Decorate like a Pro: Greenwich Interior Designer Charlotte Barnes

Editor’s Note: In honor of the holiday season and our love of decking the halls to the nines, we’ve tapped three of our favorite Fairfield County interior designers to share how they decorate and entertain for the holiday season.

For our first “designer decorator,” we’re talking to renowned Greenwich interior designer Charlotte Barnes, who also owns a gorgeous shop of the same name. Charlotte is known for an impeccable, classic style with a contemporary edge (which just so happened to be flawless enough to get her inducted into the New England Design Hall of Fame this year). Here, she’s sharing her favorite holiday traditions, her decorating faux pas, and the tips to keeping festive decor chic and sophisticated. Take it away, Charlotte!

greenwich interior designers
As a designer, what’s your approach to decorating your home for the holidays?
Like my approach to decorating in general, I am all about the mix. The hashtag #traditonalbutnot sums up my approach to holiday décor perfectly. I treasure the ornaments my children made out of paper plates as well as the ornaments and holiday décor that I have been collecting since first starting out with my own tree in my first house. Every piece has a story or happy memory! But tradition really shines in the mix — I empty all the boxes and then chose whatever combination I am feeling at the moment. This makes each tree feel rooted in tradition, but newly inspired. I love a touch of sparkle so vintage mercury glass and glitter accessories can be found in different places around the house each year, keeping it fresh and full of surprises!

Do you stick to the same decor scheme each year or do you have a tendency to switch it up?
I always switch it up, gathering inspiration throughout the year. It’s easy (and understandable) to replicate the same pretty holiday décor every season; in fact there is a lot of pressure to do just that. But for me, the fun is found in looking at all the options and creating something new each year. I feel refreshed and rejuvenated by it!

charlotte barnes home
Charlotte’s home on a cozy winter evening.

What is one thing you always incorporate into your holiday decor?
I have a beautiful Chinese blue and white antique pot that the living room tree goes into every year. I never vary from that tradition and I love mixing in some blue and white during the holiday season!

When do you start decorating? Are you one of those people who can’t wait to get out the decorations as soon as November 1 rolls around or are you more of a last-minute type?
Being a designer, I know what a difference holiday décor can make. I try to get going with all the decorating right after Thanksgiving, and then we do the tree, all together as a family, (the weekend after.) Like everything – it’s a process!

Do you have any holiday decor pet peeves or faux pas?
I am one of those people who still likes to do it myself. For me, it’s part of getting in the holiday spirit. There is no better feeling than when it is all done and you sit back and take in the smell of pine and the beautiful colors. The memories of past Christmas’ come flooding back and there’s a wonderful sense of anticipation; a feeling of, Ahh, my Christmas home is ready and I had the satisfaction (and enjoyment) of doing it myself.

charlotte barnes greenwich interior design
Picking out the perfect tree at McArdle’s

What’s your favorite local holiday tradition?
Getting the tree! We bring our blue and white pot and head directly to McArdle’s for the perfect fit.

What about entertaining. What’s the one thing you do to get your home ready for guests?
I love Christmas and I love to entertain! When the house is all done, I love the festive feel of having friends in for drinks or supper, all through the season. Why not? The house always looks and smells so great! I try to keep the fridge stocked with simple but delicious hors d’oeuvre and love nothing more than a supper around the fire of chicken potpies and champagne!

What’s your best tip for decorating a home for the holidays in a way that’s fun, but still sophisticated?
I really believe that the best décor, Christmas or otherwise, never has the feeling of the decorator just having walked out the door. My best tip is EDIT! Less is often more and it is an important part of the process. If you have been collecting for many years, you likely have more than you can use. Adding a new layering element each year — this year I am using magnolia leaf garlands– gives me a starting point and keeps it interesting and fresh.

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