December in New York City is known for its sweeping garlands, grand displays, twinkling lights dotting the iconic tree-lined streets, and of course, show-stopping window displays. How do New Yorkers capture the glamour and wonderment in their own festive décor? Enter, Garrow Kedigian. The New Yorker-at-heart by way of Canada and holiday season lover chats with GDG about the elements that make up a quintessential New York holiday look and how to bring it into your home for the holidays.

Holly Speck: What are your first steps when decorating for the holidays?

Garrow Kedigian: I like to ease my way into the holidays, starting with a few things and then layering as I go. I usually start with a few paper whites in a bowl with river rocks; and the wreath for my front door, which is always a loose organic garland, and a giant red Christmas ball decoration that fills the center doughnut hole of the wreath! 

My favorite part of decorating is preparing for the tree. A few days before I get the tree, I pull out the antique Guestavian urn base that I’ve used as a tree base for a decade or so and place it in the corner of my dining room in anticipation of getting the tree. Seeing it makes me smile and think about the upcoming holiday, and puts me in the mood. Then I canvas the neighborhood visiting all the Christmas tree stands within a 20-block radius to find the perfect tree. I have limited space, so I always shoot for tall and skinny!

HS: Is there a quintessential NYC quality that you incorporate in your holiday décor? 

GK: Yes, quintessentially my holiday decorating starts around Halloween when I go to Central Park and collect colorful leaves and pine cones that become the bed for my pumpkin and jack-o’-lantern display. After Halloween, the pumpkins are replaced with gourds for thanksgiving. Then the leaves and gourds come out and the pinecones stay for the Christmas display.

HS: How would you describe the holiday season in NYC?

GK: Magical! I always say the stretch between Labor Day and Christmas is my favorite time of year in New York – the decorations are gorgeous, the Christmas lights with all the city lights are amazing, and I especially enjoy all the window displays in all the high-end shops along Madison Avenue!

There is always a magical feeling hanging in the air, especially when you stroll up Park Ave. and see the Central Mall lit up with all the Christmas trees. The weather is always cooperative too, with a light dusting of snow sometime in the weeks leading up to the holidays. It never stays and only teases the imagination for the nostalgic ‘White Christmas.’

HS: Is there one piece of the holidays that you incorporate in all of your spirited designs? 

GK: Yes- RED! I love to use red, and it’s such a Christmas color. I usually sprinkle it throughout the year on most of my projects whether it is an accent in the back of a bookcase or a bold wall color statement. Red always carries with it the exuberance and cheer of the holiday season.

HS: What is the biggest difficulty with holiday decoration?

GK: I love inviting a close group of friends to help me decorate my tree. I have a collection of vintage ornaments, which I have collected from various flea markets and venues. Most of my decorations were snagged for a tremendous deal because it was some hot July afternoon in the Paris flea market, when no one else was thinking about Christmas decorations. The most fun for me is the week leading up to Christmas. When all the holiday cards and gifts are done and you can sip a cup of hot cocoa at night while using the Christmas tree as the main source of ambient lighting.

HS: How do you get into the ‘holiday spirit’? 

GK: I love listening to classical music and throughout the year I constantly have on the radio tuned to WQXR which I love, but during Christmas they have a special holiday channel which features choral music and all other classical holiday tunes. I start listening to the holiday channel just after Thanksgiving and it puts me squarely in the holiday spirit immediately.

HS: Do you keep it traditional or mix-up festive color choices and pieces? 

GK: Mostly traditional, but I have been known to throw in some red tulips some years when I haven’t been happy with the selections of poinsettias at the local floral shop.

HS: Favorite Holiday Beverage? 

GK: Bailey’s Irish cream.

HS: Favorite Holiday Food? 

GK: I actually love Italian fruitcake. I know it’s a cliché for most as a holiday ‘regift’, but I’m always thrilled to receive one! That with English breakfast tea is the crowning glory of eating season!

HS: Funniest Holiday Memory?

GK: When I was three years old, I told my brother who was five how I couldn’t believe Santa Clause could ever even deliver to all the houses on our block in a week rather than the whole world in just one night. Then my father dressed as Santa Clause came in and told me I would be on the ‘bad list’ if I didn’t believe, so I told him ‘no problem- I’m a believer now!’

HS: Tip for surviving the stress of the holidays/in-laws? 

GK: Stock up on lots of champagne and wine. Though I don’t like to drink much, I like to keep my family members inebriated, as it seems to keep them in better spirits and off critical topics!