It’s our favorite time of year, and nobody does the holidays better than our dear friend and designer, Suzanne Kasler. This year, Suzanne is dreaming of Christmas in color — with lots of sparkle on top. She’s bringing back her signature Holiday Plaid and iconic antlers with even more ornaments that all have one thing in common: shimmer and shine. We got together with Suzanne at her office in Atlanta to talk about her holiday collection.
Ballard Designs: What are your favorite family traditions at Christmastime?
Suzanne Kasler: Like most people, we have family that’s spread out, so we go to them during the holidays. One of my favorite traditions is going home to Indiana the weekend before Christmas. My husband, John, and I take all of the kids and grandkids and other family to Monument Circle in Indianapolis and we go see A Christmas Carol at the symphony. There’s about 13 of us. Afterward, we have dinner and open gifts. It’s a wonderful time. Then we come back to Atlanta to enjoy Christmas at home. We always go to the Christmas Eve service, then exchange gifts and do our small family Christmas. On Christmas morning, we’ll have brunch and fly to Palm Beach to be with my mom.
BD: How have your traditions changed since your daughter, Alexandra, has moved to New York? Do you do anything differently?
SK: I will say our traditions have changed a lot — and relaxed a bit — since our daughter got out of college. She doesn’t have as much time to take off, but she’ll travel with us to see family and will be with us on Christmas Eve. And now we have another reason to go to New York during the holidays. We’re going for two days in December to visit Alexandra and see all the lights, the windows and Radio City Music Hall.
BD: Always a fun treat at Christmas! Do you entertain during the holidays?
SK: We love to host a couple of dinner parties — our respective office parties where everyone can bring their spouse or partner. Then we’ll also have friends over for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. Celebrating the holidays with family and friends is what makes it so much fun and memorable.
BD: It’s a busy time! What are your tricks for keeping it stress free?
SK: I think it’s that way for most people, so the key here is to get all of your decorating done the first week of December, so you can enjoy the whole month. Another thing I try to do is to not have any client installations during December, so we can be a little more relaxed at the office. Make time to do the things you enjoy most during the holidays — and that probably involves spending time with the people you love.
BD: Each Christmas, your holiday collection has a distinct look and feel that’s a reflection of your mood that year. What influences your mood?
SK: I love what I call a “classic Christmas,” so I love the red and green and traditional plaid and mixing in that element of the natural, such as the burlap, the linen, the antlers. But each year I love to build upon that look and vary it to make it feel fresh, so that’s where the velvets, the creams and whites, and for me this year, the metallics and sparkle come in. I love to see what’s going on in the world of fashion to bring in those special details. Other times, it’s from something I’ve collected over time or found at a flea market that inspires me.
BD: What tips do you have for changing up your holiday decor from year to year?
SK: I hope I’ve created a collection that adds meaning and brings back memories of Christmases past, because that’s what makes decorating for Christmas so special. But nothing says you have to bring it all out every year. The important thing to remember is to edit, get it all out and put some things back and keep some things out depending on what you want to do. Then vary your collections — sometimes I put my nutcracker collection in the entry and sometimes it’s in the living room — and bring in a few new elements to make it fresh. You don’t want it feeling overdone and you want to leave room for fresh flowers and greenery.
BD: Your holiday collection this year is laden with lots of sparkle, which lends a glamorous feel. What inspired your theme?
SK: Coming from last year, where I was really influenced by white, the sparkle seems like a natural transition — and it’s something we’re seeing everywhere. But there were a couple of things that really inspired me. First, I found this beautiful collection of shimmering crystal Czechoslovakian Christmas trees at a flea market, and I bought the entire collection — about a dozen — right then. I knew I wanted to work that into my collection this year. Also, as I said, I love fashion and I had been seeing a lot of fashion pieces with jeweled collars and I loved that detail. I translated the look into the Jeweled Stockings, Tree Skirt and Snowflakes.
BD: You paired your jeweled collars with gray linen, which creates a cleaner, more modern look — and a bit of a departure from your signature plaid and burlap. How do you mix in these new items with your more classic Christmas elements?
SK: Gray is really trending in fashion and home decor. And for a lot of my clients and for Ballard customers who have homes that are more modern and more edited, this is a beautiful way to add that sparkle. Yes, this obviously is a departure, so for others, you take one small area and add in the gray and the cream and the sparkle with greenery and create a fresh holiday look. But maybe it’s one small area in a room and not the whole house. It’s a nice dimension to add.
BD: Let’s talk more about the impetus for the collection, those Czech Trees, as well as some of your other sparkling ornaments. How are you decorating with them?
SK: The Czech Crystal Trees are absolutely beautiful clustered together with candle votives underneath them and greenery mixed in. You could also place them back to back to make a sparkling centerpiece down a table. I just love their jeweled details, and they look great with your traditional red and green and mixed in with the other sparkly ornaments. You know I love snowflakes, and these jeweled versions are fabulous. You can hang them anywhere, and I’ll also add them to the top of my gifts this year. The Metal Link Garland is based on an antique I found, and it reminds me of those construction paper garlands, only more sophisticated! Really, I don’t think you can have too much sparkle at Christmas, especially when you mix it with greenery. The sparkle kind of lightens it and gives it a freshness.
BD: It’s not Christmas until we’ve brought out our Suzanne Kasler Accent Ornaments. You’ve expanded your colorful collection with the Ornament Place Cards and Vintage Mini Trees.
SK: I also found those Vintage Trees at the flea market and bought as many as I could. I love their vintage appeal. Combined with the Ornament Place Cards Holders, they make a very festive centerpiece down the table. They are so adorable and the kind of thing you look forward to bringing back out every year.
SK: Again, it’s the little things you get out at Christmas that you look forward to. The Dog Bone Stocking is so fun. I especially love the Antler Wreath. It adds another dimension to my antler collection and love them layered over a wreath — it’s so chic. I really love building on my “classic Christmas” collection.
BD: In past collections, you’ve created different versions of tabletop top trees, but this is your first full-size Christmas Tree. Do you use live or faux trees in your home, and how will you decorate them this year?
SK: I love using pre-lit Christmas trees, because they’re easy to put up and can stay up the whole month while still looking great. And what I do is bring in fresh garland and greenery to mix in to add that freshness and create a natural feel. I have one formal tree in the living room, and this is where I do the entire tree with the subtly colored Accent Ornaments from Ballard mixed in with silver ornaments I’ve collected over the years. Then I put up a more casual tree in the family room with my random and odd sized collection of ornaments.
BD: The Log Rack was a bit unexpected. Why did you want to add one to your collection?
SK: Because it’s something that’s really practical, yet this offers a really very tailored way to keep your logs open air. You can keep it inside or right around the corner outside under cover, and you can stand it upright or have it horizontal. This Log Rack is very clean and streamlined — and it really goes with Ballard’s metal table collection.
BD: One of your favorite collections is your wrapping paper. Last year, you were in a neutral state of mind with your Metallic Gift Wrap. What are you feeling this year?
SK: This year I’ve got antlers and snowflake block prints in striking green, red, kraft and taupe colors. You can mix it all together or use one color. It just looks really great. This year, I’ll use the kraft a lot, but I’ll mix in the red and green. I will tell you that if you wrap everything in either all red plaid or all green plaid and put it all under the tree, it is fabulous looking!
BD: You have some new non-holiday related pieces as well, so let’s talk about just a few of them. Your trio of Metal Accent Tables are so pretty and so versatile. What was the inspiration for them?
SK: Yes, I have the originals here in the office and found them at the antique flea market. We’d find these little tables and we would use them all the time, so we decided they would be great to replicate. They’re wonderful in any room. I especially love them clustered — they’re like a little art composition.
BD: You are a big fan of natural fiber rugs and use them often, and you even designed a Sisal Rug for us. With this collection you’ve introduced this gorgeous Chunky Wool Rug. What’s the difference and when do you recommend using a wool rug rather than a natural fiber rug?
SK: It’s great looking and it has a lot of texture, which we’re all loving, like a natural fiber rug. What I love about this off-white wool is it’s a chance to bring it a little lighter than the sisal. It also gives it a little more refinement while still having that natural look. And it’s a great price for a wool rug.
BD: You’ve got two new lamp styles — and they keep getting bigger and bigger.
SK: Right now the trend is to go bigger and bigger with lamps, and I’m encouraging people to try both the Maddie and Celeste styles, because they really will update your interior. These bigger scaled lamps have a little bit more blown glass so you can see through them. And they are a beautiful shape at the right height.
BD: Thank you for talking holiday with us. Any last thoughts?
SK: Just don’t forget to add the sparkle — and lots of it!
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