The Decorating Divas
December, 2005 - Issue #14
This month, we will take a look at various ways that screens can be used to accessorize your home, a few fresh ideas for some new holiday decorations, and two designers that have turned their visions into hot product lines...

Donna: First up: screens. They're a wonderful accessory to decorate with and can be used in so many ways. I have come across some of the most beautiful screens living in Asia and am most partial to the simple antique wooden carved screens from China. I do, however, appreciate the more intricately carved pieces for the hours of work involved to make them. They are a beautiful accessory, and "go with" just about any decorating style. In fact, Anne and I are firm believers that every home could use a little bit of Asia, even if it's just a small Chinese or Japanese bowl placed somewhere... but that's another topic altogether.

I bought two small panels (which are actually antique Chinese windows) a while ago. When we recently moved into our new apartment, I finally had the perfect place to hang them: flagging my headboard behind my night tables. They are a dark brown, similar in color to the night tables, and make a great contrast to the off-white upholstered headboard. And it's not the "typical" way to hang a pair of screens.

Anne: I was helping a good friend of mine decorate her home. We were just about finished with the living and dining rooms - they just needed a few accessories. The rooms looked great, yet I kept thinking that something was missing in the living room and I couldn't put my finger on it. One day while we were out shopping, I saw a wrought iron and wooden standing screen and I immediately knew that this was just what was needed to finish off the room. The screen sits a foot or two behind the sofa, adds a bit of interest to the room, and saved on buying artwork for the wall! And it just goes to show that sometimes even the best ideas happen by total accident!

In Donna's home in South Carolina, she used a freestanding wooden carved Chinese screen to decorate a corner of her master bedroom. It's perfect for the room - it softens and warms the focal corner of the space. This particular screen could have found a home in any of Donna's rooms; she had a hard time choosing where to put it.

Donna: Wooden screens can also be used outdoors. In one of our latest projects, we were accessorizing a Zen garden. We ended up purchasing a wooden Chinese screen to hang on the outside wall of the house beneath an overhang. Maintenance is quite simple, just wax it once or twice a year (or more often if the wood is looking dry).

Anne: We've also hung a pair of Chinese carved screens in a bedroom on the wall above the bed to create a "headboard." Don't forget to look at lacquered screens, fabric screens or screens made entirely from wrought iron. Take a look around, as it may be what your wall or corner needs!

Donna: Moving on: holiday decorations. Are you tired of using the same old decorations? Here are a few ideas that are inexpensive and easy to put together! One of my favorites is also a hit with my nephews. I take a plain inexpensive cylinder glass vase and hot glue peppermint sticks all the way around the outside of the vase (just so the peppermint sticks come just over the top). Then I tie either a red or white ribbon (or even a handful of raffia) to "hold" the peppermint sticks in place. Then I like to add either off-white or red roses, so the roses are just sitting very full at the top of the vase. It's very simple and makes a wonderful hostess gift, as well.

Another simple and elegant arrangement that I love during the holidays is a large sterling silver or pewter bowl filled with red and green apples (consider having one or two of the apples "spill" out of the bowl and onto the table). I like to take it a step further and sugar the apples to give them an added bit of sparkle. To sugar the apples (or any other fruit), coat them with egg white and roll them in sugar. And don't worry if they don't come out perfectly even - then you know they're real!

Anne: Instead of peppermint sticks on the outside of the vase, I use cranberries on the inside! I take several clear vases in varying heights and sizes and stuff the bottom with a bit of oasis (Oasis is the green Styrofoam-like material that holds flowers and water in place.). Then I arrange off-white roses with either reddish or pinkish tips by securing them firmly into the oasis. And finally, I add fresh cranberries all the way to the top, completely surrounding the stems (followed by water to the top to keep everything fresh). They are really stunning, especially when arranged in a grouping.

I also have a variation of Donna's fresh apple arrangement, too. I like to display alternating red and green apples on a baguette tray. To further embellish the apples, I carefully carve out the tops of the apples and add votive candles that fit snugly inside the apple and provide a perfect candlelight glow! And when I have a few extra minutes, I even sugar the apples after they have been carved out. I have even been known to place red or green apples with long taper candles in each of my front windows rather than the standard "electrified" candlestick (When you intend to use candles in the apples, slice a small section off the bottom of the apple to make sure that it stands upright and doesn't wobble over.).

Donna: And finally: designers and their newest collections. The long anticipated Thomas O'Brien Vintage Modern Collection was recently unveiled by Target. Anne and I have both been following the career of this renowned interior designer (turned retailer, turned furniture designer!) for several years. The resulting Vintage Modern collection (including furniture, bedding, and wide variety of home decor) is a wow!

Anne: Another hot designer that recently introduced his first collection is Nate Burkus. We all know and love Nate from the Oprah show! His popularity was so overwhelming that he leveraged it into a new collection for Linens 'N Things. His collection includes bedding, bath, tabletop, home decor, window treatments, lighting and gifts. They all remain true to his clean, uncluttered and fresh style, and they're totally affordable.

Donna: We would love to hear your comments, ideas or questions. E-mail us at
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