Handy Woman; Don’t chuck out old chairs-give Them a cool & colourful new look with pain. Here’s how

Published by:

I love white color so I use white paint to make white dining chairs

PROJECT Painted recliner chairs

We gave our dated dining chairs or recliner chair a bright and bold makeover by painting the legs a contrasting colour to the main body. Mixing up the colours and styles of the chairs (check out the different backs) adds interest, too.

painting chair: make it more beautiful

painting chair: make it more beautiful

Step 1

Give your chairs a light sand to remove any old varnish or paint – fresh paint won’t adhere to a glossy surface. Clean chairs thoroughly with a clean, damp cloth, making sure you remove all dust from the corners of the back slats.

Select a suitable color for the chair depending where it is used, in living room, kitchen, or outdoor

Select a suitable color for the chair depending where it is used, in living room, kitchen, or outdoor

Step 2

In a well-ventilated area (or outside if it’s not too windy) place first chair upturned on a dropsheet or newspaper. Using spray-paint in your chosen colour (we used two different shades) spray just the legs of the chair. When dry, apply a second coat.

Step 3

Turn the chair upright. Using a paintbrush paint the seat and the back of the chair white. Leave to dry, then apply a second coat.

You can also design your recliner for painting on computer beforehand, make your recliner chair as a new chair

You can also design your recliner for painting on computer beforehand, make your recliner chair as a new chair

Step 4

Repeat steps above until all chairs are painted. Voila! An easy and affordable way to add interest to a dining room setting.

I love white color so I use white paint to make white dining chairs

I love white color so I use white paint to make white dining chairs

you will need

* Second-hand wooden dining chairs

* Sandpaper; clean cloth; paintbrush

* Dropsheet or newspaper

* Spray-paint for the legs – we used IronLak Interior/Exterior in Moberry, $10.95, and Plasti-Kote in Bright Red (on the chair at far left), $12.95, Mitre 10

* Regular paint for the seats & backs we used Porter’s Paints Eggshell Acrylic in Snow White, $39.90 for 1L

Drab to FAB; Inspired by the pages Of magazines, Jack and Tracy Ford designed a flatpack Ikea kitchen So beautifully, it belongs in the pages of a mag! ‘ Here’s how

Published by:

Kitchen green spaces: The kitchen is now more a part of the outdoor entertaining area and backyard with recliners and coffe table for relaxing

JACK AND TRACY Ford put up with their ‘ “awful” kitchen in their 1960s-style Sydney home until a friend suggested they move to the kitchen to the playroom at the rear of the house. Brilliant! Not only did they get a new kitchen with new furniture, but a new lifestyle. “We use this space all the time, even for relaxing. We select best recliners located near windows with gree space as rest places for our whole family. – it’s everything we’d hoped for and more,” Jack says. Making the move meant additional structural, electrical and plumbing installations, but opting for an Ikea kitchen meant the project was affordable. Jack and Tracy followed these steps to create their DIY kitchen – problem-free!

Renew your old kitchen with Ikea furniture

The old kitchen space: Renew your old kitchen with Ikea furniture


Want to achieve.

What do you want and need from your kitchen and will it work within the space? Study the room: note the pros, cons, traffic areas, where people gather, which kinds of table and chair set, and the best view or light source. If it’s not big enough, too dark or not ideal for entertaining, look at stealing space from adjacent rooms, adding windows, doors or skylights or moving it to another location. If you’re changing location, try to use the old space while the work takes place.

Space for kitchen: stealing space from adjacent rooms, adding windows, doors or skylights

Space for kitchen: stealing space from adjacent rooms, adding windows, doors or skylights



Create a moodbdard to get a feel for how the look of the space will work. If you know what you want, combine images, colours and materials to see how they fit. If you’re finding your look, for inspiration go online for home advisors or recliner reviews (blogs, flickr) or to magazines, friends’ homes and showrooms. “We wanted a lot of white to brighten the whole house and to create a clean and uncluttered space, but with a special feature like our Spanish-tile splashback and red island-bench panels,” Tracy explains.


Your ruler

Before you plan the layout, measure the space as well as the appliances you will keep and the ones you will buy. Measure floor space; door swings; the width and height of walls, windows and doors; the width, height and depth of appliances and furniture; and note where the power and plumbing are if you don’t wish to change these things. Now double-check!

A variety of kitchen furnitures for you to choose

A variety of kitchen furnitures for you to choose


Think about the practical part of your design. What sort of cabinetry do you want? Cupboards vs drawers; set of table and chair, or reclining chairs; pull-out pantry vs walk-in or regular cupboard; freestanding vs built-in appliances; concealed dishwasher vs full-view? Check out the various options on the Ikea website or kitchen brochure.

5. DRAW UP ‘ Your plans

It’s good to have an idea of the layout before hitting the computer or store. Play around with a design on paper and role-play in the space. Is there enough space to move? How is the outlook? Once you’ve worked out your ideal floorplan and know the door finishes or appliances you want, it’s reality time – will it fit? Download the Ikea Home Planner (ikea.com. au/kitchenplanner) and follow the instructions – watch as your kitchen materialises. It can be saved to the Ikea website where, instore, you can go through your plan with a sales assistant.


till you drop

It’s possible to buy your entire kitchen in one go. But you need to physically be there to pick it, pay for it and take it home on the same day. Do a product availability check online before you go to avoid return visits.

fact file

Who cooks here? Jack and Tracy Ford and their daughters Ella, 6, and Hannah, 3

Before This space used to be a playroom. The original kitchen, elsewhere in the house, was from the 1960s and, according to Jack, was “too small, too dark and just awful”.

Wlshllst Island bench, CaesarStone benchtops, good appliances, a large door to open the living space to the backyard, and white cabinets.

The result A light and bright entertaining space that’s clean, simple, easy to use and welcoming. “The kitchen is now more a part of the outdoor entertaining area and backyard,” Jack says.

Kitchen green spaces: The kitchen is now more a part of the outdoor entertaining area and backyard with recliners and coffe table for relaxing

Kitchen green spaces: The kitchen is now more a part of the outdoor entertaining area and backyard with recliners and coffe table for relaxing

Time frame Three weeks from design to installation.

Phone book Joinery Ikea . Electrician Mick Farrugia, Luchman Electricals. Plumber Kevin McNally, Kevin McNally Plumbing. Tiler Mark Monteforte, Mark Monteforte Tiling.



To ensure the smooth running of the installations, have all your items together before work starts – plumbers will need to see taps and sinks, and electricians will need to know what is going where. Once the old kitchen is ripped out, have your plumber and electrician make any adjustments before you tidy up the walls and prime for installation. It can be tricky getting so many different people working on your project at the same time, so be organised. Do as much as you can and have a back-up plan in case delays mean you have no kitchen for longer than expected.


All together

Flatpack furniture has come a long way. It’s simple to assemble and can be done yourself while other works are being completed – providing you have the space to store the built items. There are full instructions available for installing the cabinets, benchtops and sinks yourself, but it does mean specific tools are required and it is much easier if you have a basic knowledge of carpentry. Ikea can recommend installers – the cost is about $1500. For Jack and Tracy the installation took three days. “But the CaesarStone benchtop couldn’t be measured or ordered until the kitchen was in,” Tracy says.

Putting all furniture together for your renewed kitchen

Putting all furniture together for your renewed kitchen


Finishing touch

Once installed, the fun begins! Go ahead and choose your interior fittings, such as pull-out bins and drawer and cupboard organisers. But it pays to live in your kitchen for a while so you can work out exactly what you need. And don’t forget the personal touches that reflect your style.


Kitchen Faktum base cabinets with Abstrakt doors in White and panels in Red; Dormsjo sink and mixer tap; and Marginal wall shelves; all from Ikea, $10,500

Benchtops CaesarStone in Snow, $4500

4 Reclining chairs, $1000

A dining table and chair set $1500

Splashback Spanish porcelain tiles from Earp brothers,$500

Fridge from Winning Appliances , $4500Splas

Duo ovens, gas cooktop & rangehood from Electrolux, $3000

Tiler $400

Electrician $2000

Plumber $2300

Total $ 27,700

top tips

Easy to match If you buy a small cupboard door in the finish of your choice at Ikea you can take it with you to match other decorating aspects outside of Ikea, such as paint colour, splashbacks, benchtops or furniture finishes. It works particularly well with whites as there are so many shades.

Mix it up Don’t be afraid to mix and match. The Fords bought cupboards, sink, tap and benchtops from Ikea, but looked elsewhere for their appliances and splashback tiles. “We bought Spanish porcelain tiles, which are usually used for bathrooms, as they’re different and give the kitchen another dimension,” Jack says.

When project managing Be organised Jack advises. “It pays to organise your time to be available when tradies are around. Ours were incredibly helpful and reliable and explained things simply so decisions could be made quickly and no time was lost.”

Make Over The Media Room; Been putting off organising home entertainment central? Maybe it’s time!

Published by:

Home entertainment equipment organisation

Organizing Home Entertainment Central

Make Over The Media Room; Been putting off organising home entertainment central? Maybe it’s time!
TECH EQUIPMENT gets cheaper by the year. Take Blu-ray players – they give razor-sharp movie images and super sound and can now be bought for under $150. And the humble DVD player? Why, you can pick one up for 20 bucks! Other items become more and more feature-packed while increasing in quality but reducing in price. 3D televisions, for instance. Two years ago you’d have been mad to buy one, but the latest models have significantly improved 3D picture quality and can be very affordable.

Home entertainment equipment organisation

Home entertainment equipment organisation

Many TVs now also let you stream content (like pictures and video) wirelessly from equipment such as computers and movie cameras, and access web content, such as Skype and YouTube. You can even record shows from some TVs by simply inserting a USB stick. And some makers (LG, Samsung) have teamed up with providers such as Telstra BigPond and Yahoo to deliver on-demand movies, etc.


The kids and Dad want a surround-sound home-theatre system to go with the new telly, but you don’t want those towering rear speakers – of which there could be as many as four – cluttering the open-plan area behind the couch. The solution? A front surround sound bar. This Yamaha one (positioned under the TV) creates a convincing surround-sound effect in the one compact unit, and its receiver-subwoofer combo supplies plenty of bass. The entertainment units (illustrated) have drawers at the bottom and flip-down panels at the top. Behind the flip-down panels live the Blu-ray/DVD players and Foxtel or Austar boxes.


If you have a room available as a gaming HQ for the kids, lucky them and lucky you! They can play to their hearts’ content and you can watch your shows in peace in the living room. Here, the TV cabinet, which can be locked, hides gaming consoles (PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Wii), DVD player, movies and games. Leave plenty of space around the TV so there’s room to swing consoles when playing virtual tennis, 10-pin bowling or baseball.


A more traditional entertainment unit like the one shown here is good for families who watch TV and movies a lot, and also like a bit of gaming. Since everything is out in the open, you can just click and go without having to open doors to operate your equipment. The drawers and cupboards can store the movie collection and gaming controllers.


Some families are born with music in their veins. If so, a dedicated music area – preferably with soundproofing – can be a wonderful thing. A mix of high-tech digital items and good old-fashioned basics should s Drum kit ee all bases covered.


This is Dad’s special place, set up for his – according to some family members – exasperating addiction to sport. A cabinetmaker made the TV cupboard. The centre door under the TV flips down to reveal the Foxtel IQ box – it can record two sports programs at once! Drawers on either side hold his DVD collection, which increases in size every birthday, Father’s Day and Christmas. Titles include Legends Of Wrestling 1 & 2, The Essential NRL Collection and Cristiano Ronaldo, The Boy Who Had A Dream.

Home Network Organizing

Home Network Organizing


A home WiFi network means that householders can access the internet anywhere in the house on their laptops, Smartphones and tablets. But, unless you use a wireless internet provider, you need to connect the modem and router to the telephone line, and this is the place where you should also set up a desktop computer. It’s a home office, homework centre, a place to chill out and go blog surfing

Christmas ALL Wrapped Up; It’s celebration time! We’ve put our heads together and come up with a Santa-sackful of ideas to help you celebrate this festive season

Published by:

Make it beautiful

Krafty Proposal

So simple, so effective. We made our kraft paper Christmas tree by cutting out identical triangles from two rolls of 15m kraft paper and sticking layers of them on the wall using Blu-Tack. For the stars, we used dress-pattern paper from Spotlight. After cutting out the star shapes we pinned several layers together and attached them to the tree with double-sided tape. The trunk was made with an inner cardboard tube from a roll of cling wrap, and stuck to the wall with Blu-Tack. Presents – wrapped in kraft paper and dress patterns – were scattered at the tree’s base. Scissors, paper tree! Beachy Nautical

Make it beautiful

Make it beautiful

What better typifies an Australian Christmas Day for many than a visit to the beach or a run around in the boat? We’ve brought the colours of the sun, the sand, the surf and the sea into the living room with our neutral and natural decorating palette, and added a touch of the nautical with our anchor decorations – painted white – and the smart blue and white striped cushion covers. Our colour scheme has been offset with a splash of traditional Christmassy red. And in true laidback Aussie style, we’ve casually strung – across the doorway and window – a length of ribbon, on which we’ve hung a selection of greeting cards. Christmas has never looked so relaxed!

Boho Chic

The sight and the aroma of a real Christmas tree often conjures sentimental memories of childhood Christmases. Even if you can’t go past the lure of the real thing, you may still like to decorate in a less traditional manner, and display a little bohemian flair. Hunt for decorations of a folksy or tribal nature. Combine colours, textures and patterns to give your tree both a unique and interesting look. Our real tree came from Dural Christmas Tree Farm, NSW, which calls itself the home of “perfectly shaped trees”. You can select your tree now (either in person or online) and pick it up later, or have it delivered. Trees range in size from 1.5m to 4.5m in height. Prices start from $60. Tree stands, which hold water to keep the tree fresh, are also available.

Decor around

Decor around

Tabletop Feature

A small tree is perfect for apartment living and tiny spaces. It can take pride of place in the middle of a table, on a sideboard or on a shelf. In keeping with the size and the scale of the tree we have kept our decorations minimal, but smart. A pretty paper garland wrapped around the tree is a simple touch, but elegant, as are the presents wrapped in music and gold papers. The black ribbon lends a classic touch. Stylish Sparkles You’ll really know it’s Christmas if there’s a gloriously large and imposing tree filling your home with its pine fragrance. And if you’ve bought a large tree, you may as well go all out and adorn it in gorgeous, sparkly decorations. Our stately tree is decorated in various silver feather, vintage leaf and glorious glass mirrors, which put the glitter back into Christmas. We spray-painted a timber star black and attached it to the tree top, and draped fabric around the base to complete the elegant look. You may also want to see how Classic Christmas in Atlanta.

[ACP Magazine]

Holiday At Home; Head outdoors on Christmas Day and take your furniture – and family – with you! Check out our themed outdoor rooms and get the party started

Published by:

moving your indoor furnishings outside

WHEN THE SUN is shining there can be nothing better than enjoying a festive lunch or afternoon soiree outdoors. Taking the celebrations outside doesn’t have to mean a barbie on the beach or a picnic in the park. We’ve found three creative ways to transform your backyard or balcony into the perfect alfresco entertaining area – from a relaxed Moroccaninspired lounge, to a cool and contemporary cocktail party. But before you grab the cocktails and canapes, it’s time to get creative!


Create a luxurious garden lounge by moving your indoor furnishings outside! Our elegant oversized sofa, Persian-style rug, and assortment of ottomans give this outdoor space a laidback Boho vibe with a Moroccan twist. A scattering of comfy floor cushions come in handy as extra seating and work well with the theme. We added a little festive flair with large red letters spelling out the word “NOEL”.

moving your indoor furnishings outside

moving your indoor furnishings outside

For a twist on tradition the Christmas pine tree was swapped for a palm and its branches decorated with lengths of ribbon (see “Make”, left). The decorative ribbon drapes not only create a striking shady spot to sit under, but it gives the outdoor room a lovely whimsical feel as the evening sun glimmers through the streamers. A wicker basket comes in handy as a spot to store gifts, while accessories like the ornamental birdcage give our garden lounge a real “room” feel. Of course, no gathering would be complete without food – or friends. So grab a platter of tasty nibbles, a bottle (or three!) of wine and enjoy a leisurely garden picnic with friends and family. Cheers!


cock tail party with outdoor furniture

cock tail party with outdoor furniture

We’ve created a chic and stylish outdoor setting that’s perfect for a Chrissy cocktail party. The simple black and white palette gives a sophisticated, glam feel, with the canapes and cocktails providing the only hit of bright colour. A streamlined modern white table and couch are dressed with a handmade fabric tablerunner (see “Make”, above) – the striped pattern adds a subtle nautical vibe but the mono palette stays true to the black-tie theme. A crisp white rug (for clean party shoes only!) softens the decking and demarcates the party zone. To enhance the feeling of intimacy we created a partition for our party by hanging drapes from the pergola. The informal feel of the linen echoes the underlying nautical feel to create a cool, coastal-chic vibe. And remember, even outdoors, stylish accessories are essential. Our wire lamp creates a striking centrepiece, with its black silhouette adding an elegant impact against the white backdrop. A cluster of candles is an easy way to create ambience – once the sun has set the soft glow will create a sense of intimacy. Pretty white paper bells are the finishing decorative touch to this fashionably festive scene. Now all you need to do is slip into a cocktail dress and enjoy a cool Campari.

There is nothing quite like sitting outside on the deck to create a relaxed atmosphere for any meal-time occasion. A garden creates a natural and casual backdrop, but to make it a little more special we took a few simple steps to make it even more fun.

Instead of using a regular tablecloth we made our own (see “Make”, left). Using an inexpensive fabric from Ikea we cut it to fit the size of the table with a little overhang. Then scallop edges were cut from the edging to give it a cute and crafty look. It couldn’t have been easier!

Also, to add to the homemade appeal we made pretty garlands from fabric offcuts (see “Make”, above). Again, it was another easy project. Pieces of fabric in various colours were cut into small circular discs and strung together.

With a hot-glue gun we then attached these discs to a piece of twining (Thetwinery.com has a great selection of colours; we used Peapod in Green & White). If you want to make a more permanent decoration you can stitch the discs to the string.

To keep our table setting casual we used a selection of different coloured plates from Bison Australia and non-matchy serving bowls and vessels. The same approach was taken with the chairs and recliners- we used various colours and materials from indoors and out. Instead of using napkins we opted for handwoven cotton tea towels, which are soft to touch and easy to clean.

For a special (and soft) underfoot touch we placed a series of mismatched cotton flatwoven rugs on the deck. To have everyone feeling relaxed it’s a fun idea to ask them to take off their shoes before stepping onto the decorated deck.

Other decorative touches included hanging lanterns and a fish trap basket used as a light shade. Lanterns on the step are pretty and practical, especially if you’re hosting a lunch that’s likely to run into dusk. Bunches of hydrangeas were used as a display on the table, sofa, and on the deck, too, completing the look. Have a great Christmas!

Classic Christmas in Atlanta style Home

Published by:

Design a livable space for a house

A mixture of antique and reproduction furniture

During their 1963 honeymoon, which included days at Colonial Williamsburg, Rosemary and Harold Youmans say they took more photographs of architectural details than they did of each other. Their interest in 18th-century, style is today as strong as it was then. Rosemary, a former schoolteacher turned full-time homemaker, and Harold, an insurance agent, live in a one-and-one-half-story brick Georgian-style house in Vinings, Georgia, just north of Atlanta, with their son, David. Their home is decorated with a mixture of antique and reproduction furniture. At Christmas, heirloom ornaments bedeck the Christmas trees and toys from David’s childhood add to the festive look.


In 1992, Harold heard through a friend about a new development of 18th-century-style homes being built in Vinings. “We already had a Williamsburg-style home outside of Atlanta, but Vinings just seemed the perfect place to build a dream home,” says Rosemary. The location offered easy access to the Chattahoochee River and several Civil War sites of interest to the Youmans. Called Highgrove, the development is set on three-and-one-half acres lined with pin oaks, with a small commons at the center. Each of Highgrove’s 12 homes features a different, but traditional, architectural style.

Specific vision for a house

The couple worked closely with the builder, Cornerstone Associates of Atlanta, and the firm’s residential designer, William T. Baker, who specializes in historic American architecture. “They had a specific vision for their house and were inspired by Williamsburg’s George Wythe House and the Red Lion Tavern,” says Baker. Details such as narrow dormers, a pair of end chimneys, six-over-six windows. and a wood shingle roof were modeled after the restoration’s houses.

The couple’s house is built on what Rosemary describes as a “postage-stamp” lot, 65 feet wide and 117 feet deep. The structure was designed to accommodate a formal garden in the back. The Youmans maximized the landscaping by planting flowering shrubs in the backyard and adding a rose arbor, based on one at Williamsburg, along the side of the house.

Rosemary did all the decorating, mixing 18th-century reproduction furniture with Colonial Revival and earlier pieces. She relied on William Baker for specific 18th-century-style interior woodwork details.

“We put in cornice moldings in the first-floor rooms and wide heart-pine flooring throughout the whole house,” says Baker. The arched niches in the living room are exact copies of Williamsburg models, down to the height and width of the shelves. During their many trips to Colonial Williamsburg, the couple was impressed with the varied color palettes of the interiors. Notes Baker of the pair: “They knew the right colors to use for the period and weren’t afraid to break away from white.

Livable home space design: a challenging part

“The other challenging part of the project was the Youmans’ request to make the basement as livable as the first-floor space,” explains Baker. The designer put in large windows at the back of the house, which is built on a steep slope. A concrete floor was scored to look like expensive tile. “You can get a rich look without spending a lot of money and it looks just like tile,” Baker says.

Design a livable space for a house

Design a livable space for a house

Rosemary and Harold still enjoy collecting antiques. “When we went on our honeymoon, we had very little money, but we bought a dainty fruitwood chair in Tennessee for $20,” says Rosemary. “That was really when our collecting began.” They are always on the lookout for early 19th-century English porcelain, tole, and have begun collecting Staffordshire figures. The couple also enjoy decorating their home for Christmas. “It’s probably when we are closest as a family, and it’s a joyous time of year,” says Rosemary. She specializes in making 18th-century-style garlands, cones, and table arrangements with pomegranates, pineapples, and other fruits. “It’s the time of year when I want to entertain and share our home with friends and family,” she says.

Tai and Rosita: designing Missoni for the future

Published by:

How did furniture design change?

Furniture Design: How did it change?

We had no responsibility in the beginning,” Rosita Missoni remembers, her tone leaving it uncertain whether she thinks those times better than these. She is watching her husband Tai, who is at the other end of the long dining table in their home on the family compound at Sumirago, Italy, playing with the couple’s first grandchild, Marguerite.

How did furniture design change?

How did furniture design change?

“Much of the business is being taken over by machines,” she continues, as if musing about the passing of the horse-drawn cart. But, regaining her focus, “the creative part of it is still in our hands.”

Over the past 30 years, Tai and Rosita Missoni–Italian fashion’s George and Martha Washington–have seen their knitwear business grow from five workers and three hand looms to a $30-million-a-year business. Now, they have responsibility.

Creativity is still in our hands

In the beginning it was something else altogether. The Missoni story reads like the most hopelessly romantic Harlequin novel. Ottovio (Tai, for short and for always) was born the son of a sea captain and a Dalmatian countess. He fought in the great battle of El Alamein during World War II, and was captured and kept in an internment camp until the end of the war. Ever the athlete, Tai placed first in Italy in the 400 meters hurdles race and went on to the London Olympics of 1948, where he placed as a finalist. It was during the games that Tai met Rosita, an Italian studying in London. They were married five years later.

computer creates a difference

computer creates a difference

Somewhere in all of this hazy romanticism, they began to produce knitwear. Tai Missoni had begun his fashion career producing wool track suits and athletic uniforms, and he even outfitted the Italian light athletes, football and basketball squads for the London Olympics. With his marriage to Rosita, the focus changed to women’s knitwear.

But all that was in the beginning. And even though Tai and Rosita may look backwards with fondness at those early years, they are calculatedly taking their company into the computer age. Video and computer technology are next.

As a harbinger of things to come, their spring/summer women’s collection shown in Milan in October treated press and retailers to a look at the future: From behind a backdrop with the Missoni name carved out, a bank of 50 video monitors projected blowups of the fabric being shown on the runway.

Luca, the couple’s 27-year-old son, is the Missoni’s master of computer wizardry. “Years ago, it took at least three days to try a design,” Luca explains, warming up his terminals and video monitors in one of the factory’s design studios. “Now we can program a design into the computer, and the tape can be read by the looms. You get instant design and it is easy to make a modification.”

Furniture design with computers

Furniture design with computers

Luca demonstrates with a pattern from the current collection, changing colors and even drawing new patterns simultaneously on top of the old. Luca becomes totally immersed in his gadgetry and mumbles to himself, “maybe it’s better with more blue.”

Do-it-yourself decorating

Published by:

Make it beautiful


Topiaries, pyramid-shaped Christmas decorations, originates from the early 18th century when European hostesses used them for their centerpieces. Carmine Marotta, a floral designer who specializes in topiaries, gives instructions on how to create the Christmas decoration.

Decor your home for Christmas

Decor your home for Christmas


Cone- or pyramid-shaped decorations, such as the topiaries in the center of the dining table on page 46, have graced American tables for nearly 300 years. Their origins go back to the tall centerpieces popular with fashionable European hostesses in the early 18th century. For a dignified and sumptuous presentation, the main dish was elevated above the rest of the offerings. For the dessert course, fruits, berries, or sweetmeats were arranged in elaborate pyramids and presented on fancy platters. To make the sweets even more enticing, they often were adorned with spun sugar, flowers, or bits of gilt paper. A stylish and well-appointed table could include one such centerpiece or a group of them.

Gradually, the vogue for these pyramids crossed the Atlantic and housewives with more modest budgets adopted the idea for special occasions. Plates arranged in descending order of size were placed between layers of large fruits to give stability and a symmetrical structure. Other typical designs used sweetmeats or berries held together with icing and molded in a tin cone to achieve the desired shape or apples interspersed with evergreens piled in a conical figure and topped by a pineapple. Today, nail-studded wooden forms, chicken wire, or styrofoam cones may be used to create these traditional designs.

Select crafts for decor

Select crafts for decor

The floral-and-fruit topiaries in the New York City apartment featured on these pages were created by Carmine Marotta, a Manhattan-based floral designer. A former Franciscan monk, Marotta nurtured his love of plants and flowers by constructing inventive holiday decorations from the natural foliage growing on the monastery grounds. Today, some of his favorite and most-requested decorations are his Christmas cones. He makes hundreds of custom-designed pieces every holiday season but notes that they are adaptable to different themes and may be used for decorating throughout the year. Fresh greens, ribbons, ornaments, toys, shells, pinecones, gilded fruits, and dried or fresh flowers are just some of the materials he uses.

How to decor

A few basic supplies are needed and can be purchased at hobby and craft shops for approximately $30. An 18-inch-tall Styrofoam cone, floral picks (thin pieces of wood with one blunt end and one sharp end used to affix trimmings to cones), greens, pinecones, fruits, and flowers are the principal elements in the topiaries on these pages. Either fresh or dried flowers may be used: fresh ones have extra vibrancy and depth of color; dried flowers will last indefinitely. Fresh, firm fruits, such as apples, oranges, or lemons also are bright and vivid options. Small fruits and berries tend to shrivel and Marotta advises the use of their “faux” counterparts. Beginning at the base of the cone, materials are layered from bottom to top. Building from the bottom up helps ensure that the piece will retain its conical shape. Fresh evergreens should always form the first layer; Marotta’s favorites are pine, holly, and juniper. The greens are inserted directly into the Styrofoam core.

From the first bed of greens, materials are alternately layered up the cone. Silk or dried flowers, fruits, pinecones, and small ornaments are attached to the cone form with wired floral picks. The wire, which is attached to the pick’s blunt end, allows the pick to give flimsy or bulky materials the rigidity needed for insertion into a base. Marotta recommends using floral picks rather than a glue gun because glue often does not hold up as well, sometimes melting from the heat of a room. When using fresh flowers, stems should be placed in floral tubes and inserted into the foundation.

Make it beautiful

Make it beautiful

Marotta can assemble a floral cone in about an hour, but he estimates that it would take a novice three or four hours. Finished crafts should be kept indoors and will last about a month. They may be used as centerpieces, on the mantel, or even as miniature Christmas trees if space is at a premium. He suggests topiaries as a wonderful family project for a winter’s afternoon. The possibilities for materials and themes are limited only by your imagination.