For this issue, I asked two creative Benicia women to stage my living room mantle with elaborate decorations, with the goal of inspiring readers. This was a logistical and creative challenge that both women immediately agreed to, and their talent was put to the test. The fireplace is the dominant feature of the space, encompassing 8.5 feet of wall, but the mantle itself is only 8” deep.

With the white fireplace as a blank canvas, professional home stager Christine Bovo and floral and garden designer Joy Alberts unloaded boxes, bags and buckets full of interesting props with anticipation. The photo shoot had a party-like atmosphere that included wine, music and appetizers and the better part of a Sunday. Joy jumped right in with a profusion of fresh greenery foraged from her own yard and from Phil Joy’s nearby ranch. Large buckets of  fresh Eucalyptus, Cedar and other aromatic cuttings made their way, branch by branch, onto the mantle. We watched her talent unfold as she literally brought the JOY. The result was over-the-top, delighting the senses as the greens released their heady scent.

Lisa Duncan Photography

Joy adds the greenery

Lisa Duncan was there with lighting and lenses, while graphic artist Margaret Bowles gave direction on layout and I ran around locating sticky wax, hot glue guns, chalk and whatever else was needed. Then—just like that—all the greenery and other prop went back into the buckets. We all felt a letdown as it was disassembled.

Lisa Duncan Photography

Joy's finished design

Stepping up to apply her own unique brand of artistic magic, Chrissy sorted through her arsenal of items, choosing natural pieces such as cotton stems and birch branches, and decorative ones like white urns and old books. As her neutral pallet was revealed, Chrissy added black lanterns, hand-wrapped gifts with chalkboard tags, stockings and found objects to create a wonderland of beachy holiday cheer.

Lisa Duncan Photography

Chrissy stages with the "cool tranquility of white"

It was fun watching the women each do their own thing, yet collaborate as needed. Chrissy graciously allowed me to keep her display up through the holidays—I rearranged the living room  to showcase her design. Oh that I could have kept them both!

Joy Alberts
Floral design and garden design studio
Joyous Spaces

Christine Bovo
Principal and Creative Director
Project Manager, Staging