Christmas Decorating with William Lynch + Chase Whitley
Story by William Lynch | Photography by Catherine May Taylor
It’s my favorite time of the year—Christmastime!
The day after Thanksgiving, I crack open storage boxes filled with Christmas decor and start decorating for the holidays. Luckily for us, the fun doesn’t stop there, because, as interior designers, my partner Chase and I have the privilege to work with some amazing clients on designing festive and holiday-themed spaces in their homes and businesses. One of my favorites this year is a beautiful home in Old Town built in 1780. Our client, the local owner of the boutique TSALT, wanted to balance traditional holiday decor with sentimental items. Consummate professionals though we might be, Chase and I think it’s important to always decorate with sentimental items: ornaments collected over the years, goofy knick-knacks that your children or parents gave you, and other decorative items that have special meaning behind them. In our case, every year, Chase and I give one another a new ornament to add to our sentimental tree, so seeing it really warms my heart. The entire tree is just filled with memories and significance. However, because our client’s house is currently for sale, she really wanted to balance the sentimental things with decor that helps truly showcase her stunning home.
We were inspired by the natural beauty of her home, so accomplishing the right look was just a matter of curation. It’s something that anyone can do, even if you don’t have a massive home. Balancing sentiment – no matter how silly or “unstylish” – with sophistication or tastefully charming decor will give you a look you love and make your holiday home one you’re proud to show off.
Let’s start with my favorite part: the tree. Or, in some cases, trees. I love having multiple Christmas trees. I make sure that Chase and I get two trees every year – one that is more decorative and another that we hang our sentimental ornaments on – though if we had more space in our apartment, I would get a tree for every room! As I’ve said, this is my time to go over the top. This year, we recommended multiple trees to our client as well, so she could show both sentiment and style. In her kitchen, she decorated a tree with family ornaments, while the living room featured a more decorative tree.
For the decorative tree in the living room, we drew inspiration from the yellow tones of the room and decided to use gold as the main color, then adorned it with beautiful gold ornaments and ribbons. After we added everything, however, it still didn’t look quite finished. Our client then found antler ornaments that her mother had made and given to her, so we added these as the final touch to this show-stopping tree.
The great debate between Chase and me is always about getting real versus artificial trees. While I think artificial trees are almost sacrilegious, it was easily settled in this case, because of our client’s allergy to pine. With artificial trees, I don’t think it’s worth spending a great deal of money and getting a more “luxurious” artificial tree with plastic needles that are advertised to have a “real feel.” If you’re going to use an artificial tree, we always recommend buying a more inexpensive tree and then splurging on where it really counts: the decorations that will go on the tree. Those are what will most capture people’s attention, so don’t hold back!
Of next greatest importance are the lights. Lighting on a tree is so crucial! Chase always makes fun of me for how I light a tree, because it is so tedious and intense. I’ve learned, however, that if you take the time, it looks absolutely amazing, which definitely makes the effort worth every second. I like to wrap each and every branch with lights. It’s also important to wrap branches deep in the tree because it gives the tree more depth.
With both trees done, the next room we tackled was the library. Instead of adding another tree in this room, we decided to decorate the mantelpiece instead. Her house has some of the most beautiful original fireplace mantels, so we knew we needed to make those focal points. On the library mantel, we started with a base of magnolia. While I love traditional Christmas greens, Chase loves to forgo expectation, so we decided to avoid pine but still include greens that were both seasonally appropriate and long-lasting. Next, we added traditional red ilex berries. The deep reds and purples made red the obvious accent color here. Then, to finish it off and add more texture, we incorporated pinecones.
In each room, we decorated in a way that highlighted the space in a unique manner, blending sentimentality and sophistication to achieve a look that was festive and immersive in the holiday spirit without being too much. As decorators and frequent dinner party hosts, the holiday season is such a fantastic time of year for us. There are so many directions that one can go with decor; and while it’s fun to push boundaries and try something new and unexpected, there’s also nothing wrong with keeping to tradition. The most important thing to remember is this: as beautiful as it may be, Christmas decor is the backdrop for what really matters—creating wonderful moments with family and friends.