Christmas by the Sea

December 20, 2017

Text by Lynda Simonton    Photography by Paul Johnson

Every year Carey Karlan’s family and friends eagerly await their invitation to her annual Christmas party. The interior designer imagines a new party theme each season and transforms her 1920’s cottage for the holiday. In past years she has featured a Scottish Christmas, literary theme, woodland Christmas, silver and gold and many more. This year Karlan was inspired by her town’s coastal location and created “Christmas at Sea” guided by the premise that “the best ship is a friendship.”

We were fortunate to have Karlan share photos of her antique-filled house decked-out before the guests descended. We can’t help but marvel at her enthusiasm and caring attention to each-and-every detail (her firm is aptly called The Last Detail). What a beautiful gift for her to share with everyone who spends time at her charming home.

Karlan sets the scene at the front door with a simple evergreen wreath spiffed-up with a Nantucket basket overflowing with greenery, oranges spiked with cloves, and red winter berries.

The mantle is festive and unexpected with colorful glass fishing floats, treasure maps from The Dock Shop, and gold garland that mimics the movement of the ocean.

Carey Karlan Christmas by the Sea Mantle

An elegant mirror-topped round table holds chilled vodka and drink accoutrements in the conservatory. Coral purchased from the Fairfield Antique and Design Center is cleverly displayed in a silver champagne bucket dotted with silver ornaments for a little glam.

Carey Karlan Christmas by the Sea Vodka Station

Nowhere is Karlan’s creativity more evident than in the dining room. The luxurious red and white dining table features Manuel Canovas fabric set with red and white china and glassware. The centerpiece is a ‘treasure chest” which is a family heirloom passed down from Karlan’s parents.

Carey Karlan Christmas by the Sea Dining Room

Christmas crackers from Kirby and Company in Darien, Connecticut await each guest.

Carey Karlan Christmas by the Sea Christmas Crackers

Signal flags purchased from Etsy are festooned above the window. Karlan felt that the flags were a tad too bright for her décor, so she softened them in a black tea wash to mellow the color. The large bust on the console gets a new “outfit” every holiday and looks quite dapper this year in naval regalia and a jaunty eye patch. Antique boat models carry precious cargo including ornaments and Santa Claus at the bow.

Carey Karlan Christmas by the Sea Console

Since the number of guests outnumber the seats in the dining room, Karlan puts her coffee table to work. It is set with care so guests at the “kids table” don’t feel left out from the festivities.

Carey Karlan Christmas by the Sea kids table

While the theme of Karlan’s party and holiday décor may change every year, the Christmas tree provides the constant, displaying the family’s vast ornament collection. Karlan claims that she loves the look of a country-style Christmas tree, but for her “it’s all about the sparkle.” This year she layered-in the glass garland from John Derian for even more shimmer and shine.

Carey Karlan Christmas Tree

Carey Karlan is the principal of Last Detail Interior Design based in Darien, Connecticut. Her home was featured in one of the first issues of New England Home Connecticut in the spring of 2010—look carefully and you’ll spot some of the same pieces she put into service for holiday decorating used in completely different ways.







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