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All the Trimmings
An interior designer goes all out for Christmas, enhancing his home with unpredictable decorations that match his decor
It is the day after Thanksgiving, with warm scents of roasted turkey and pumpkin pie still in the air, and David Grey and his partner Andrew Britton are already turning their attention to Christmas. There’s a reason they don’t waste time: Decorating their Denver home for the holidays takes at least a week—two days outdoors stringing lights and five days embellishing the interiors.
Grey’s signature phrase is, “I like pretty things,” though he practices some restraint while weaving holiday elements into his everyday décor. “I have something Christmassy in every room, but I don’t want it to look like a theme house or holiday shop,” the principal interior designer at Britton-Grey Design says. “Sometimes just one poinsettia is enough.”
Rather than adopting the traditional red-and-green color scheme, Grey matches his Christmas decorations to his décor. “If I have blue and white sofas in the living room, the tree should be the same colors for the sake of connectivity and comfort,” he says. He uses an abundance of natural materials—garland greenery, berries, pinecones, fresh fruit and flowers—along with sparkling white decorations throughout the house. “I love white. It reminds me of snowy winters in New England,” he says. “Christmas is whatever colors exist in nature that make you feel like winter.”
The interior style of the couple’s new house is best described as East Coast-meets-mountain. “I grew up in Cape Cod and have a passion for blue and white,” Grey explains, “and Andrew grew up hunting with his dad.” The living room is a perfect blend of the homeowners’ two styles. Blue and white custom upholstered furniture, striped table skirts, toile pillows and a lattice-work carpet impart a classic, seaside look while the dark wood coffee table, stone fireplace and mounted elk head speak of the mountain aesthetic. “I’m surprised by how well it works together,” Grey says. “Sometimes I have an idea and it flies even better than I thought it would.”
The designer skillfully combined the two styles in other areas of the house as well, juxtaposing an airy blue breakfast room with the adjacent kitchen’s dark alder cabinets and rustic slate backsplash. He introduced his favorite shades of blue in almost every room, adding warmth with dark woods and touches of vibrant red and gold.
The traditional dining room, painted in “Orangery” by Farrow & Ball, is filled with warm memories of past family holiday gatherings. Grey inherited the Queen Anne dining table and chairs from his grandparents, and he keeps the table set year round with bronzeware that his father bought in Hong Kong while in the Navy and fine china passed down from his parents and grandparents. “Enjoying these things reminds you of family when you live away from them, bringing you closer to home,” he says.
Once the holiday decorating is finished, Grey and Britton begin planning their annual Christmas party, which has grown in reputation and size since they moved to Denver four years ago. “Having the house ready for Christmas makes us want to invite people over,” Grey says. He and Britton spend at least a week doing all the cooking and baking themselves, then hire a sous chef and serving staff for the day of the party.
Whether decking the halls or greeting party guests, Grey believes Christmas is all about making an effort to spend more time with family and friends. “It’s an association with the past, an old-fashioned feeling of sentimentality,” he says. “And that sparkle in every room puts a smile on my face.”
David Grey’s Top Holiday Decorating Tips
- Use two, maybe three, colors or elements at most for a cohesive look.
- If you find a particular color or style of ornament you like, buy all you can and use it in abundance.
- Glass is a wonderful decorating element for Christmas. It has a sparkling, transparent quality, and when used on the tree, it reflects other colors.
- Make sure the weight of your garland is balanced with the size of your fireplace mantel or stair railing (greenery that’s too small can look comical; on the other hand, if it’s too big it can be overpowering).
- Combine non-traditional items, such as fresh fruit and flowers, with existing decorations.
- White lights—a little or a lot—create a clean, simple and elegant look.
David Grey and Andrew Britton
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