she cried with delight.

    And you know, this story makes it sound like my parents were wealthy. They weren't at all--they were very young and no one wanted to live in a Victorian house at the time. But they were creative and knew a thing or two about the importance of having dreams, of trying to make them happen. Not to mention that a bit of magic goes a long way...

    I want to thank you for the happiness that writing out that memory brought. My Dad is gone now and I haven't been feeling very festive this year, I admit it! But good memories live on in the most positive way.
    With my Best from Arles,

  4. Love the book. In fact, have two copies already (one for my home in AL; one for my condo in Atlanta), but neither is signed! My grandmother's Xmas tree was worthy of a Slatkin abode. Always fresh, strung with colored lights, and covered in mercury-glass ornaments of all shapes and sizes. But the icing-on-the-cake, the defining element, were the long strands of transparent cellophane "icicles" that gave the tree its ethereal quality as if it were being viewed through a light fog or in a painting by Monet.

  5. Oh it is hard to come up with on favorite holiday memory, there are so many. I do cherish the memory of the year that the children received their own first puppy. Charles Dickens, a most stately corgi, arrived in style on Santa's sleigh and there was much merriment! I love Howard's book and would adore a signed copy. How wonderful that you were able to visit him in that fabulous apartment! Happy Holidays and look forward to your memory later in the week!

  6. Thank you so much Gaye for such a beautiful post, it is such an honor to be included on your blog, which is one I never ever miss---- it gives so much pleasure and inspiration and is like receiving a weekly gift! With all best wishes, Howard

  7. Thanks so much for the opportunity for some Howard Holiday Cheer! As your "follower" and a "follower" of Howard on Pinterest, I marvel at the magnificent images and "pin" away with gratitude for your research and unassailable eyes for all things beautiful and provocative. Love learning about Howard's seasonal preparations--he is such a warm, authentic person. A vivid memory of childhood Christmas features my father who had a big personality and was a child during the Great Depression. Nothing would go to waste--even strings of colored Christmas twinkle lights. As gauche as it sounds (was!), my father would festoon ceilings and thresholds with anything that lit up. In darkness, the scene was a fairyland. For the soundtrack, of course, Perry Como Sings Merry Christmas Music! Look forward to your favorite memory. Thank you! Cindy

    1. Cindy- Hooray! you won a book-please touch base with me- tish209@gmail.com

  8. Oh my, narcissi and pomanders are exactly the kind of Christmas decorating that we do and hope to instill that simplicity in our children. My favorite holiday memory is of finding my 4 year old twin girls sleeping under the Christmas tree. They had sneaked out of bed and taken their sleeping bags to sleep under the lights (coloured ones because they loved the kaleidescope effect). Their sweet faces, the heady scent of narcissi, clove, orange and evergreen and a quiet early morning to watch them sleep... perfection.

    The book is gorgeous!

  9. I adore the book! Every single page, objet, inspiration collages ~ pure elegance with a deep appreciation of craft. Just LOVE!!
    I will add that my favorite holiday memory is every single Christmas spent with our wonderful father in Connecticut. He adored Christmas and having all of us home. The love of a big family {all together} is the essence of Christmas to me. ox

  10. I'm in Canada so I hope I can be included in this contest. My favourite memory: I was a horse crazy young girl and as soon as I could drive I immediately got a job on a race horse farm. I volunteered to feed the horses at the track at 5:00 on Christmas morning. I woke up to freshly fallen snow and I was the first person on the roads. I had to take a four lane highway and I was driving in big wide swaths to make crazy tracks - it was that empty on the roads. Of course the horses were very glad to see me and spending Christmas morning with them was a treat. From then on, every year I get up earlier than everyone else and I go for a walk (no more horses in my city life) so I can have that first peaceful moment all to myself.

    1. Wonderful post, Gaye! Howard's book is on my wish list.

  11. Dear Gaye,
    Thank you for featuring Howard, who is the supreme gentleman, and his wondrous homes.
    I am already blessed to have a signed copy of Fifth Avenue Style!

    As a child I always looked forward to making the orange pomanders and enjoying their scent during the holidays!

    The Arts by Karena

  12. My favorite Christmas memory is from when I was 6 years old and snuggled in my bed on Christmas eve. I heard a deep 'ho ho ho' from Santa (my father) and threw back the covers and ran out to our silver Christmas tree, and there, on its branches, was a pink tutu, in all of its Nutcracker sugar plum fairy glory. I was in heaven, as I had planned to be a prima ballerina when I grew up. That tutu was to me as the Red Ryder B.B. gun was to Ralphie in A Christmas Story.

    Cynthia Lambert

  13. What a joy it would be tow own one of the books. I am so glad that there are people like Mr. S. who are willing to put the time and effort into living well (and sharing with the rest of us!).

    I have many holiday memories but the one that stands out is from about 50 years ago. My father loved to go out Christmas Eve to see the lights and soak up the atmosphere. On this particular night, we returned home to find a friendly dog, obviously lost, on our front step. After shooing our own dog to the basement (he was the jealous type), we invited our visitor in and proceeded to discover his identity. A vet's number was on his collar, and, surprisingly for a Christmas Eve, someone was still in the office. They immediately recognized the description of the dog. He had recently lost his elderly owner, through death or moving, I don't remember which, and had been placed by the vet with a new family about 20 miles from us. He had run away about a week previously and was trying to return to his former home which was about 1 mile from us. The vet's office couldn't locate the new owners but were able to reach the neighbors of the original owner who said to bring him over. So, that evening, we were again in the car, taking the dog to as close as possible to his former home.

    1. PAT, Hooray! you won a book-please touch base with me- tish209@gmail.com

  14. Gaye, as usual a marvelous post. So much inspiration and eye candy in those photos.
    I too adore the scent of Paperwhite narcissus. There are always several pots a'bloom for the holidays.
    I learned a neat trick to keep them from growing too tall and falling over and yeas it involves liquor. grow them in 1 part gin to 7 parts water.

    My favorite holiday memory, like Howard's, was my Mom taking me to Radio City to see the Christmas show. We traveled from Montreal stayed overnight then returned home.
    I just lost her three months ago and so many memories are flooding back this Holiday season.

    I would love a copy of this book!

  15. My friend Carol sent me this blog and also opened my eyes up to Howard's beautiful and meticulous work. I follow him on Pinterest now. Many of the traditions that Howard outlined our family also shared such as making of things for gifts and especially decorations for the holidays, such as pomanders. We also made fig , date and nut filled cookies that were a Sicilian tradition and gave them for gifts to relatives. I love decorating trees and collect antique ornaments or make special ones for trees which convey special decorations depending upon what room they are in and use natural pods, berries and greens to make garlands and wreaths. I also love wrapping gifts and we for years have recycled some bows and ribbons that were special and now vintage. They remind us of previous years and now my daughter who is 13 is part of that as well. All great traditional memories coming from a less commercial place , which I'm in agreement with. The blog was very nicely done. thanks, Linda Pastorino

  16. Oui s'il vous plait! What a beautiful gift this would be! The holidays to me is all about the cooking and cooking for my family! Especially breakfast - potato omelets are always in order, and greatly appreciated. Happy Holiday!

  17. I would love a copy of this book! I follow Mr. Slatkin on Pinterest and would love to see more.

    My favorite holiday memory involves preparations for Christmas with my mother. We lived in the piney woods of rural southwest Alabama, and every year when it got cold, we'd go out and gather greenery and lots of holly. Mother would place it behind mirrors and throughout the house, and she'd burn bayberry candles (only real bayberry would do), and other, more exotic scents, for as she said, "We may live in the woods, but Neiman Marcus delivers, darling." We'd make pomanders until our fingers ached, and Christmas cookies - not the precisely decorated ones that you see today, but homey shapes, with colored sugars. She would bring home tins of fruitcake and fruit rocks (cookies), made by our grandmother and great-grandmother, who managed to find "spirits" in our dry county, which they used to douse the cakes. The tins held apple halves, too, and their winey scent perfumed everything inside. When I went to Bouley for the first time and walked in the big wooden door, into that stone hallway filled with apples, their winey, ripening scent took me right back to Christmas time in Alabama.

    1. Meredith- Hooray! you won a book-please touch base with me- tish209@gmail.com

  18. Dear Gaye, Thank you for sharing so much generous research. I admire Howard Slatkin's style and his gracious demeanor. Among my beautiful memories of Christmas past, I see my newlywed year. We had to resolve the question of color versus white Christmas tree lights. We found an open tree and ran multiple strands of color close to the trunk and then used white out on to the branches and back. Magic! We created the order of a white tree and the extra sparkle on the ornaments from all the interior color. Thank you! Beth Scanlon

  19. The map is divine. Beyond divine.

    The lebkuchen, lights, whirling pyramids of wise men and golden-haired angels (beeswax, velvet, perfect hands and halos) at the Christkindlemart in Nuremberg. This is my memory.

  20. Hello,
    I just found your gorgeous blog today. I spent over an hour looking at all the beautiful posts & photos. Thank You for your generous spirit in sharing your lovely life. My favorite Christmas tradition is putting up the Christmas Tree. I moan & groan at the thought of all the work involved - (as I have hundreds of European glass collectible Radko, Polonaise & other designers) and we keep them all in individual boxes). As soon as I begin unwrapping them - I feel like I am visiting with "old friends". The tree has evolved into a pop icon & world culture tree - somehow it all comes together. The ornaments not only bring to life my memories but everyone else's as well. Some ornaments are: The Montogolfier balloon, Vatican ornaments, Cinderella in her gold carriage, Humpty Dumpty, Ole King Cole, Pinocchio, Paddington Bear, Popeye, Chicita Banana dressed as Carmen Miranda, The Tutankhaman suite of Egyptian artifacts, Titanic, Rhett & Scarlett, Betty Boop, The Twelve Days of Christmas, Wizard of Oz, I Love Lucy, Peanut Characters, English Soldiers, Buckingham Palace, The White House, Atlantis Space Shuttle, Elvis, Marilyn, Michael Jackson's Glove - even Aretha's big Inaugural Hat! and hundreds more. As each person visits with me over the years - they marvel at the cultural & pop icons and always suggest more....Just this weekend I was told we need The Beatles & Alice In Wonderland! So everyone has fun & then they contribute if they find a beautiful glass version of something they remember in their own lives as well. I hope I get a chance to read that beautiful Home Design book and Thank You again for listening & sharing all your comments with me too! I feel very sentimental about our world and our place in it that includes the living ones & those we have lost and even people we are lucky enough to meet online. All The Best, Becky.

  21. It would be wonderful to own a copy of Howard Slatkin's Fifth Avenue Style! The cover alone is a great inspiration!

    When I was growing up, there were five in our family — my parents, two brothers and I. Each year we'd go Christmas ornament shopping as a family, and each person would get to choose one ornament for the year. Because my father was military, we moved a lot, so when it came to unpacking the ornaments at Christmas, each one was not only a reminder of a person and a year, but of a different place, too. I have to add that, through all those moves, and my own moves, I never missed a Christmas day with my mother. Christmas in so many ways always reminds me of my mother.

  22. I love how Mr. Slatkin creates a rich holiday feeling with minimal commercialism.
    A fond holiday memory is my first Christmas in Santa Fe. All the streets in the old part of town entered a farolito lighting contest. I was put in charge of our little dirt lane and organized all the neighbors in a festive display of farolitos and luminarias (bonfires) all along the street. And we won the contest!

  23. The inclusion of the delightful floor plan was a treat that I hope others will follow as an example.

    My late mother made pomanders with the cloves completely covering the orange. Surely they last longer that way. Sometimes she filled bowls of them, but more often she tied them to garlands with velvet cord/ribbon.

  24. Forgive me as I tried posting earlier, and all went awry...here goes:

    Your EYE HAS TRAVELED...to NYC to show us a rarity, that Opulence only a historicist can create...created by few and not so easily - I am sure the Souls of Mssrs. Stephane Boudin and Charles Wrightsman are quite delighted in this incarnation of Luxe Beauty.

    LOVE The Jeweled Rock Crystal Tree dripping in Emeralds & Pearls - not only very Misia Sert, but a loving homage to a Stylish Swan of a Nana! I love putting out my vintage Scully and Scully Florentine paper, Glitter and Feather Christmas tree every year, it enhances the Season more intimately as I age.

    My favorite memory of Christmas Past is after a long evening of visiting relatives to drop off presents beautifully wrapped by my Mother, I would get to sit by the window of the back seat of my parents Cadillac, and as the oldest, I could put the window halfway down. The wind was chilly, the sky so black and filled with stars. Sleepily, I would bundle up my fluffy coat against my checks teasing the wind and searching the sky, to look for Rudolph's Red nose guiding Santa's sleigh...my brother Vincent said he saw them high above...so convincingly that to this day I really do feel WE saw the Red glow of Rudolph's nose! To you my dearest brother Vincent, I love you so and YES, we did see Santa's sleigh!

  25. Hi Gaye, Homemade gifts and yearly traditions--true Christmas. Favorite memory: After living in Spain (where I could have remained forever) for seven years, we returned to life in the States and our first Christmas in many years surrounded by family and love and the familiar sights and smells of an American Christmas. Heaven. Thank you for making me ponder just a moment. xoxo

    1. Mary, Hooray! you won a book-please touch base with me- tish209@gmail.com, Congrats!

  26. I like Mr. Slatkin's way of adding small touches to achieve a holiday feeling, rather than paving every surface with decorations. I also agree that personal, thoughtful gives are the most appreciated, irrespective of their monetary value. Often my favorite gifts are not those for specific occasions, but instead of the "I saw this and had to get it for you" variety.

  27. Thank you so much for this generous giveaway. I would love to have one of his signed books for my design library! My favorite Christmas memory is of my mother, now 84, still a great duplicate bridge player, who sat down with me when I was 13, 14,15 to make Christmas ornaments together - very elaborate ones. She didn't know a thing about crafts..and I knew that...and I knew she would have rather been playing bridge, but she did this out of her love of me...and I knew that, even then, too.

    Today, these ornaments sit in an old, chipped, red mercury glass bowl on the writing secretary I inherited from my Grandmother.. that sat in my Mother and Father's bedroom that my Mother used every day of her life, before my father passed away.

    She gave it to me, because she knew how much I loved it and how many memories it carried for me as Dad would take us every year, at Christmas, when my brother and I were young, to buy stationery gifts for her to use on it - the one gift he knew she was sure to enjoy from pre-teens.

    Today, when I look at those ornaments in that chipped red mercury glass bowl on my Grandmother and Mother's secretary, Santa caps missing, pins sticking out, ribbons curled a little too much, I can't help but see the reflections of what truly counts at this time of year: a giving spirit , a heart full of love.

    Happy Holidays to you and your families ~


  28. WE have 5 Winners~ DANIEL JAMES SHIGO------------PEONY----------------MJH DESIGN ARTS----------MEREDITH PARKER and. PAT Please email me for what to do next! thanks-at tish209@ gmail.com



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