A Real Baby in the Swedish Nursery

First-year decorating volunteers Susan Morettini and daughter Emily Noel decorated the mansion’s nursery, and they did a marvelous job! The two were tasked with decorating this room with a Swedish theme. They found their inspiration by researching the Christmas traditions of the Swedes, talking to Swedish friends and checking Internet sources.  Friends Elisabeth Lavers, Pam Meyer, and Susan Rood graciously loaned Blithewold some of their Swedish Christmas decorations. The final result was a room beautifully filled with handmade ornaments and origami crafts. A small Christmas tree was carefully decorated with Dala horses and traditional Christmas goats. Lia, an 8-year-old that Susan nannies for, showed her how to make woven Swedish hearts to hang on the tree, giving the room a real child’s touch. “This piece was my favorite. It really highlighted the room,” Susan said.

As if this first-year decorating team didn’t already have enough to plan and execute, Emily gave birth to a baby girl, Christine, during the first week of decorating! Warm congratulations to Emily and her family! Although an occasion for joyous celebration, it did, as you can imagine, create a little extra chaos, coming at such a busy time. But it all worked out, and the room has a special ambiance—a baby being born while it was being made ready for the holiday season. The completed room is all ready for a child’s Christmas.

For more progress on Blithewold’s holiday transformation check out our Facebook page and Twitter. To see more photographs of Christmas at Blithewold please visit our Flickr and Pinterest!

Warmest Regards,

Caitlin Galeotti
Roger Williams University 2014
Blithewold Communications Intern

THE Big Tree

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Decorating volunteers making the tree dazzle

Blithewold is officially back open for the season, warmly inviting visitors to tour the Mansion and grounds all beautifully decorated in the theme of A Grand Tour of Europe. And one of the favorite attractions every year is the big tree that goes up every year, the glory of which is made possible by the hard work and dedication of decorating volunteer Joanne Murrman and her willing helpers.

Joanne, a seven-year decorating veteran, looks forward to the challenge of creating new ideas and combinations of colors for the tree, all to the end of wowing visitors. This year, Joanne was inspired by one of the decorating elements in the mansion. “This year I drew inspiration from the embossed ribbon that reflected the design as the red flecked wallpaper on the second floor.”

 

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Reds and golds dominate the tree this year

Joanne bravely balanced on narrow wood planks high above the mansion’s floor, getting all the way to the very top of the tree near the ceiling. She was determined to make every last inch of the tree dazzle with magnificent ornaments and other unique decorations. To many decorating volunteers, getting to the high places was one of the biggest challenges they faced, but when Joanne was asked what problems she had, her answer was simple: “None.” Spectacular!

Joanne says that one of her favorite parts of working on the tree is organizing her volunteer helpers (who have been with her for 3 years) then getting together with them to design and fabricate the decorations. And she loves strolling through the Mansion to see how the other volunteers’ interpretations of the main theme reflect their own style and tastes.

For more progress on Blithewold’s holiday transformation check out our Facebook page and Twitter. To see more photographs of Christmas at Blithewold please visit our Flickr and Pinterest!

Warmest Regards,

Caitlin Galeotti
Roger Williams University 2014
Blithewold Communications Intern

Teatime in England

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Dainty tea pots placed carefully on set tables

The decorating of Marjorie’s Bedroom in the Mansion, which has an English theme  for Christmas at Blithewold’s “A Grand Tour of Europe,” fell to Betty Durfee, a sixth-year decorating volunteer, who teamed up with volunteer Nancy Scott. The women went searching through the Blithewold Archives to come up with ideas for the room décor. “I referenced Marjorie’s letters from England in which she described her visits to tea shops most enthusiastically, hence the tea shop theme,” shared Betty.

Teapots, flowers, and garland on the mantle

Her favorite part about Marjorie’s room is the mantle, where she tied all the room’s decorations together. She and Nancy intertwined thick strands of garland with delicate pink flowers along the length of the mantle. Beautiful teapots stand out against the green and pink. To match the mantle, the room is filled with small tea tables with dainty tea sets placed on them, adding a truly magnificent touch.  Betty’s least favorite part about the room decorating, on the other hand, were the five tall windows. She explained that it can be extremely difficult to get greens over them. But don’t worry… the dedicated team got it done!

Betty confessed, “I don’t know exactly why I do it… but, I just lovethe beautiful spirit of Christmas and it is a joy to be a part of something so lovely to start the season.”

Window, beautifully draped with garland and decor

For more progress on Blithewold’s holiday transformation, check out our Facebook page and Twitter. To see more photographs of Christmas at Blithewold, please visit our Flickr and Pinterest!

Warmest Regards,

Caitlin Galeotti
Roger Williams University 2014
Blithewold Communications Intern

A Blue and White Swedish Christmas

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The view of the bay from the beautifully decorated loggia

When Nancy Rosner learned that this year’s Blithewold Christmas theme was A Grand Tour of Europe, she drew inspiration for her “Christmas in Sweden” theme in the loggia from the colors Sweden is known for. She searched Sweden-themed websites for the ideas she needed to pull the loggia together into a perfect Swedish Christmas look. She is using the colors of blue and white and crystal for a lovely clean and bright Scandinavian look. The challenge for Nancy has been to use items already available to her and not spending too much money—a challenge for most of our decorating volunteers!

Touches of blue, white, and crystal are featured

A fifth-year decorating veteran, Nancy keeps coming back  because she loves the delight of holiday visitors who come to experience the joy of the Mansion arrayed in all its Christmas finery for the very special Christmas at Blithewold season. Not only does she enjoy getting creative but envisioning how the final product will come together is a reward in itself.

Beautifully wrapped Christmas gifts under a beautifully decorated tree

Nancy has decorated not just one, but two areas in the Mansion. She told us that one of her most memorable Blithewold Christmas seasons was her first year, when she helped Mary Brown decorate the Master Bedroom. The theme that year was Merry Woods and their colors were copper and teal. The final result, for which the women used some of their own decorations as well as Blithewold’s, was absolutely delightful, which gave both women a great deal of satisfaction. Now, bringing in decorating pieces from your own homes sounds like some serious volunteer dedication to me!

For more progress on Blithewold’s holiday transformation check out our Facebook page and Twitter. To see more photographs of Christmas at Blithewold please visit our Flickr and Pinterest!

Warmest Regards,

Caitlin Galeotti
Roger Williams University 2014
Blithewold Communications Intern

“I Simply Love It”

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Blithewold’s living room tree decorated with ribbon, ornaments, crosses, and bunches of grapes

I simply love it,” was Jane Hennessey, fifth year decorating volunteer’s response to why she keeps coming back to help prepare Blithewold for Christmas at Blithewold every year. Jane and her best friend, Debbie Brown, were tasked with decorating Blithewold’s living room in the theme of Italy.

Once the team learned of their theme, they started getting creative by stemming off of the country and it’s culture. They know their theme all year and explained it’s always in the back of their head so ideas will come to them every so often. In fact, planning all year for the room is one of Jane’s favorite parts about the decorating process. She explained how exciting it is for the women work so hard and then get to see the finished product at the end.

The living room is one of the larger rooms that is decorated for Christmas. There is a lot of ground to cover. The mantle and tree are Jane’s favorite part to decorate. She feels these two pieces in the room really tie the whole thing together. The tree was strung with beautiful lights and decorations, including bunches of grapes, representing Italy. Under the tree were beautifully wrapped Christmas presents with Italian flags tied as ribbon. So creative!

Presents under the tree, wrapped with ribbon and tiny Italian flags

With the time and effort of decorating comes defeating challenges, big and small. This year, Jane said some of the garland was missing lights and it can be extremely tricky to reach tall places because the room has such high ceilings. The light bulbs in the garland were quickly replaced and the team was successful in reaching even the highest points of the room, leaving no space un-decorated. That’s dedication!

For more progress on Blithewold’s holiday transformation check out our Facebook page and Twitter. To see more photographs of Christmas at Blithewold please visit our Flickr and Pinterest!

Warmest Regards,

Caitlin Galeotti
Roger Williams University 2014
Blithewold Communications Intern

Decadent Decorations Dominate the Staircase

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Decadent decorations in front of the big window behind the staircase

Although Hurricane Sandy struck Rhode Island last Sunday-Monday evening, Blithewold’s dedicated decorators were back in action Wednesday, pushing forward with their decorating mission. While walking through the mansion I was able to speak with a few of the decorators and take a sneak peak of their progress. Beautiful!

I was fortunate enough to speak with a second-year decorating volunteer, Julie Martin. Julie and her partner, Robert Costa are responsible for decorating the staircase with a

Julie’s window pane of hand drawn Paris, France sketches

theme of Paris, France. Julie explained that once they found out the staircase’s country was France, the team knew they wanted their decorations to be extremely “decadent” and lavish, representing the elegant night-club era of postwar Paris. They did through a color theme of black and silver with bold pops of red, Julie’s personal favorite touch.

In addition to decorating the staircase, the duo is responsible for decorating the big window behind it. Julie was enthusiastic about this area because it gave her and Robert even more space to get creative with. Because the team has such a unique space to decorate, I asked what challenges they faced this year. Julie explained, “It can be challenging to reach all of the high places near the ceiling above the window.” This didn’t stop the team, though. They hung beautiful rows of garland, strung with lights.

Closer view of Julie’s hand drawn sketches of Paris, France

Julie, an artist, shared that last year was her first year decorating for Christmas at Blithewold Mansion. She came back this year because she loved her experience last year and how creative it allowed her to get. Julie’s traveled to Paris before and has the most beautiful sketches from her trip. When she learned of her assigned theme, she fed off the ideas behind her personal sketches until the staircase evolved into a masterpiece. Julie’s sketches can be seen in a handmade window pane on display at the bottom entrance of the staircase.

For more progress on Blithewold’s holiday transformation check out our Facebook page and Twitter. To see more photographs of Christmas at Blithewold please visit our Flickr and Pinterest!

Warmest Regards,

Caitlin Galeotti
Roger Williams University ’14
Blithewold Communications Intern

Christmas at Blithewold 2012: “A Grand Tour of Europe”

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Can you believe winter is just around the corner? We can—because it’s that time of year again… Christmas at Blithewold! I know what you’re thinking … so soon? It’s never too soon for Christmas, so we want to give you an exclusive sneak peek at what’s been going on at the Mansion since we closed in October. Our very merry volunteers, who  have been planning all year,  have already begun swarming the mansion, armed with a variety of beautiful hand-crafted and glistening ornaments and decorative embellishments to transform each room.

This year’s Christmas theme at Blithewold is “A Grand Tour of Europe,” celebrating Marjorie Van Wickle’s love of European travel. From Paris to Italy to England, and many places in between, each room will display a feel of a country that Marjorie Van Wickle loved  to visit, again and again. As visitors stroll through the Mansion they will be taken on a Grand Tour of Europe, circa 1903! Our volunteers have used their creativity (and lots of exquisite decorations) to give each room the feel of a different country on the Tour.

To learn more about each country Marjorie traveled to please visit Notes from the Blithewold Archive Blog by Blithewold’s curator, Margaret Whitehead, author of Blithewold: Legacy of an American Family. There you can view photographs and read letters and journal entries that let you travel with Marjorie, post-by-post. And you’ll learn about Marjorie’s uniqueness for her time. For example, did you know it was uncommon for girls of Marjorie’s age to take extended tours tours of Europe at the time? Faced with the more common debutante season, Marjorie instead requested a “Grand Tour.” Marjorie returned home eleven months later a wiser young woman, with a lifelong devotion to European travel, music, and art. (And a taste for uncommon adventure that later took her to the wilds of Canada and the American West.)

Our creative decorating team began its work in the Mansion the day after Columbus Day, with final touches to be completed by Thanksgiving. And our Christmas at Blithewold season will begin on November 23.  Come feel the magic of Christmas at Blithewold. There will be fun and informal afternoon teas, a Santa Sing-Along, joyous musical performances, and even creative workshops available for both children and adults. The possibilities for fun are endless! For a full list of programs to get you into the holiday spirit with us at Blithewold this year, please visit our events page.

Below is a full list of our dedicated and AMAZING volunteer team along with their room and country they are decorating for this season! And don’t forget about the BIG tree:

  • Debbie Brown and Jane Hennessey: Living Room, Italy
  • Jena Pugliese, Krista Butler, Jamie Sherwood, Kim Vanek : Billiard Room, Scotland
  • Joanne Murrman: Big Tree
  • Pam Degen and Evelyn Monea, Mary Lou Santos & Kay Healy: Dining Room, Paris, France
  • Pam Cartier: Butler’s Pantry, Germany
  • Julie Martin and Robert Costa: Staircase, Paris, France
  • Nancy Rosner,  Loggia, Sweden
  • Mary Ellen Dwyer: Augustine’s Room, Norway
  • Sue Morettini: Nursery, Sweden
  • Mary Brown: Master Bedroom, The Netherlands
  • Betty Durfee and Nancy Scott: Marjorie’s Bedroom, An English Tea Room
  • Peggy Mello: Estelle’s Bedroom, Dresden, Germany
  • Lynne DaRos, Michele Gildea: Sewing Room, England
  • Margaret Whitehead, Gioia Browne, and Crystal Brinson: Exhibit Area, Collection Pieces from Rome and Paris

Starting now, I will be posting weekly with all decorating progress. Make sure to check back! This is something you won’t want to miss out on. Come join us at Blithewold Mansion where the mansion and the grounds are beautifully decorated, for the Christmas season, which begins here on November 23rd.

For more progress on Blithewold’s holiday transformation check out our Facebook page and Twitter. To see more photographs of Christmas at Blithewold please visit our Flickr and Pinterest!

Warmest Regards,

Caitlin Galeotti
Roger Williams University ’14
Blithewold Communications Intern

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