Mother Earth Living

Natural Home & Garden Goes to Washington

When Natural Home & Garden received a once-in-a-lifetime invitation to decorate the president’s guest house and the State Department, we got busy finding the most sustainable, beautiful holiday décor available.
By Jessica Kellner
November/December 2010
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A VivaTerra quartz crystal ornament is one of hundreds to adorn the traditonal Blair House Christmas tree, visible to passersby on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Photo By Rob Cardillo
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Decorating some of Washington D.C.’s most venerated buildings isn’t for the faint of heart—but last November, our staff got the opportunity of a lifetime. In the first-ever Magazine Holiday Design Showcase, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Magazine Publishers of America (MPA) invited us and five other magazines to deck the halls of Pennsylvania Avenue. Joined by editors and designers from our sister publication, Mother Earth News, as well as Martha Stewart Living, This Old House, Traditional Home and Better Homes and Gardens, we descended upon the capital to translate our mission and aesthetic into inspired holiday décor for Blair House, the presidential guest house across the street from the White House, and the State Department’s Harry S. Truman Building, used for hosting foreign dignitaries and heads of state.

Working with designers from Denver’s Associates III and Washington, D.C.’s J.D. Ireland Interiors, we honored the historic spaces using handmade crafts made from recycled materials and luxurious, natural decorative items from some of our favorite retailers and manufacturers. We chose tasteful, minimalist pieces that have a story to tell: angels made from old oil drums by Haitian artisans; fragrant eucalyptus mistletoe balls made by a Peruvian cooperative; jars and bells made from recycled glass. “Christmas and many other holidays center on cherished traditions,” VivaTerra owner Bonnie Dahan says. “Many people rediscover collections of ornaments that bring back memories each year. That, in itself, is a form of reuse. VivaTerra creates distinctive, often reinvented seasonal décor that respects the natural world. We hope our designs will be handed down to generations to come as part of this earth-friendly legacy.”

Christmas trees—traditionally a symbol of peace and unity—anchored our designs. We bedecked 15 live trees from nearby Merrifield Garden Center with homemade citrus-slice ornaments and découpaged vintage glass balls. The Blair House’s traditional 9-foot tree—visible to passersby on Pennsylvania Avenue—shimmered with natural quartz crystals and LED lights. We also made a few trees of our own. In Blair House, we “planted” a newsprint Christmas tree centerpiece and recycled cardboard trees in terra cotta planters. At the State Department, the J.D. Ireland team decorated trees made of boxwood trimmings with handmade wool doves and Ten Thousand Villages ornaments made by artisans from around the globe.

Be sure to check out the image gallery for pictures of the Blair House and the State Department decorated for the holidays!

Resources 

VivaTerra 
oil drum angels, temple bells, wild-harvested holiday centerpiece, birch bark trees, Seeds of Joy wreaths, quartz crystal ornaments

Ten Thousand Villages
handcrafted mistletoe balls, holiday ornaments

Arhaus Furniture
recycled glass hurricanes, candle holders, vases

Bulbrite
LED holiday lights

Merrifield Garden Center
live local evergreen trees

Nashville Wraps
recycled gift wrap  and gift bags

SERRV International 
fair-trade, organic chocolate


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