Holiday Joy on Gingerbread Lane

Michael Giannelli, owner of East Hampton Gardens, shares his passion for the holidays and Hamptons style, and a few of his favorite things.
Michael Giannelli standing in Dutch door at East Hampton Gardens
Photo by Tria Giovan

While you might associate the Hamptons with summer visits between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day, Michael Giannelli’s shop, East Hampton Gardens is a go-to for refined Hamptons style year round. After all, with a location on Gingerbread Lane, one rightfully expects holiday magic, and Michael delivers.

Having spent close to three decades designing products for brands such as Gap, Loft, and Victoria’s Secret, Michael decided to start over and turn his passion for flowers and gardens into a profession. “My retail experience taught me how to tell a cohesive story and bring a collection to life,” says the floral designer, who attended FlowerSchool New York. “I always look forward to the changing seasons, the fresh ideas and inspiration that comes with each one. I love surprising my clients with each story I tell.”

In this Q&A, Michael shares answers to some of his most frequently asked holiday questions, along with decorating tips, and a few of his favorite things in East Hampton Gardens and beyond with FLOWER.

When is a good time to begin decorating for the holidays?
I start as soon as the weather starts to cool off. I introduce some elements that can later be incorporated into the full decor, ilex berries, a holiday fragrance and red taper candles. Once daylight savings time kicks in on November 5th, I go into total holiday mode. My tree goes up the weekend before Thanksgiving!

East Hampton Gardens with holiday greenery

Aside from traditional holiday colors do you like any other combinations?
I love a faded blue mixed with a chartreuse green and gold— such a twist on a classic. I then mix in a traditional tartan that we sell in the shop that is red, green, and faded blue. This combo can carry you from Thanksgiving straight through New Year!

Holiday wreath at East Hampton Gardens
This custom wreath incorporates a traditional tartan with red, blue, and green.

Can you tell readers what the Hamptons are like during the holiday season and what is coming up at East Hampton Gardens?

The holidays are magical out East.  Each village lines its Main Street with 8 foot Christmas trees. Some towns use all-white lights, while others use retro-colored bulbs. East Hampton wraps each lamp post with garlands and lights with beautiful bows. It’s so pretty. As you drive into East Hampton by the pond there is a beautiful tree lit with blue bulbs that floats in the middle of the pond. Pure magic.

Is there a Hamptons style during the holidays?

I feel like the clients I have all tend to go a bit more traditional. Many of their trees are eclectic and are full of sentimental ornaments. One client makes stunning needlepoint ornaments, and another loves a blue and white tree with gold. Last year, we put a beautiful “Jack Frost” tree together, and the minute it was done a client came in and purchased the entire tree!

Christmas tree in East Hampton Gardens shop

What’s your favorite fresh flower combination for the holidays?
I love a few options–  all shades of red incorporating roses, amaryllis, peonies, anemones, and magnolia greens or all shades of white with chartreuse greens. My favorite is a mix of reds, whites, chartreuse, and faded blue hydrangea.

What is the one question you get the most during the holiday season?
How do you make a bow!!! As well as “What does your home look like at Christmas?”

Michael Giannelli with Christmas wreath showing its red ribbon bow.
Photo by Tria Giovan

Don’t miss Michael’s video showing how to make a bow for a wreath or other holiday decor. It’s the easiest bow, ever!

I know you sell a lot of fresh trees. What is your favorite and why?
We sell mainly Fraser Fir trees. They are beautiful with sturdy branches that have plenty of room for ornaments. I love that they are a beautiful green with bluish-grey undertones, hence all the faded blue references!

Christmas trees at East Hampton Gardens

Perfect holiday hostess gifts?
The East Hampton Gardens brand new holiday candle! Its fragrance is a mix of bergamot, orange, lemon, cedar wood and pine, finished with musk. It is pure holiday magic.

East Hampton Gardens scented candle
East Hampton Gardens scented holiday candle

Any thoughts on a Hanukkah tablescape?
For Hanukkah, I love crisp white linens, heirloom family china, and flatware layered with the palest blue napkin, held with a beautiful silver napkin ring. Over the years I’ve collected vintage sterling napkin rings each with a different pattern and initial. This way, no matter who’s invited I have their initials! I love running beautiful silver candle sticks in a variety of styles and heights down the center along with a runner of fresh magnolia. For flowers, I use a beautiful mix of shades of whites, peonies, roses, ranunculus, and anemones, and pale blue tweedia.

What are you ideas for a holiday lunch tablescape and the table for dinner?
For a holiday lunch, I prefer to keep a little less formal tablescape. I love a pretty, traditional plaid tablecloth, layered with natural wicker placemats and finished with crisp white linen napkins with a pop scalloped trim. The flowers are loosely arranged with more whimsy. I layer the Bourg-Joly white plates each with a different edge finish. The dinner plate is scalloped, the salad plate has a pearl edge, and the dessert plate is their traditional pierced design from the 1700s.

For the main event, I break out the good stuff! I mix my Royal Crown Derby Chelsea Garden pattern in blue with a Royal Worcester Mountbatten in navy and gold. I use Sterling flatware, William Yeoward Fern hurricanes, and little Hôtel silver bowls to hold chocolate-covered almonds. This year for linens, I plan on using a beautiful set from D’Ascoli which has just arrived at the shop.

D'Ascoli linen set in red at East Hampton Gardens
D'Ascoli linen set in red
William Yeoward Fern Square-Footed Hurricane
William Yeoward Fern Square-Footed Hurricane

Should you pick a theme for the entire home or for individual rooms?
I recommend a color story thread throughout the entire home. Each room can then take on a little bit of an individual inspiration. For the main floor and adjoining rooms, I tend to keep them similar. I love designing a grand staircase with garlands, twinkle lights, and beautiful birds, all finished with our signature Swiss satin ribbon for extra drama. I leave the tails of the bows extremely long. Sometimes, if the staircase is one story, the tails will go all the way to the floor.

Holiday garland designed by East Hampton Gardens for stair rail.

Last year you worked with the Augusta Training Shop, can you tell readers a bit about that relationship and if you are carrying them this season?

Woven ornaments from Augusta Trading Shop
Ornaments from the Augusta Trading Shop available at East Hampton Gardens
Woven ornaments from Augusta Trading Shop
Differently-abled artisans create these snowflake ornaments.

Absolutely. Augusta Training Shop employs artisans who are differently-abled, and each one has developed a special skill in making these beautiful woven snowflakes. Like each individual, each snowflake is different and comes with a little information about the designer. Being employed at the shop enables the designers to elevate their self-esteem and to live autonomously. We adore everyone at Augusta Training Shop, and each year they send the most heartwarming card that I read in private because it always makes me cry!

Favorite holiday cocktail?
Champagne, of course!

Table in East Hampton Gardens set with vase of red flowers and Champagne chilling in a bucket
East Hampton Gardens decorated for the holidays—with bubbly! Photo by Tria Giovan

Where do you like to spend the holidays?
For years we would jet off to Tulum, Mexico for the holidays, but since I purchased the shop we now celebrate at home in East Hampton.

What’s your favorite holiday tradition?
Watching It’s a Wonderful Life on Christmas Eve.

What’s the best gift you have ever received?
My dog Harper, hands down! Also, I was given a beautiful oil painting of Harper commissioned with Beth Rundquist. It captures her spirit perfectly.

Michael Giannelli's dog, Harper
Harper strikes a pose on the beach.

By Jason Burnett and Joni Cohen

See more from East Hampton Gardens on their website and by following them on Instagram.

More from Michael Giannelli

More Holiday Decor