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.

| November/December 2010

  • The Blair House Jackson Entry features heirloom apples and homemade citrus-slice ornaments.
    Photo By Rob Cardillo
  • Recycled glass domes from Arhaus top soy candles.
    Photo By Rob Cardillo
  • Better Homes and Gardens decorated the Blair House garden with ethereal floating ornaments.
    Photo By Robert Burgess
  • Secretary Clinton honored State Department employees whose duties kept them away from their families during the holidays.
    Photo By Rob Cardillo
  • U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton greets our publisher, Bryan Welch.
    Photo By Rob Cardillo
  • Associates III's Cassandra Coombe gets busy.
    Photo By Rob Cardillo
  • The traditional 9-foot tree in the Blair House bay window dazzles with hundreds of natural quartz crystals and superefficient LED lights.
    Photo By Rob Cardillo
  • Découpage gives vintage ornaments, found on eBay, new life.
    Photo By Rob Cardillo
  • Arhaus Bird and Finch vases are made from recycled glass.
    Photo By Rob Cardillo
  • Ten Thousand Villages' dried flower mistletoe balls—handmade in Peru from eucalyptus, wheat, caspia and salal—grace the Blair House Jackson Entry staircase.
    Photo By Rob Cardillo
  • VivaTerra's holiday trees made of birch bark shavings were among dozens of holiday trees in our design.
    Photo By Rob Cardillo
  • We showcased VivaTerra lanterns (made of reclaimed Indian beer bottles) in the State Department.
    Photo By Rob Cardillo
  • Martha Stewart Living's pink candy theme graced the Blair House Dining Room.
    Photo By Robert Burgess
  • Our sister publication, Mother Earth News, adorned the Jackson Sitting Room's marble fireplace with a bushel of heirloom wheat and trees covered in peace dove cookies bearing flags of the world.
    Photo By Rob Cardillo
  • VivaTerra's reclaimed metal temple bells, angels handmade from oil drums washed up in Haiti, and organic, wild-harvested cedar and hydrangea blend elegance with sustainability.
    Photo By Rob Cardillo
  • Handmade recycled newspaper and cardboard trees, "planted" in terra cotta pots, top a table of gifts wrapped in recycled paper. (Find instructions to make both trees at www.naturalhomemagazine.com.)
    Photo By Rob Cardillo
  • We wrapped traditional amaryllis plants in packing material.
    Photo By Rob Cardillo
  • 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
  • The Jackson Conference Room celebrates our nation's abundant natural resources with cotton buds, live holiday trees from a local garden center, and Seeds of Joy wreaths made with organic, wild-harvested fir, salal and eucalyptus.
    Photo By Rob Cardillo
  • Managing editor Jessica Kellner, assistant editor Kim Wallace, editor-in-chief Robyn Griggs Lawrence, publisher Bryan Welch and technical editor Tabitha Alterman gather in front of the Blair House Christmas tree.
    Photo By Rob Cardillo
  • Washington, D.C., designers J.D. Ireland Interiors graced the State Department's Monroe Room conference table with mini holiday trees made from boxwood sprigs.
    Photo By Rob Cardillo
  • This Old House brought 1940s memorabilia to the Truman Study.
    Photo By Robert Burgess
  • Traditional Home's Lee Dining Room showcases classic decor.
    Photo By Robert Burgess

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






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