Oh yes, it’s that time of year: Holiday party time. It’s easy to complain about these moments of forced celebrations, but the holiday party may be one of the few things that I’m not jaded about. I like eggnog and layering clothes and being social and getting presents. Decorating, though, isn’t my strong suit. But that’s why I’m buddies with Bronson and Celerie, uptown design darlings who have collaborated on The Holiday Workshop, a one of a kind, residential retail experience at 19 East 75th Street. Holiday decorations include fully decorate bespoke holiday trees with Mongolian sheepskin tree skirts and thousands of hand painted lights (with proceeds benefiting East Harlem School), red lacquer wreathes, vintage table top items and glasses, engraved julep cups, handmade stationery, and more stuff that will make people feel fancy. Bronson will also be offering his popular Arrowhead Farms cocktail mixes and salad dressing. Celerie is retailing her furniture line from Henredon and the space is beautifully decorated with Celerie’s pieces accented by Bronson’s designs and curated tabletop items — it is a warm and enveloping space. Shoppers can purchase the entire “look” or the individual items. Here, I chatted with Bronson about the collection.
The holidays are coming. Tell me: Are you excited by the prospect of holiday parties, decor and merry making? Or is it all so daunting now?
I am always excited this time of year. Everything and everyone look their best and people are in the mood to party. Why should it be daunting? If you’re worried about the holidays, you’re either over-committed or you’re under-staffed. Edit your schedule and prioritize. If you’re giving a party, either prepare everything ahead of time, or staff up. Your guests are there to see you smile. Give them what they’re there for, along with a stiff drink, and everything will be fine.
I like to think I’m decoration-ally challenged. What are some simple things that someone like me can do to spruce up their place for the holidays? (I used to have a two feet, pre-lit Christmas tree. But I lost it under my bed or my couch.)
Lighting. If you don’t have time for a tree or simply cannot find it under the bed (try looking next to your box of summer speedos), invest in some Christmas lights. Better yet, get bistro lights. The bigger bulbs feel vintage and European at the same time. String the lights across your mantle, ceiling, entry, the mirror you use to take your selfies – wherever – to give an added warmth and glow to your space and your life.
Talk to me about the townhouse uptown: How did you find the space? What are some of the favorite things you have in the shop?
Celerie and I knew we wanted to set-up the holidays this year in a real home. So my dog, Cat, and I set out on foot to find a townhouse. The space is filled with vintage and antique finds and holiday decorations from Poland, Antwerp, Paris, Mexico City, Arkansas, and hundreds of yards of tartan from Scotland. My favorites are the vintage barware and decanters, the selection of complete holiday dinner table settings (one of which you can buy here on Moda Operandi) an original photograph of Winston Churchill, and the custom malachite tree skirt we fashioned for our Chinoiserie inspired Christmas tree. Of course the bespoke trees, sales of which benefit East Harlem School, are the biggest seller.
You started by providing a service: interiors and events, right? When did you transition into products, and was that an organic transition? What else do you have in the pipeline?
I have been decorating homes at Christmas for special clients and friends for nearly 10 years. Last year, I opened the shop during the holidays so that we could do this for more people. I’m committed to doing everything I can to motivate and encourage people to throw parties, to celebrate happy moments, to drink a little too much.
Allow me to help on that last one. Cheers! Speaking of, I’m excited about your holiday party this year. How long does it take to plan and execute your fete?
It varies. Sometimes all the ideas come out in a cascade, and I just have to hope I’m able to write them down. Other times, it takes me weeks or months. The Seven Swans a-Swimming party was a snap. Eight Maids a-Milking took a little more time. Ten Lords a-Leaping should’ve been easy, but it was the first year I hadn’t done it at home, so I had to make a lot of changes to make it work at The Lion. I’ve not decided one thing about this year’s party. But it’ll come.
Much to my dismay, last year I got there just after the go go boy holiday elf dancers did their set. Biggest regret ever.
Can we please not use the term “go go boy” ever again? “Prancing elves,” or even “dancing elves,” are more accurate, not to mention less gutter-sounding.
Noted. I’ll keep it out of the gutter. [Eds. note: Please see above picture of a prancing elf playing a bagpipe.] So, what have been some of your more festive party favors?
Well, my general feeling is that the guests are the favors. And this has been born out by the number of relationships that have begun (or ended) at my parties. We had the milkmaids who served tequila from prosthetic breasts two years ago. We also had a minotaur that year. And a miniature billy goat. The cheerleaders last year were inspired by the mash-up of Express Yourself and Born This Way that Madonna did in her MDNA show. I’m a big believer in the Jello shot too.
And, last question and I’m sure it’s an annoying one: Favorite party ever? (As a guest and as an organizer?)
All the ones that I’m invited to.
All images from The Holiday Workshop: 19 East 75th Street.