Sunday, January 5, 2014

It Is All Rather a Blur . . .

Christmas came somewhat late to Darlington this year.  Not after the fact, mind you, as we observed the appropriate dates as they occurred on the calendar.  No, I'm talking about when the psychology of Christmas finally wrapped its arms around me and said "Now!"

I was very rushed approaching the Christmas holiday this year.  Work was all-consuming and unrelenting, as were the more pleasant demands of the New York social season, and I found myself galloping head forward during the weeks leading up to Christmas with a list of "to-dos" a mile long and the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel a long, long, way away.  Somehow I got through what I needed to by the time I had to do it, and I bolted from my office on the Friday before Christmas shouting with glee that I was finally done with working for the year and that was that!

A full two weeks at Darlington beckoned to me most pleasingly.

Stocked up with comestibles and presents, and fortified by a delicious holiday luncheon at Swifty's with Boy and his two charming assistants, we loaded the family jalopy and drove up to the house that very afternoon, not scheduled to return to the city until the first full week of January.

Darlington's 2013 Christmas Tree

I can't remember the last time we had two entire weeks of uninterrupted residence at Darlington House.  It's been at least several years.  Although we usually spend Christmas and New Year's at Darlington, we often break up our stay with a trip to Boston for a night or two, for a change of pace.  This year we decided to spend the entire break at Darlington.

A Chinese covered jar was inspiration for
the tree's color scheme this year . . .

It's all been rather a blur, really.  A blur of afternoons spent cooking and fiddling about, playing backgammon, listening to music, and reading.  A blur of evenings largely devoted to the joys of the table and bottle, and catching up on movies we've wanted to see (or rewatching old favorites).  It has been a blur of parties, too.  A blur of trips to the grocer or wine merchant, or to Agway for bird seed and dog biscuits.  A blur of attending services at the Episcopal church I go to.  A blur of drinking egg nog and eating tasty treats, promising myself (and Boy) that it would all come to an end in the New Year (but hasn't quite, yet).  A blur of sleeping in as long as I like, wakened not by an alarm clock blaring at me but rather by my darling Basil licking my face, asking to be taken out and fed his breakfast.

It's been an absolutely lovely blur, Dear Reader.

. . . as was our collection of early English
Staffordshire pearlware figures . . .

I've purposely not overburdened myself this break with chores and projects.  I have a tendency to keep myself busy with such time consuming obligations, even while on vacation.  Not this Christmas.  While I did keep a "to do" list (it would be impossible for me not to), I kept it short and have not kicked myself because some of the chores listed upon it must wait to be completed another day.  Although I've had a number of calls with the office while away, they haven't been burdensome or overly time-consuming.

. . . and a pretty pearlware dish

"So, where is this going?" you might ask, Dear Reader.  It is an explanation of why your Dear Old Reggie hasn't posted photographs of our Christmas tree this year, at least until today.  Boy put our tree up and decorated it ahead of Christmas day, but we didn't get around to photographing it until afterwards, completing doing so only yesterday.  The pictures shown in this post were taken over a one week span, seeking to capture the tree at its best advantage, and under the best light conditions.

This Christmas we placed our tree in Darlington's drawing room, for the first time in many years.  Its theme was inspired by the color scheme of the room, and by the English and Chinese ceramics we have placed about it.

In particular, the color scheme was inspired by the painted decorations on our early nineteenth Staffordshire pearlware figures of classical deities and virtues.  We've collected them for years and I've written about them before, here and here.

The pearlware figures are decorated with pretty painted pastel colors in pinks, blues, yellows, lavenders, and greens.  Boy drew from their palette when decorating the drawing room's tree.

The result is very different from the woodsy Winter Wonderland themed trees that Boy has put up in previous years in our dining room.  Our drawing room Christmas tree is very, very pretty.  And very pink, too.

In addition to being inspired by the pastel colors of our Staffordshire figures, we wanted to give our drawing room an old-fashioned Christmasy look, from the 1940s.  I festooned the mantel and mirror with vintage pink lametta garlands that Boy gave to me many years ago.  He found them while on a photo shoot, back before he became a Fancy New York Decorator, and he haggled with the woman who owned them until she sold them to him.  I'm really rather fond of them.

I particularly like this year's Christmas tree.  It is so pretty and sweet that it almost makes my teeth hurt, but in a good way.  It makes me think of the children's board game, Candy Land, which was a favorite of mine when I was very little.  Until, that is, I figured out that the game did not involve the receipt of actual candy, a distinct disappointment to me at the time.

Now that I'm a grown man and have developed a taste for treats other than candy, I can admire the loveliness of our tree unfettered by anything but pure pleasure in its prettiness.

I am writing this post sitting at my dining room table at Darlington.  The table is covered with the white damask cloth we laid for a luncheon party several weeks ago, and it is a pleasant and snowy-white pedestal for tapping away on my laptop, writing this essay.  A footed dish of clementines is but a short reach away.

I will leave Darlington House fortified by a lazy, indulgent two weeks of leisure and relaxation.  I can confidently say, Dear Reader, that this is the first time in years that I have ended a vacation truly rested and ready for what waits for me upon my return.

Happy New Year!

All photographs by Boy Fenwick


  1. Beautiful! Darling House glows during the holidays. Happy New Year, Reggie!

  2. Hello Reggie, Two weeks with no set obligations sounds too good to be true, especially when you and Boy have created such a fantasy-like setting to spend them in. Your pearlware-inspired display, ethereal but colorful, sets the perfect tone.

    Best wishes for 2014,

  3. So pretty, congrats to Boy on yet another magnum opus.
    Best wishes for the New Year.

  4. Congratulations to you for having a true Christmas break. We've experienced a 2+ week blur here too and it's wonderful. Had to smile when you mentioned Agway - I had a college internship there in HR long ago. Best wishes for a very Happy 2014! Michele

  5. What a lovely post Reggie. I am so happy you had such a wonderful holiday, it truly sounds perfect.
    Your tree is so pretty as are the photos, very inspiring.
    Wishing you and Boy all the best for 2014! xox

  6. Oh!! Very lovely tree and decorations!! So fresh and pretty colors!

    Best of All Good Wishes for 2014 to the Most Charming you, the clever and creative Boy and the most handsome Basil!

    Cheers! Jan at Rosemary Cottage

  7. Beautiful tree and I am crazy about your chairs.

  8. The TREE! Oh my the tree! I am sure it is the most beautiful Christmas tree I have ever seen because of
    THE. ORNAMENTS. So exquisite .

  9. Your tree is one of the loveliest I have seen this year. As for the "joys of the bottle and the table..." lol, I too became well acquainted with them this season. Best wishes for a happy New Year.

  10. Agreed. One of the prettiest Christmas trees (and rooms) I've ever seen. Sounds like you've had a delightful couple of weeks too. Happy New Year.

    Best Regards,

    Heinz-Ulrich von B.

  11. Reggie, your tree as always is beautiful this year. I would suggest that you use one of your favorite pictures as your 2014 Christmas card. The first photo has a very Monticellesque vibe about it. Notice my commitment to inventing new words in the new year.

  12. Dear Reggie,
    I really enjoyed seeing these wonderful pictures of your tree. The ornaments remind me very much of the mercury glass my mother saved from her childhood Christmases (spent coincidentally enough in a Federal era country house in roughly your part of the world), and still uses to decorate her tree every year. Though I unfortunately could not be with her this Christmas, I felt close to her in spirit when I saw your tree and drawing room. Thanks so much for posting.

    Best wishes for 2014,

  13. Your Christmas tree is just wonderful.

  14. Happy New Year to you too Reggie.
    It sounds as though you also have had a very well deserved two weeks spent enjoying your home and more immediate company. Sometimes one just has to put the chores aside and remember why it is that we work such long and hard hours. The tree looks beautiful.

  15. I love how you and Boy decorated the year again this year and the change of locations was a wonderful surprise! And that garland- sigh. Such a lovely scene, the only thing missing was Basil. Surely, he could have been a sport and donned a pink ribbon!

  16. Simply gorgeous. I love the combination of grey, gold and pink. Happy New Year!

  17. Your tree is the most eye catching tree I've seen all season. I adore the color palette! Happy New Year Reggie!

  18. beautiful! The tree, the sentiments, the obvious joy in the post. A very Happy New Year to you and yours!

  19. Dear Reggie,

    I'm so glad that I could look at the enlarged version of your Christmas tree — it's gorgeous! And as you know, I am paying special attention to those pine cones!

  20. I love the way you can see the light through your tree ...there are a few things in your living room that are very covetable (word?)

    Happy 2014

  21. Beautiful tree! Your ornaments remind me of Christmas's at my great-grandmother's house, oh so long ago. Your holiday sounds perfectly restorative.

  22. I've been waiting to see your tree for weeks. Absolutely gorgeous ! Wishing you, Boy and Basil a wonderful new year. All the best


  23. Your tree is glorious Reggie. Wishing you and Boy all the best in this New Year!

    The Arts by Karena

  24. Love all of it and have taken many ideas from you. Limited retail red to a few vintage ceramics that go back three generations. You would love the tiny oranges and tangerines filling several bowls about our home. Most are also graced with a spray of nandina berries. Thank you for this visual feast.

  25. Oh, what a delicious tree! Not too saccharine, mind you, but definitely pleasant visions of sugar plum fairies leap forth upon viewing your beautiful photographs.

    I've been a collector of vintage glass ornaments since I moved to this country 23 years ago, and have amassed quite a collection. My daughter has claimed all of my pink ornaments and displays them on an ivory hued feather tree in her room, one of two we own. This year, we did not travel back to England for Christmas, as has been the case for the past two Christmases, so I was able to decorate the family tree with ornaments of green, gold, amber, orange and silver. I never buy red ornaments (I'm firmly in your camp when it comes to banishing "Retail Red"), but if I do find an ornament that I like the shape of and it happens to be red, I gently wash off the red film with a little warm water and a cotton swab, which results in a silver ornament. Give it a try and see for yourself.

    Thank you for continuing your lovely blog and I look forward to reading more of your adventures in the coming year. Have a very happy and healthy 2014, and the same to Boy and Basil.

  26. What a beautiful tree, looks good enough to eat. I like it fronting a window, back-lit, light shining through. Merry Christmas.

  27. Your tree is beautiful! Happy ongoing festivities to you both!

  28. So beautiful. Sigh. That last photo is truly stunning. Boy sure is talented. Agree about wanting to see some Basil as icing on the visual treat cake. Best wishes in the New Year.

  29. It's a veritable Christmas sherbet. I hope the return has been gentle;).

  30. Absolutely divine tree. For some reason, a beautiful tree sort of passes a light from one year to the next. I love them. They make rooms and spirits glow. Especially fond of antique ornaments and now I've started collecting old beaded lights which creates a new kind of light... sort of dozens of mini-chandeliers.

    Here's hoping your 2014 is wonderful... like your Darlington getaways.

  31. Your photos and tree are absolutely gorgeous from start to end, Reggie. As always, I enjoyed your post immensely and look forward to each new one. Also, you've put together a great selection of other blogs to read; I especially enjoy Privilege and Maximinius. Glad you agree about not-a-Lady Victoria Hervey's barely-there dress at the Golden Globes awards (I posted that story and picture on Facebook); it goes beyond bad taste. Though I turned 50 this year and wear predominantly classic clothing, I'm not a prude. To quote a late, rather dramatic friend of my late grandmother's, it was dreadful (she actually said that about my pierced ears). Happy new year to you and Boy, Elisabeth

  32. Oops, that's Maxminimus; as a copy editor, I'm chagrined at my spelling mistake, because I carp at the writers I edit when they spell names incorrectly! Elisabeth

  33. If only your tree could my house.


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