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A French-Inspired Garden and Home by Judith Stringham

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas Front Porch

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas 

Everywhere we go... 
But the prettiest sight to see is the holly that will be 
On your own front door. 

Or in your own front yard...  

One holly tree is near the front porch,  

One is at the corner of the house and driveway. 

Yes, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas with  
French touches in my front entry. 

With Christmas just a little more than a week away, 
it is none too soon for the fresh boxwood wreath 
from Trader Joe's ($10) on the front door.  

 Fresh greenery trimmed from the yard and 
from the bottom of the indoor Christmas tree 
dress the front porch ... 

Bois d'Arc tree fruit commonly known as horse apples in Texas 
add bright color and texture to Fraser fir branches. 
Bois d'Arc trees, native to Texas, drop the inedible fruit 
in November and provide excellent outside greenery at Christmas. 
 There are many Bois d'Arc trees in our area, 
and the fruit adds a French touch to my front porch decorations. 

Bois d'Arc means wood of the bow, and is from Louisiana French. 
You may know it as bodark, the Anglicized version of Bois d'Arc. 

The lighted iron topiary topped with a fleur-de-lis was made by my 
brother-in-law several years ago. 

Just this fall I found the 
large fleur-de-lis garden stake on half-price sale at Hobby Lobby. 

It is so easy to dress up the low round planter for Christmas 
by adding fresh cut greens, mostly from the yard, 
to the base of the fleur-de-lis topiary. 

The little green metal tree adds another touch of Christmas 
to the lighted iron topiary. 

The live conical evergreen topiary lives outside in a new urn 
found at a super winter sale at a Houston nursery. 
Keeping my fingers crossed that the evergreen lives through the winter... 

I leave the globe lights up year round because 
they add so much light to the porch at night. 
Since I live in the country with few streetlights, 
the extra light is very welcome.   

All the fresh greenery fits right in with my simple natural greenery 
theme for this Christmas and adds Christmas to the porch. 

The green moss on the brick steps and porch add to the look, 
but deceivingly make it look like we have lots of rain. 
You might say, "All I want for Christmas is rain," 
since our rainfall amount is so low this year. 
It was drizzling light rain as I took these photos, 
and a few raindrops are visible as white dots 
since the shutter speed was slow in the low light. 

Blue Doors in France were the inspiration for my front door


Are you finished decorating or do you still have more to do? 
I still have more rooms to show, my tree to share, 
my Christmas dining table to share, and 
a couple of more Christmas Beautiful Ideas to share. 
Christmas is just around the corner. 

Lots to pack into a little more than a week... 
keep checking back for the latest Christmas inspiration. 

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Monday, December 15, 2014

White Christmas Fleurs

Welcome to my living room decorated for Christmas with 
White Christmas Fleurs. 

After writing about my Christmas mantel decorated in a French style 
and referring to fresh flowers in a Parisian apartment, 
I wanted to add some seasonal white flowers to the living room. 
Fortunately for me, my sister is a florist and had brought home 
a whole bucket of fresh white flowers which were the inspiration 
for adding them to the coffee table. 

My fascination with white decor continues, and 
white amaryllis, freesia, and hellebores provide just 
the right white and green natural look that 
complements the white stone fireplace and 
whitewashed pine mantel. 

Amaryllis is one of the flowers that is a star at Christmas. 
These are just beginning to open and will be beautiful for several days. 

Only recently have I learned to appreciate the beauty of hellebores, 
a shade-loving perennial that blooms in the winter in the South. 
Yes, winter. 
It is often called Christmas Rose, but is not related to the rose. 

Fresh fleurs (flowers) are perfect additions for my au naturel 
Christmas decorations this year. 
The flowers replaced a concrete urn with an evergreen wreath, 
just visible to the right of the coffee table.  

The urn with wreath now sits on the hearth. 

The coffee table is really a 30-year-old blanket box, 
one of the first white painted pieces of furniture in my house. 

Another touch of Christmas is the oval metal bucket 
painted with a bird scene and the word JOY. 
The bucket holds paper, kindling, and gloves for 
starting a fire in the fireplace. 

Speaking of which, there are ashes in the fireplace 
hidden by a heavy fireplace screen. 
It is so heavy that in the winter we use a 
lightweight screen for two reasons. 
First, it allows more heat through to warm the room, and
secondly, it is easier to move for tending to the fire. 
The first two photos have the lighter screen in them. 

A third change to the living room Christmas decor is the 
Paris candle that adds another touch of France. 

Sunlight beams create a bright glow that makes the 
candle appear to be lit. 

The white flowers and greenery go very well with 
the new blue and white checked sofa's 
throw pillows that match the breakfast chairs in the adjoining kitchen. 

Most of the decor in the room is the same year round. 
However, the pastel-colored Santa print 
is only on display during Christmas. 

The hand painted Noël sign is blue to coordinate with the house's decor. 

Over the years, I've added more and more blue Christmas decorations 
in place of traditional red and green holiday colors 
which allows using everyday objects at Christmas. 

Even the throw pillows remain the same for Christmas. 

Small touches of evergreen are branches trimmed  
from the bottom of our Christmas tree. 
Using just four small evergreen branches, I tied them 
together with small pieces of green twine to form a candle ring.  

The white flowers coordinate with both the traditional evergreens 
and with the pastel Santa. 

Natural white flowers look good with all colors, 
such as the leather chair across from the sofa. 

Just a few natural greens and flowers are easy to use 
and give the entire room a Christmas feel. 

We may make some wreaths from evergreens cut from the yard and 
hang them on the railings to the left of the fireplace and over the sofa. 

Or this may be the last tweaking of the living room Christmas decor. 

Which do you like better on the coffee table? 
The concrete urn with the evergreen wreath or the vase of white flowers? 

You may want to look back at the French Christmas Mantel to see 
the coffee table with the concrete urn to help you decide 
which you like better. 
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Friday, December 12, 2014

French Christmas Mantel

Over time more and more French design elements 
have been added to my house. 
What began as a house in the country has 
slowly taken on more French Country, 
none more dramatically than the living room fireplace.  

And no time more completely than this Christmas 
with the design emphasis on natural greenery and gray cement. 

The wood carved mantel was added first, 
just a little over a year after the house was built. 
Prior to the carved mantel there was only a makeshift thin pine board 
set atop the massive beam supports built into the stonework 
while the search for a permanent mantel took place.  

That began the transformation from American Country to 
French Country 
 which set the stage for this year's Christmas mantel, 
a French Christmas Mantel

For over twenty-five years, various framed prints hung over the mantel. 
When I saw this mirror in a French Country design book 
I fell in love with it. 
Much to my delight, I stumbled upon it at a local shop about two years 
after I first saw it and bookmarked the page on which it appeared. 
How fast did I find the sales person to help me move it 
to the checkout counter? 
Faster than a New York minute! 

This is my favorite Christmas decorated mantel. 
The mirror, the boxwood wreath and boxwood bouquets, 
the gray floral-swag decorated vases, the cement rose bundles, 
and the hand-painted blue NOËL sign remind me of FRANCE. 

The hand-painted NOËL sign was made a few years ago, 
one of many joint projects completed over the years by my husband and me.  
So, seeing it every Christmas brings back all the 
special memories associated with making it and other projects. 

My husband routed the edges of a simple pine board. 
Then I painted the board white, flecked it with gold, painted 
the edges with a matching gold, and hand-painted the blue NOËL 
using a pattern made from a computer-generated font.  

Squint your eyes so you only see the Christmas mantel laden with fresh greenery, 
and perhaps, just perhaps, you could be in a PARIS apartment. 

An apartment in which fresh flowers adorn the mantel routinely...  
Roses in a vase echoing the wood carving on the mirror... 

An apartment in which only fresh greens adorn the mantel at Christmas time,  
releasing crisp evergreen scents that fill the rooms with their fragrance, 
providing the magical Christmas feeling just by their aroma... 

More freshness on the coffee table... 
An evergreen wreath sitting on top a concrete urn 
is a nest for a very large partridge. 

A carved wooden pedestal holding a candle could be part of 
a column in a PARIS apartment built in the 1800s. 
Squint your eyes once more to see the column. 

Soft candlelight aids in imagining the old PARIS apartment. 

Flickering candlelight provides light as the sun sets on 

a French Christmas Mantel. 

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