During the holidays, you’re apt to find Benjie Jones’ dining room table decked out like a white winter wonderland. “I love snow and winter, so I do a snow theme on my table. In terms of color, it doesn’t box you in in any way” he says. “There’s always a live tree on the table, which keeps me from having to have fresh flowers all the time. There’s a practicality to a lot of my decor; I like things that you can put up early and not worry about. I even sprinkle artificial snow on the table, which is one of the kitchy things from the ’60s that still looks good.”
In the kitchen, a pair of iron urns are planted with live trees while shiny silver ornaments suspended from the ceiling fan and a bowl of fresh apples add festive touches of their own.
Viewable from the living room, the Christmas tree annually takes its place in the foyer. “A special spot for the tree is always good,” says Jones. “I remember, as a child, we decided we’d move the Christmas tree one year, and put it in a different corner. Even though it was pretty, it just wasn’t the same! The next year, it was back in its previous place. This is the perfect spot for my tree; it will never move anywhere else.”
“I like a little bit of nostalgia at Christmas, but the decorations should enhance your house, not overpower it,” says Jones. That philosophy plays out beautifully in the living room, where subtle sprigs of evergreen leftover trimmings found at Christmas tree lots are tucked behind paintings. Adding to the drama is the abundance of black used here and throughout the house, spectacular against the seasonal infusion of reds and greens.
Even the guest room gets a holiday touch, in measured amounts, of course.
In the master bedroom, a square wreath echoes the lines of the custom bed; there’s intentionally no bow because, says Jones, “it’s so sculptural and so artistic the way it is.”
A Mexican wood-carved Santa Claus adds a holiday touch to the master bath as do a pair of small wreaths on the black shower doors, made to match the home’s shutters.
A live tree atop the Ralph Lauren cocktail table in this bedroom’s sitting spot is all the ornamentation that’s needed.
“I love the yin and yang of something totally expensive next to something that you could find anywhere,” says the designer. “The combination of the two is what makes the style interesting.”
“I have ornaments on my tree that people gave me when I graduated from college and had my first tree,” says Jones. “As I’ve moved from place to place, the tree might be a little more formal, a little more country or a little more primitive, but those [first] ornaments always go on the tree.”
“I never have liked the idea of destroying a mantel just to put a wreath on it,” says Jones, referring to his own living room mantel, decked out with nothing more than a couple of stockings and a holiday card-studded mirror. Paintings hung gallery-style are a mix of fine art and flea market finds.
The color scheme for Jones’ everyday decor started with this treasured Oriental rug. The floor covering inspired the home’s pale blue walls, the jet black trim and touches of red, not only at Christmas but throughout the year.
A trio of wreaths at Jones’ front door multiplies the dramatic impact.
Against a robin’s egg-blue backdrop, an orderly array of kitchenwares is just as pretty as it is practical.
For designer Benjie Jones, Christmas has always been special. It was inevitable, perhaps, given his
father was a retailer who sold, among other things, toys. As soon as he was old enough, Jones readily jumped right into the season’s fray. “From the age of 12 through high school, I helped out at the store,” he recalls. “And, I had a very creative mother who loved the season. Our house was always pretty festive.”
Those holiday memories have translated beautifully into Jones’ own Virginia-Highland home, where there’s a seasonal touch, however subtle, in every room. The Christmas tree stands sentry in the foyer, clearly visible from the living room, while the dining room table is decked out like a white winter wonderland—artificial snow and all.
What’s refreshing, though, is how the designer takes his holiday decor to an unexpected level. There are live trees in the kitchen, wreaths and a tall wooden Santa in the master bedroom and bath, greenery tucked behind paintings everywhere. In the guest room, there’s even a tabletop tree from the ’60s that Jones spray-painted black. “It looks like a tree from a forest that burned down, but it’s a beautiful, sculptural piece. It looks like it was made for this house,” he says, referring to the abundance of black used throughout the residence.
One of the reasons it all works so well is because Jones applies his everyday decorating philosophy to his Christmas decorations, too. “Albert Hadley once said ‘once you hone in on your own aesthetic, everything you buy goes together.’ I’ve certainly found that to be true through the years,” says the self-described collector. “As a designer, I like yin and yang. I grew up in the ’60s and ’70s. The Williamsburg era took over in the ’70s, when Christmas decorations were beautifully and tastefully done; my mother was a big proponent of that and I guess I still am, too. But there are some things from the ’50s and ’60s that are fun—Santas, reindeer and such. I try to mix things up by using a little of each era. I don’t think you ever want to lose the fun of Christmas and make it too serious.”
No matter what your aesthetic, Jones stands firm on one thing: Christmas decorations should enhance your house, not overpower it. “You don’t want to take everything out of a room to bring Christmas in. I never have liked the idea of destroying a mantel just to put a wreath on it; just add something to the mantel that makes it Christmas-y. It may be that wreath, but don’t ruin your whole decor to put it there.”
Editing, after all, is what good design is all about.