Christmas in the south can be a lot of fun. Be prepared with a lot of food, drink and a lot of laughs and good times. Ben South is nothing short of charming, smart and fun. Ben and I share a birthday, March 29th. He's a great friend and I just get inspired reading his southern ramblings about life, design, and anything else he writes... and it leaves me usually laughing my tail off. I couldn't think of a better time than the holidays than you introduce y'all to 'em.
Q: What do you like about the winter and the holiday season?
Southerners are sensualists. We didn't have Puritans down here, praise the Lord, so we eat more, drink more, dance more, anything that's pleasurable, Southerners do it more...Southern cooking really is some of the best in the world. On one groaning huntboard, you'll find African fried techniques, French sauces, British vegetable traditions added to great, garden bounty. Once the intense, Southern summer is over, the winter is a wonderful time for baked goods and heavier spices.
Southern houses have the smell of pine logs in the fireplace and... the sounds of a Southern season include hearty laughter, Elvis singing "Blue Christmas," and Brenda Lee "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree."
Q: What don't you like about this season?
Blase', perfunctory, obligatory shopping like you've got a gun to your hayyud. I like handmade gifts, thoughtfulness-on-steroids, imagination and tradition. Every year, amongst other gifts, my mother gives my more outdoorsy, younger brother a subscription to "Garden and Gun," this century's finest, Southern magazine and I get "The New Yorker." Please don't out me on my Yankee reading preference. To warm me after I was divorced a few years back, my siblings gave me gift certificates for soups and other comfort foods. Such thoughtful and nurturing gifts are hugely appreciated in the bleak midwinter.
Q: How does one decorate Southernness chic and fun?
First rule, it's gotta be clean. I grew up in the cleanest house in Alabama. Shining the silvuh is very much a Southern holiday tradition. We rub it til the copper is coming through. It's probably the most aerobic exercise I take on all year and it's fueled by eggnog, or more likely "nognog" and mama's fruitcake cookies... So, clean it and then green it. The actual decorating involves lots of evergreens and natural elements from the farm and sentimental family things saved from many decades. One Christmas decorating "No No," I do not like to have sacred things and pop culture Christmas in the same room. It seems sorta schizophrenic. I feel the same way about a Christmas music CD that has some mash up of "Frosty the Snowman" with "O Come All Ye Faithful." And, honestly, even though I grew up on a farm and we had hogs and horses, I don't like Christmas carols that involve livestock. "Away In A Manger?" No, thank you.
Antique silver with greenery (from Southern Living)
Q: What inspires you design-wise during the holidays?
The wit of Simon Doonan's windows at Barneys. Some huge, visual wonderment by Preston Bailey. Seeing a long-married couple holding hands around a shared mug of cider. The timeless table-scapes of my friend, Patrick Dunne, at his shop, Lucullus, in the French Quarter. The shiny, happy, sunniness of Angela Byrd's shop, Nest, in Little Rock. The historically inspired googaws at the great gift shop at the Atlanta History Center.
One of Barney's window displays in NYC