December 11, 2022
"City sidewalks, busy sidewalks
Dressed in holiday style
In the air there’s a feeling of Christmas"
Whenever I hear that verse of Silver Bells, I always imagine myself bundled up in a long coat, wearing a jaunty little hat (not unlike the one worn by Mary Steenburgen in Elf) and carrying several brown paper Macy’s shopping bags. I am standing outside of a store gazing at its Christmas window display while around me the shoppers rush home with their treasures. All at once, I am jostled by a passerby and one of my packages drops to the sidewalk. I bend down to pick it up and come face to face with the stranger, who has also bent to retrieve it. He looks alarmingly like Jude Law as he did in the movie The Holiday, his eyes- how they twinkle, his dimples how merry! When he speaks, I swear I can hear a hint of an accent, ”Drop something?” he says, his droll little mouth drawn up like a bow. I have only slightly regained my composure when Clint sidles up behind us and says “I’m so tired. Why do malls make me so tired? Where did you get that hat?” And as I turn back to thank my kind stranger, I hear him exclaim, as he walks out of sight, “Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night!”
Look, it’s my fantasy and I’ll combine two popular Christmas themes if I want to.
Years ago, I worked as a Visual Presentation Specialist at The Bay downtown in Winnipeg and then Calgary. One of the best parts of the job was working as a team to execute the store’s exterior window displays. There’s something magical about creating a scene in which people can lose themselves, even if only for the length of time it takes them to walk by. Store windows are like a glimpse into an imaginary and much more fantastical world. And it all started with the New York shopping institution, Macy’s.
Rowland Hussey Macy opened his dry goods store in 1858 on the corner of Sixth Avenue and 14th Street in New York City. As the successful business grew, Macy saw an opportunity to draw customers into his store using large window displays of the products that could be found within and in 1874, Macy’s was the first store of its kind to debut a Christmas window display.
The flagship store moved to 34th Street in 1902 and Macy’s Herald Square has since become the Mecca of holiday window displays with an estimated 10,000 people an hour passing the windows at peak times. Every year the department store pays homage to Miracle on 34th Street, the classic 1947 Christmas movie that immortalized the store and its Santa in the minds of generations, by dedicating one set of its holiday windows to themes from the film.
It didn’t take long for other retailers to catch on to the genius of drawing a crowd using a holiday window display. Today retailers like Bloomingdale’s, Saks, Barney’s, and Bergdorf Goodman engage in the ultimate game of one-upmanship creating scenes that draw visitors from around the world and often partnering with film studios and charities to cross market their merchandise with movies such as The Grinch (Bloomingdale’s) and initiatives like Make Change (Barney’s).
In London, arguably the Christmassy-iest of cities, Christmas windows didn’t catch on until 1890, when Selfridge’s lit their windows to display their goods at night. This year, Selfridge’s was again ahead of the pack being the first to unveil their 2018 Rock ‘N’ Roll themed holiday windows featuring Santa dressed as rock icons like David Bowie and Freddie Mercury. Harrod’s, Harvey Nichols, Liberty and Fortnum and Mason followed shortly after with themes ranging from a fireplace hearth exploding with candy and huge frosty filled copper mugs at Fortnum and Mason to a popping champagne bottle with a cork that blazes a trail through the windows at Harvey Nichols.
Hamleys, the oldest toy store in the world, have rightfully focused their attentions on pleasing their most important customers, children. The store, founded in 1760, has its exterior windows installed approximately 18” from the ground and displays are scaled to their young viewers. This year’s theme is a collaboration between TY stuffed animals and Aladdin the Musical. In 2015, Harrod’s also delighted youngsters by raising their large luxury window displays by almost two feet and creating an enchanting eye level glimpse into the lives of tiny Christmas mice preparing for the holiday.
It takes an army of creative professionals almost a year to imagine, render and construct these fantastical holiday scenes and no detail is left to chance. Bergdorf Goodman decides on their window theme first, constructing the scenes before it is decided which fashion pieces are required. If the perfect pieces aren't available, the store commissions couture pieces that are then available to purchase by special order. At the end of the season, Bergdorf's dismantles and stores each window so that its parts can be re purposed in future themes.
So, should we meet in New York next November? Say, the week before Thanksgiving? Sounds like the perfect way to kick off the holiday season. I’ll just grab my jaunty hat. Follow these links to see slide shows featuring more images of the 2018 holiday windows: New York, London.
October 16, 2022
September 11, 2022
"Don’t you love Okotoks in the Fall? Makes me want to watch You’ve Got Mail."
Well, I guess if I’m being completely honest, I always want to watch You’ve Got Mail, but the urge is especially strong at the first hint of Fall. In a lot of ways, I’m not typically nostalgic when it comes to the 90’s. I’m not eager to revisit my grunge phase, but I do have a special place in my heart when it comes to 90’s interior and set design. Enter You’ve Got Mail and, more specifically, Meg Ryan’s apartment.
August 14, 2022
"Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist." - Pablo Picasso
When you think of creativity, rules probably aren’t the first thing that come to mind. But in art, as in life, there are certain rules that point us in the right direction and give us a better chance for success; interior design is no exception. The following are guidelines for some of the most common stumbling blocks I see, those tricky little design conundrums you shouldn't need a degree to master.