Megan Arquette: Bringing the Outside In

November 29, 2011

When we left our beloved old home in Brookline ten years ago and headed to Los Angeles, I began to wonder how I would create a cozy holiday environment when mid-December temps reached into the 80s. I had traded a substantial home with five fireplaces and a formal dining room for a small beach bungalow absent even one hearth and void of any formalities.

As our first holiday season rolled around, I was in a decorating quagmire. It just didn’t feel right putting up the tree while wearing T-shirts and shorts. Contrary to the songs playing in the background as we dressed the tree, the windows were wide open and it was not beginning to look a lot like Christmas. In fact, it was looking a whole lot like it did the month before, and the month before that. It was 72 degrees outside and sunny, and my neighbor was rolling out a blanket of fake snow in his front yard (no kidding).

My problems were these:

1. No mantel to fill with candles nor to drape in a swag of magnolia or fir.

2. No dining room to create a beautiful tablescape using pieces from my antique silver collection.

3. No frigid temperatures with heaps of snow. Rather we faced absolutely perfect weather that made us want to go down to the beach instead curl up under a tartan plaid blanket.

Sometimes I’ve found my most creative inspirations have come from being forced to see things from a different angle. So Jack Frost was not nipping at our nose, but we did have mild evenings perfect for dining al fresco under the clear winter skies. We had the front door open most of the time, so the holiday decor at our new beach house was inspired by indoor-outdoor living.

To create a sense of the outside on the inside, I thought the tablescapes should take cues from nature. Using natural elements, mixed with traditional Christmas plaids and all things shiny, creates a unique organic-meets-luxe vibe that can easily be used indoors as well as out.

Atherton, California, Holiday House Tour via Houzz

Using something as simple as pine cones placed into silver Liberty Bowls or vintage baby cups can easily create a charming addition to a  holiday table.

How clever are these simple glass hurricanes outfitted with sleeves made of old cable knit sweaters?

Burlap might be one of my favorite, “natural†decorating secrets. A burlap runner is great mixed in with greenery. Add your fine china and silver, and you’ve got a great mix of textures and finishes.

A Love via Etsy

Even without a fireplace, using vertical surfaces like windows allows for hanging ornaments and laying swag. (How about those trophies used as tree stands? Fantastic!)

Photo by Vicky Dar

I’m pretty sure that none of you in New England will be having your Christmas Eve dinners al fresco, but using some of these outdoor living cues while decking your halls might make you feel almost as if you were.

–Megan Arquette
Megan Arquette is a West Coast–based interior designer and creator of the design blog Beach Bungalow 8. She lives in a bungalow at the beach with her husband, two kids, three dogs and five fish.