Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas Tree's Roots

While there are no hard facts about the origins of the Christmas tree, there is little question the Germans originated and popularized it.

The earliest written record of a decorated evergreen tree for Christmas appears in 1521 in the German region of Alsace. In 1561, the same region had a forest ordinance saying that no one "shall have for Christmas more than one bush of more than eight shoes' length." The German families would set up Christmas trees in a prominent location in their home and decorate them. As these people moved or immigrated to other countries, they brought this tradition with them. By the 1700s, the Christbaum, or "Christ tree," was a German tradition. It quickly spread to other parts of Europe and finally to America.

America adapted slowly to some of the Christmas traditions, because of the Puritan influence. Many puritans felt that Christmas was too sacred of a holiday and should not be marred with Christmas trees and Christmas carols. When the Christmas tree later regained popularity, symbolism was common. The Christmas tree is a symbol of a living Christmas spirit. Because balsam fir twigs, more than any other evergreen twigs, resemble crosses may have had much to do with the early popularity of balsam fir used as Christmas trees.

In 1851, the Christmas tree market began when farmer Mark Carr hauled two ox sleds of evergreens into New York City and sold them all. In 1856, Massachusetts was the last existing state to declare Christmas a legal holiday. Since then, it has exploded into a tradition-rich, festive season. By 1900, one in five American families had a Christmas tree. By 1920, the custom was nearly universal in the United States.

Today, the Christmas tree is common in all Christian countries except Spain, Italy, and some of Latin America. Instead, these countries share the custom of erecting a miniature reproduction of the stable and manger where Christ was born. Even the Japanese have adopted the Christmas tree, but with this twist: they decorate their tree with tangerines and delicate rice wafers-which enclose fortune-telling slips!

Towards the end of the 1800s, another variation of the traditional Christmas tree appeared: the artificial Christmas tree. It is believed that like so many other Christmas traditions, artificial Christmas trees also originated in Germany. The first artificial Christmas trees were metal wire trees covered with feathers. The most popular feathers came were goose, turkey, ostrich or swan feathers. The feathers were often dyed green to look like pine needles.
In the 1930's, the Addis Brush Company created the first artificial-brush trees, using the same machinery that made their toilet brushes! The Addis 'Silver Pine' tree was patented in 1950. This innovative Christmas tree had a revolving light source under it. Colored gels allowed the light to shine in different shades as it revolved under the tree. This silver aluminum artificial Christmas trees became so popular that it was exported throughout the world!
The story of The National Christmas Tree begins with Franklin Pierce- the first President of the United States to introduce the Christmas Tree to the White House in 1856. However, this was not the start of the tradition now known as the "National Christmas Tree".

In November 1923, First Lady Grace Coolidge gave permission for the District of Columbia Public Schools to erect a Christmas tree on the Ellipse south of the White House. The organizers named the tree the "National Christmas Tree." That Christmas Eve, at 5 p.m., President Calvin Coolidge walked from the White House to the Ellipse and "pushed the button" to light the cut 48-foot Balsam fir, as 3,000 enthusiastic spectators looked on. The tree, donated by Middlebury College, was from the President's native state of Vermont. From 1924 to 1953 live trees, in various locations around and on the White House grounds, were lit on Christmas Eve. In 1954 the ceremony returned to the Ellipse and expanded its focus. Local civic and business groups created the "Christmas Pageant of Peace." Smaller live trees representing the 50 states, five territories, and the District of Columbia, formed a "Pathway of Peace." On December 17, 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower lit the cut tree donated by the people of Michigan. The White House used cut trees until 1973.

Center to the season's celebration is the living National Christmas Tree, a Colorado blue spruce from York, Pennsylvania, planted on the Ellipse October 20, 1978. The tree stands as a daily reminder of the holiday spirit and of the tradition each succeeding President has shared in since 1923.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Have An Interior Design Question? Let Us Know!!

In a quandry about colors? What shape should your coffee table be? Not sure about that "tropical bird" wallpaper that your Aunt Edna has offered to use? Email us your design question! Please attach any photos that you may have as well.

Send submissions to: matt@williammillerdesign.com

Thursday, December 11, 2008

How To Be A Great Design Client!

There is always a lot of talk about how to get new clients, how to better serve our clients, and how to make the project go more smoothly from the designer’s point of view. But from the clients point of view, how can CLIENTS be the best that they can be to make the project successful?

When working with an interior designer , architect or builder,
*Be clear and communicative about expectations and desires.

*Do your homework, know what you like and what you don’t like. Be clear about you’re your needs- from wine storage to shelves for your collections of first editions; from dog beds to closet space; from bathroom lighting to a home office.

*Pay attention, take notes, and listen. Be willing to perhaps expand your original plan to make it better, bigger, and more satisfying.

*You’ll be working directly with the designer, who will in turn work directly with a team of specialists, from design assistants to general contractors and architects, tile-layers, painters, and many craftspeople. The designer will also will be ordering fabrics, furniture and working with showrooms, and coordinating every aspect of the project. Mistakes can happen. Custom made items invite the possibility of error; an incorrect measurement or color, a misunderstanding in finish. It is important to have a sense of humor and trust that the designer will make it work out and solve the issues.
*Stick to your guns. Allowing yourself to be talked into something you don’t like—only to decide later you cant live with it, can be disastrous. Avoid in-decision and especially do not change your mind repeatedly. It is unnerving to the designer and it can be a nightmare when plans, paint, plumbing, plaster, or tile work has to be redone.

*An architect or designer is an advisor who does not, ultimately, have the final decision. They do not sign the checks, you do.
*It is a creative process. Stay the course and remain emotionally involved.
*Observe with optimism. Be patient. Creative people are working hard to make you happy. Always assume the best.
*Pay your invoices in a timely manner.
*Be accountable to all your decisions. Don’t rush out and purchase major items, furniture or art without first discussing it with your designer.
*Be cautious and pay attention. Try out fabric samples, paint swatches, and furniture pieces to ensure that you can live with them. Don’t rush major decisions.
*Minimize the element of surprise. Don’t make decisions without considering all aspects of the design.
*If you are not comfortable with the designer’s plans or decisions, make a graceful exit only after considerable thought. Keep the parting amicable and perhaps even open ended if you feel there is no resolution.
*Your taste should not be steamrolled, but it is also your job to be considerate of the designers’ expertise in achieving your goals. The goal is to create a beautiful project for YOU. It is not a challenge to see who “wins” every decision.
*Try not to comment on everything until it is in place. Until the rooms are finished and all the furniture is in place, don’t critique. Look at everything in context. A sense of truly “working together” makes a project go well.
*Today, the design process is a democratic one. The days of designers and architects being the dictator or tyrant with a mean poodle in the back of a Rolls Royce are gone. The designer dictator made for very unhappy clients and sad endings. Design is now a collaborative process.

*Clients feel free to voice their concerns. It can be stressful, but it can also be a rewarding team work effort to produce a livable, well designed space that is a reflection of your needs and wants and the designers’ creative talents and skills.
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