Saturday, January 4, 2014

The January House

In the Northeast, we are under a deep freeze with more snow expected.  If one dislikes winter, this one may be particularly distasteful.  I've always been able to find the blessings of winter but this one may challenge me too.  Instead I will focus on my January House, making it snug and warm, and find new ways to bring the light inside.

I think there are distinct differences between the January and February House.  I hope to tell you about my February home next month when one can at last see spring by standing on one's tip toes.  For now the days are short and the nights are long and dark, and spring seems far beyond the frosty moon.

Let there be light

Find a friendly spot to make a candle tray.  If you have a piece of glass, a mirror, or lucky you - a silver tray, set it out with a collection of silver or crystal candlesticks and cream tapers.  Add a silver cup, perhaps a baby's cup filled with white candied almonds or white chocolate chips.  If you have some mercury glass holders, add those to your tray too with small tea candles inside.  Be sure to light your tray each night to ward off the brumal darkness.  Watch the flames flicker and glow and create bewitching shadows upon your walls.

Throw down your throws

Toss fuzzy warm afghans and blankets on footstools, chairs, beds, and the ends of the couch to encourage wanton book reading and napping.  Fold several and layer them on top of a lady's chair in the hallway or in a basket on the floor in the living room.

Simple centerpieces

Decorate your dining table with nothing but thick white candles on a white plate or a fill a crystalline bowl with plump oranges.  Or buy one perfect white orchid plant and let it hold court on a crisp snowy tablecloth.

Go natural

Even though Christmas is behind us, greens still look lovely about the house.  Clip some pine branches and place them in tall vases in the foyer or some other homey nook or cranny.  Keep a basket of pine cones by the fireplace or line them up on top of the mantle.  A bowl of crisp green Granny Smith apples on the coffee table looks inviting in the January home.  The simplicity of nature will becalm you when the wind is howling at the latch.


Now is the time to indulge in those big coffee table books.  Keep them stacked beside your chair or bed and dip into them at night when heavier reading makes you drowsy.  A large book on fashion is nice to leaf through in this quiet season as you contemplate your spring wardrobe. 

Tea and toast

Indulge in tea and toast for the ultimate comfort food on long cold afternoons.  Keep some special teas in the cupboard for variety.  Ditto gourmet jams and honey.

Scented hibernation

Keep the bedroom soothing with clean sheets that smell fresh.  Use a charming pillow spray of lavender which promotes sleep.  Spritz just before your evening toilette and then rest your weary head on fragranced pillows to stir your wintry dreams.

Embrace shawls

Do you have a favorite shawl?  Choose a soft generous pashmina in cream or a pretty pastel and keep it on a hook where you can reach for it as soon as the sun begins to set.  Let it envelope and comfort you even over pajamas.  It never hurts to have another warm layer.

Together we can bear the brunt of this shivery month with style and grace, and even appreciate its wonder and majesty.  If you have any ideas about your January House, please share.  Below are the winter books that will be lulling me to sleep this month:

"Memos, The Vogue Years" - Diana Vreeland's work memos.  "Fashion: The Definitive History of Costume and Design" - Smithsonian edition.  "Women's Work, Embroidery in Colonial Boston" - beautiful history of gorgeous needlework created by the hands of our 18th century sisters.

(Credit:  Henry Alexander (American painter). Lillian Westcott Hale, "Spring Morning")
(google "pillow sprays" for online sources)


  1. I loved this post, as I do all of your writing! I live in the south but am planning a move up north (largely due to my love for cold weather) in the next few months, so I'm sure I'll be referencing these suggestions next year.

    The last book you mentioned caught my eye: have you read Laurel Thatcher Ulrich's books? She writes lovingly detailed histories of everyday women in 17th/18th century New England, and I think either Good Wives or The Age of Homespun would be very much to your liking.

    -Eva (I can't figure out the comment system & how to make it display my name instead of my own blog address. Apologies!)

  2. Eva, you are the second person to recommend Ulrich's books to me recently! I will definitely put them on my winter reading list. Thank you so much. Blessings on your move north. There is much to love about winter if we look for it! Thank you for your warm comment.

  3. Happy New Year Emily! This is a great post. I personally am not the biggest fan of winter so I often do a lot of the things that you mentioned to create a cozy atmosphere to get through the cold months.
    Stay warm yourself, and I look forward to your next post.

  4. thank you for visiting my blog!
    i adore your writing and suggestions here. love the silver tray with candles idea, so beautiful and simple!