“There’s no place like home for the holidays.” So sang Perry Como, and so says Jane Schwab. When it comes to holiday decorating, the highly sought-after interior designer and co-author of The Welcoming House (Rizzoli, 2013) decks her own halls with the same fervor and flair that she brings year-round to her clients at some of Charlotte, North Carolina’s most enviable addresses and beyond.
Designed and built in 1923 by architect Martin Evans Boyer and renovated in 1999 by the firm of McAlpine Tankersley (now McAlpine), the Colonial-style cottage Schwab shares with husband Nelson epitomizes approachable elegance. Come December, the limewashed brick structure cocooned in ivy and boxwood becomes the scene for chic soirées, impromptu get-togethers, and happy homecomings with the arrival of the couple’s four children and four grandchildren.
“It truly is the most wonderful time of the year. Even with the cold, our home feels more inviting. We’re spending more time with family and friends and experiencing a renewed sense of joy in our surroundings. Since we all entertain more this time of year, it’s fun to treat your guests to an extra sensory experience. I have a ‘less can be more’ design philosophy, but when it comes to decorating the house for the holidays, I say the more fresh greens and flowers, the better. I love the way they accentuate the inherent beauty of the architecture and everyday interiors.”
Working with longtime friend and floral designer Jay Lugibihl of In Bloom Ltd., Schwab drapes garlands, hangs wreaths, and assembles arrangements that are simple in composition but commanding in scale. The creations, procured from a family-owned farm upstate, are designed to call attention to the elements and objects they adorn—the gently arched French doors, the handsome custom millwork, cherished European antiques, and a herd of fanciful deer statuary that seem to frolic around the house. Smilax vine is playfully strewn across mantels and mirrors to soften their lines and impose depth. Schwab’s sister harvests the wispy vine near her hometown of Ridge Spring, South Carolina, and brings her bundles throughout the season.
“I like my designs to feel organic,” Lugibihl says, “as if they’ve naturally and spontaneously grown into the interiors. Jane’s house is classic, but with a little bit of an edge, so it lends itself to that haphazard, unfussy look. Structured silhouettes, glittery metallics, and rich reds and greens won’t work here, so we forgo the stiff, formal bows for smooth, satiny ribbon and opt for aged silvers and golds and warm, muted tones.”
A series of gracious, spacious rooms are unified by a nearly neutral backdrop. Decadent, confectionary colors like honey, toffee, and mocha are whisked together with the light notes of yellow, sage, and French blue used in the paint, textiles, and upholstery. Coral amaryllis and ranunculus, peach hypericum, apricot parrot tulips, and clementine spice up spaces, while white flowers—camellia, cyclamen, garden rose, star-of-Bethlehem, and paperwhite—act as palate cleansers.
The interior’s unexpected mix of textures, colors, and forms sparks a wintry feeling that is anything but forced. But the real party gets started in dining room beneath the display of flowers that drips like candle wax from an antique chandelier. “It’s the ultimate in whimsy,” Lugibihl says. “We decided to mix it up by going beyond the typical bloom-in-bowl table arrangement. The idea was inspired by British artist Rebecca Louise Law, who creates the most imaginative installations from hanging flowers. We love how it hovers above the table like a cloud and shades the antique stag that sits at the center of table.” It’s just one more surprise awaiting family and guests in a very welcoming and wonderful holiday home.
More Holiday Style from Jane Schwab
Click the arrows (or swipe if on a mobile device) to see more
Floral designer Jay Lugibihl adds festive touches to an antique hand-carved wooden stag with natural antlers. “Scale is important in floral design," Jay says. "Sometimes it only takes one impactful arrangement to set the tone for a particular space.”
1 | Christian Tortu Forêts Candle
The pine-and-cedar scent is festive but clean, so it’s not overly Christmasy. I place them around the house on silver bread-and-butter dishes and keep a stash on hand for hostess gifts.
2 | Champagne with Raspberries
The berries add an extra kick of flavor and a pop of color that complements the coral and peach hues in my interior palette.
3 | Cowtan & Tout Birches Wallpaper in Snow
An elegant alternative to drugstore gift wrap. The neutral faux bois motif works well with traditional and modern holiday decor.
4 | William Yeoward Flavia Goblets
Their square base and substantial weight feel nice in the hand.
5 | Smilax
It grows wild in the woods near my hometown in South Carolina, so it’s nostalgic for me. My sister always brings me bags of clippings when she visits.
6 | Vintage English Antler Mug
I love the visual and tactile contrast of their smooth silver plate bodies and their rugged antler handles. I use them for everything from containing flowers to corralling flatware on a buffet.