Enchanted

Photographer: 
Erica George Dines
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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.

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