This story appeared in Serendipity Magazine’s October/November 2020 issue, and we’re excited to share it with our readers on Food52.
“Mom is a trailblazer,” says Andrea Sinkin, president of Andrea Sinkin Design in Greenwich, CT, of her mother, Beverly, an interior designer for more than 40 years. “She is very modest and keeps no social media profile, but with her book of business, her name speaks for itself, so it’s not needed.” And Beverly, who is at the helm of Beverly Sinkin Design, has spent decades honing her style as she designed estates, hospitals and NYC office spaces.
That includes her holiday décor style. “Since I am an interior designer, I of course love decorating,” says Beverly, who has lived in her home in Nissequogue, NY, on Long Island, for more than 20 years. “As I get older, I find that I sometimes feel overwhelmed when we first start pulling out boxes of décor, but as I start, I find it challenging and fun. I just love when I come across something that I had forgotten—it is like a new gift.” As we head into the holiday season, she talks to Serendipity about how she decorates, including tips for decking the halls in your own home.
To get inspired, Beverly starts by pulling photos from magazines and catalogs. “I circle the thing I like about the picture, maybe the ribbon on the tree or table decorations,” she says. “Then, I build on it and do my own thing.” Buying something new can help spark your inspiration, but be sure to donate or store some of your other items so you’re not overwhelmed, she advises. “All of our decorations are a combination of old and new,” she says. That includes a collection of angels her mother used to buy for her, plus a few from friends. “Some have been broken and glued back together over the years, but I love them just the same,” explains Beverly. “I have too many to display them all, so some stay in the box,” she says. “I always feel a little guilty, but I know I will bring them out the next year.”
Trimming the Tree
For many families, the Christmas tree often takes center stage, and Beverly’s tree is no exception. Hers has a fun twist though: The tree sits in the corner of the living room, with one side facing that room and the other facing the kitchen. “We decorate the living room side with aqua, silver, gold and cream colors and crystals—all very formal,” she explains. “The kitchen side is all colors, with red plaid ribbon.” The ornaments on that side were made or given to her by her children and grandchildren, with some from her own childhood. “This side is such a joy as we unwrap each memory and I wonder where the years have gone,” she says.
Setting the Table
When it comes to creating a beautiful tablescape, Beverly starts in the middle with greenery. From there, she’ll include candle sticks (with only cream, white or gold candles), ornaments, ribbons and more. “It is different every year. Sometimes I use small cut crystal holders for tea candles,” she says. Other favorites throughout the house include angels, which she says are “tucked in everywhere” and a snow baby collection, which is displayed on the powder room sink. “Guests can really take them in,” she says. “Each one is very different—the tiny ones are my favorite.”
Embrace what you love
As far as decorating goes, Andrea Sinkin says, “it needs to be about you and your family, not about what you think it should be,” she says. For example, if you love bright pink, then why not a bright pink tree? “Our first tree was a white tree with rainbow lights and filled with unicorns and disco balls and flamingos—all my favorite things,” says Andrea. And while that tree now lives in her daughter’s room, the family’s current tree is just as fun. She describes it as “a fake snow-covered tree covered in black and white striped ribbons, hundreds of disco balls, black and white feathers and rainbow glittery ornaments—it speaks to us as a family.”
Stay organized, start slowly:
“Don’t drag everything out at once—it can be overwhelming and discouraging,” says Beverly. And pick a room to keep all the décor in and then decorate that room last. Then, when it is time to take it all down, keep it organized. “Label each box for the room or place it will go: Tree, mantle, table décor,” advises Beverly. “Treasure the old handmade ornaments and label the year and the person who gave it to you. You think you will remember, but that is not always the case.”
Don’t be afraid of a pre-lit tree
Though Beverly used to buy live Fraser fir trees, she switched to faux pre-lit a few years ago. “Pre-lit is a dream,” she says. “The branches don’t sag and can be bent into place—not to mention no fire hazard.” And when it comes to decorating your tree, add a few presents underneath. “Nicely wrapped packages under the tree enhance the entire room,” she explains.
Make it a family affair
“I always recruit family members to help me get started,” says Beverly of decorating the tree. That includes her husband, who brings the tree down and sets it up, as well as her children, grandchildren and cousins. “Hanging 20 gold balls can be monotonous, but it is such fun when we all do it together.”