Stylist and homewares store owner Ginamarie Riley shares her holiday traditions, old and new.
A faux pine garland and Lumiere candles and candleholders provide a festive feeling and the Manhattan bar cart, complete with an Amalfi ice bucket, showcases the champagne.
Meet & Greet: Nick (branding and design studio director of Non-Fiction) and Ginamarie Riley (stylist, founder and creative director of Ornament), their sons Zachary, nine, and Sebastian, six, and Tonkinese/Rex cat Obi, Weimaraner Edie and griffon-pug Leia.
The Property: Five-bedroom, two-bathroom 1900s North Shore villa in Auckland.
Ginamarie Riley has been thinking about Christmas for months. As the owner of Auckland’s Ornament interiors styling studio and store, she has easy access to a near-endless supply of festive homewares and decorations.
A Wabi linen shade and Trois Disque pendant add a merry glow to Christmas lunch. A Sandringham wool rug and a Kansas rug adorn the floor. The circa 1950s French stool is from The Vitrine.
How do you like to decorate your home for Christmas?
Nostalgia is where it’s at for me, traditions new and old. A classic simple Christmas with a little luxe in our formal room.
How do you typically spend the day?
It depends if we are hosting or not, but often we all stay together on Christmas Eve and wake up with the whole family and cousins. We all bring dishes to contribute. Before kids, we used to do a degustation with matching wines, which was usually 10 courses and very spread out. I’m sure this tradition will return at some point.
A new tradition is playing croquet, which is usually rather entertaining after we have had a couple of my husband’s amazing eggnog (recipe below). Then we all tend to take an afternoon nap – if the kids let us. If some of the family can’t come, we join them for a more relaxed version on Boxing Day at the beach, but we always drag it out over two or three days surrounded by family. We mix it up a bit depending on who is hosting.
Standing paper trees add a festive flourish to the Bauble linen tablecloth, which is matched with Bauble linen napkins, Broste gold cutlery, Amalfi goblets and Provence plates and bowls.
Any special rituals around Christmas?
Our pets get presents and the kids open one gift on Christmas Eve. We play Christmas carols as we decorate the tree together. This year we will be doing this at my parents, as our tree was done early. My dad always gets Scorched Almonds, no matter what else we have for him.
If Mum and Dad host, we use their antique silver serving dishes, which are only used at Christmas. Food-wise, the eggnog, degustation (which might return next year), baked camembert and cranberries in puff pastry, salmon and lamb seem to always be on the menu. My brother-in-law’s mum makes an amazing tiramisu, and there’s a Christmas cocktail that changes each year.
Sounds like you go all out around the festive season.
I am from a catering and events family, so it’s in the blood to go all out. I love the festivity and gathering aspect of Christmas and it is usually the one day when everyone stops to just eat and drink and play festive games. Being a mother brings me a lot of joy on Christmas morning, with the pets and kids all running around with utter excitement of mysterious sightings or sounds from reindeer in the night or proof of entry from Santa. The Christmas lights, the smell of pastries and our 5-Spice Asian glazed ham.
A fruit flan sits on a Provence cake stand next to the chewy walnut giant meringue and the Bianco cake serving set. Standing guard is Green Suit Claus with drawers (perfect for candy). Guests can enjoy a few bubbles from a classic cocktail coupe.
You must be like a kid in a candy store having all the Ornament stock – is it hard not to take it all home?
Yes. I love everything I buy so it’s very difficult, but I get in trouble if I do. I 100 per cent needed to get a few things this season though: the Grand Master Claus and Green Suit Claus, the faux pine garlands, jewelled pears, magnolia flowers and white hummingbirds were my take-homes this year.
We note you have two trees – why is this?
Our formal room looks gorgeous all done up for Christmas. This is the first year I’ve done two trees. The lounge one was just so our living area felt more festive but was simple and tidy. I have wanted to do a tree in a large antique pot for the past three years and only just managed to pull it off. I kept the decorating simple with our wildflower and amaryllis flower bunched stems. I need to buy more tree lights, though.
A classic colour combination was used to decorate this tree using faux flowers and foliage from Ornament, it also gave Ginamarie the opportunity to put a tree in an antique pot. Zachary and Sebastian (with Leia the dog) look forward to opening their embroidered Santa sacks.
What’s on the menu?
This year it’s spiced carrots on cashew cream; asparagus or beans with Brazil nut crumbs and goats’ cheese; salmon with a citrus-herbed crust; truffled smashed potatoes; wild venison Wellington (my dad’s speciality); rocket, pear, parmesan and pomegranate salad (similar recipe here). There’s always a ham with my mum’s amazing 5-spice Asian ham glaze, baked camembert and cranberry puff pastry; a pear and almond tart and my new chewy walnut giant meringue with mascarpone cream. I also promised the kids a berry ambrosia.
What are your go-to gifts this year?
My go-to practical gift will be felted laundry balls, I’ve found these to be amazing through winter. The Apostle hot sauce gift packs this year are beautifully packaged and their Mary Magdalene crispy chilli oil is seriously good, it’s a winner. There’s also a Christmas carousel musical tin with chocolates for a nostalgic touch, a Tasteology cheese knife set in emerald, Tasteology truffle oil and Flint rechargeable lighters.
This window seat is the perfect place to sip eggnog and have a Christmas Day nap. Get cosy with a Luna faux fur throw and Limone cushion.
How about stocking filler ideas?
We have curated a whole collection of stocking fillers this year for the shop: collectable miniature matchbox cars and planes; beautiful tinned chocolates from Germany; kids’ sunnies; Mimi & Lula hair accessories; Pick-up Sticks; Skintone colouring pencils; a vintage brass pocket compass; Moulin Roty magnifying glass, a vintage wind-up tin jumping squirrel and so much more.
Nick’s Eggnog Recipe
- 3 cups whole milk
- 1 cup cream
- 3 cinnamon sticks
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg (freshly grated is best), plus extra for sprinkling
- 1 vanilla bean pod, split and seeds removed
- 5 eggs
- ½- 2/3 cup sugar (depending on how sweet the rum or bourbon is)
- 1½ cups spiced rum or bourbon
- Combine milk, cream, cinnamon, ground nutmeg, vanilla bean and seeds. Bring almost to the boil, then reduce to a steady simmer and steep for 4-5 minutes.
- In a separate bowl, separate egg yolks into a bowl with the sugar and beat until stiff peaks form when you lift the mixer. Reserve egg whites. Slowly add the milk and cream, stirring as you go. Continue stirring and add the rum or bourbon, mixing until combined. Refrigerate overnight for up to three days.
- Before serving, beat the reserved egg whites until stiff peaks form and gently fold the whites into the mixture until combined. Serve in chilled glasses with a sprinkle of freshly grated nutmeg.
All styling props from Ornament, 102 Sandringham Rd, Auckland.
Photography Babiche Martens
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