Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sarah Richardson's Ideas for Celebrating Christmas in the City

I adore Sarah Richardson's decorating and have written about it frequently. I spent some time recently reading articles and watching interviews and holiday shows to find out how she decorates for Christmas.  I was curious to know what ideas the very stylish Sarah uses that might inspire us as well. 

Sarah and her husband and two daughters sometimes spend Christmas at their home in Toronto and sometimes at their farmhouse in the country.  Sarah is a firm believer in decorating to suit your location. Today we will look at her tips and tricks for Christmas in the city and in my next post (which you can read here) we look at Christmas in the country.


Sarah definitely keeps it simple.  She decorates the tree, adds a few decorations to the mantel, puts fresh flowers on the table, and calls it done.  She does not decorate the entire house.

Hello! Canada, January 2008, via Sarah Richardson Design

The Globe and Mail 2011

Apart from the two silver conical Christmas trees on a chest in the back corner of the room, you almost wouldn't know her dining room was decorated for Christmas.

Hello! Canada, January 2008, via Sarah Richardson Design


The square wreaths on the front door add a modern touch to all the natural elements like the wood pile and evergreen boughs in the planters.

Canadian House and Home


Decorating in the city definitely lends itself to using a little more sparkle, reflective surfaces, and mirrors.  Some of Sarah's favourite ornaments are the clear glass ones with a bit of frosting that she purchased years ago from a discount store.  

The Globe and Mail

One of the more unusual items Sarah uses in decorating for Christmas are feather boas.  She used one wrapped around an LED wreath on the front of her house.

And she used feather boas as a series of wreaths on the wall and as garlands on the stairs and the fireplace in this Design Inc Season 3 Holiday episode.


Sarah doesn't like to decorate with the traditional Christmas colours of red or green.  Instead she selects colours that suit the location.  According to Sarah, decorating in the city calls for bold, vivid colours.  She embrace unconventional colours like hot pink, orange, turquoise, and apple green.



The Globe and Mail

Sarah's Christmas tree of choice is a Fraser fir (similar to a Balsalm fir) which has short soft needles.  She always gets a real tree and one that is as big as possible.  She does not usually use a tree topper mostly because there isn't room for one, but also because she hasn't found one she loves. Sarah also believes in using tons of white lights on the tree.  She takes on the job of putting the lights on the tree and makes sure to put lights close to the trunk and around the back of the tree.  Sarah and her husband decorate the tree while drinking champagne and listening to the Messiah.

For Sarah, once the house is decorated it is time to open the doors and entertain family and friends.  Every year Sarah and her husband throw a Christmas party for over 200 people.  The key to entertaining, according to Sarah, is to create warmth - light up the tree, group candles together to set the mood, and turn on the music.


Sarah likes to look at each place setting as a party outfit for the table.  Try unusual pairings of colours like red and pink, instead of the usual red and green. Mix up the dinnerware by combining antique plates with modern Wedgewood plates.  Add personal touches to the table, such as using a name threaded on the stem of a flower as a place card.

Food and Drink Magazine, 2005 via Sarah Richardson Design


Sarah likes to use white serving dishes as they are classic, inexpensive, go with everything, and make the food look great.  She believes that presentation of the food is important - don't forget colourful garnishes or serving veggies in glassware.  Also, make sure you have something for everyone to eat - from sweet treats to healthy fruit and veggies.


And finally, here are two recipes that Sarah makes for her Christmas party - Pecan Puffs and Spiced Nuts.

Candy and Cakes


1 cup butter
2 tsp. vanilla
4 Tbsp. brown sugar (like Demerara)
2 Cups pecans
2 Cups cake flour, sifted
icing sugar for dusting

1. Add pecans to food processor. Puree until well ground and fine, almost to the consistency of pecan butter.

2. Add butter and brown sugar to food processor and mix until mixture appears frothy.

3. Add vanilla and mix again.

4. Add flour a little at a time, pulsing food processor between additions. Resulting mixture should appear as a thick paste.

5. Chill in the refrigerator for 30-60 minutes until firm, then scoop out small amounts of dough and roll into balls.

6. Place balls on a non-stick baking sheet (they can be close together as the dough does not expand much when cooking).

7. Bake at 300 degrees for about 35 - 45 minutes, depending on the size of balls. Remove from oven when slightly golden on the outside.

8. Transfer carefully to a cooling rack while still warm (best to use your fingers so you don’t crush the cookies with a spatula), then use a flour sifter to dust icing sugar over the top of the cookies while warm. Allow to cool completely, and dust again.

Canadian House and Home

1. Preheat oven to 350F

2. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, and 1/4 cup cane sugar (like Demerara) in a pan over low-medium heat.

3.  Sprinkle in 1 teaspoon each of cumin, paprika, cayenne, and salt.  Mix well.

4.  Add 1 cup each of almonds and pecans, stirring to coat.  Cook until mixture becomes sticky (at least 5 minutes).

5.  Turn nuts out onto a baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until crunchy.  Let cool and serve at room temperature.

Chatelaine Holiday 2008 via Sarah Richardson Design

I love the simplicity of Sarah's decorating for Christmas in the city - it is about the sparkle, the unexpected, bolder colours, the tree, and time with family and friends.  What a great combination!

Linked to Weekend Bloggy Reading at Serenity Now


  1. I love her style as well. Last year I tried her spiced nuts recipe which apparently she serves at her Christmas party. It was really good! It is on my list again this year.

  2. There are some great ideas on here. I like simplicity too. I especially like the boa/LED wreath and how the vintage tart tins were used.

  3. Sarah is Da Bomb! LOVE her. These are great ideas. I love the brighter version of the traditional colors, like really bright raspberry and lime green. Sarah's using a lot of lime, too! :D

    These ideas are fantastic! I like the place card on the flower stem. So sweet and unexpected for Christmas!


  4. Sarah is the best! Love her style. And those green lit decorated urns? To die for :)

  5. OMG, Gracie, my mouth is watering with all these delicious recipes. I am definitely a City girl (with a capital "C"), but I do like traditional decorations used sparingly. That way, you can enjoy each carefully chosen piece. The eye can only take in so much.

    Great post, as usual.

    Cheers, M-T

  6. OMG, Gracie, my mouth is watering with all these delicious recipes. I am definitely a City girl (with a capital "C"), but I do like traditional decorations used sparingly. That way, you can enjoy each carefully chosen piece. The eye can only take in so much.

    Great post, as usual.

    Cheers, M-T