Antiques dealer and consummate host Nate Turner swaps red and green for wintry neutrals, creating elegant-organic holiday decorations and a meal to match.
photographs by Miguel Flores Vianna
text by Heather Wagner
a subtle theme
Taking a cue from his home’s rustic decor, Turner put together a holiday fete in tones and shapes from snow-season nature. He made his own festive artwork (a couple of large-scale brown-and-white reindeer silhouettes that quietly signal a celebratory vibe), used antlers and gnarly wood in tablescapes, and added in urns full of lush Japanese pine boughs for greenery. As with the visuals, Turner crafted a menu to suit the space: a beautiful and delicious dinner in the palest of palettes. Striking displays of food and drinks, such as the dessert table (above), were as integral to the effect as the purely ornamental elements—and in the understated surroundings, read like art.
Turner made this. You can too!
Choose a simple motif from nature that’s easy to
abstract. Turner’s pick was a reindeer, but he says
any organic graphic element will work—a
snowflake, a pinecone, a winter birch. He used a
tracing projector to transfer the image to canvas,
then outlined the shape in pencil and painted the
background. With a homemade stencil and a
marker, he decorated place cards, menus and jam
jars (containerstore.com has jars; cards and labels
are at paperpresentation.com). You can keep your
theme interesting by chopping up the
main image, as Turner did (left).
Feathery boughs arranged in a pot and elevated to ceiling height stand in for the usual tree.
Turner prepared an entire meal, from potato-leek soup and almond-crusted halibut to coconut snowballs, but even if you do only white desserts and cocktails, you can create drama. Fresh eggnog with floating meringue is simpler than it seems. The drink calls for a dozen egg yolks. Save your whites, then whip with sugar, almond extract and vanilla into meringue peaks. Fairy-dusted fruit (for show, not eating) introduces brighter tones without breaking the no-color rule completely. To prevent a monochrome spread from looking
too austere, Turner says, add hits of green in garnish or a side
dish. You can also amp up the warmth by leaving a dark-wood
dinner table uncovered.
Roll fruit in egg whites, then sugar, for this frosted effect.
dollops of meringue.