Matilda's Boutique Owner Dana Small Gives Us Her Best Holiday Decor Tips
South Florida in December means blue skies, sandy beaches and palm trees swaying in the breeze. It’s these elements that come together in Stuart-based lifestyle designer Dana Small’s signature barefoot-elegance style. A touch of blue here, a bit of texture there, layered upon a neutral white palette—much like how a painter approaches a blank canvas. The year-round summertime vibe can make traditional holiday sugar and spice seem out of place. “People struggle between what’s coastal and what’s Christmas,” Small says, who is also the owner of Matilda’s boutique in the Historic Downtown Shopping District of Stuart.
Small makes decorating for the holidays approachable and affordable, with a less is more mentality. The use of white, which can be seen throughout her five-bedroom waterfront home, creates an easy backdrop. In the dining room, white pecky cypress wood adorns the walls, making the space feel light and spacious. A white paneled ceiling adds to this effect. “I’m a sucker for blue and white,” she laughs.
The dining room serves as the gathering place for entertaining during the festive season. To best impress guests, Small shares a few tips for tapping into the holiday spirit while keeping Florida’s tropical setting in mind.
Bring the Outside In
Small suggests taking cues from the natural environment. “We live in Florida, and Christmas greens don’t go so much,” she explains. She softens this incongruence by plugging in local elements, like weaving freshly clipped sea grape leaves into more traditional Christmas greens. Carnations then create an extra pop of color without adding too much cost.
Keep the Color
Palette Simple Use no more than two colors, Small recommends, on top of a neutral base hue. She prefers to build upon white. A traditional Christmas palette of red and green is given extra festive boosts by the addition of gold, another of Small’s favorites. Keeping the number of colors limited avoids making the room look too cluttered.
Reinvigorate the Everyday
Small is a big proponent of using what’s already available and dressing it up. “You don’t have to go out and buy a whole new set of dishes. Use what you have and infuse elements,” she says. The white plates on her table are everyday dishes, tapping into the Florida beach theme with their basket weave detailing, but they adopt a look of casual elegance when paired with gold chargers and decorative plates that bring in the holiday colors.
Lighting for the Final Touch
From a simple gathering for Champagne among friends to a whole family feast, flickering light helps set the mood and give a feeling of intimacy. “Lanterns are something that add so much ambiance to any table,” Small says. They also offer protection from the open candle flame, a real consideration when using fresh greens. Vary the lanterns in size for added interest, but try to minimize using different materials and designs so as not to make the table look too busy.
The Art of the Tablescape
While Small’s interior design skills no doubt deserve credit, it’s in tablescapes where her true passion lies. And at no surprise, she prefers to start with a base palette. “The way I style any table, whether it’s seasonal for Christmas or Thanksgiving, is to start neutral. I love having my background be so fresh and so crisp, like a blank canvas, but I enrich it with texture,” Small says. Her dining room is designed to feel like the islands, drawing from her own experience living in the Bahamas. The space has an organic feel, which makes it easy to dress up or dress down. The trick, Small insists, is in the simplicity of the palette, richness of the texture, and an added pop of bling.
On the Table: Gold mini-votive vase in assorted patterns $10
Gold gilded manor rocks glass in assorted patterns $20
Pacific white ceramic lanterns in 6 inches, 8 inches, 9 inches $28/$32/$42
Set of three silver glitter tipped trees $42
Palm flatware five-piece place setting in gold $110
Palm dinnerware five-piece place setting in white $135
Hammertone charger in gold $100
Four-set nimbus cotton napkins in white $75
Eight-set reindeer cut-out napkin rings $18
Indochine woven highball glass $10
Indochine woven pitcher $38
Rattan handled tray $175
Twelve-set star glittered swizzle sticks $8
Ten-set gold glittered scallop edge place cards $14
In the Room: 8 x 10 denim rag rug in multi-blue and crème $425
Small’s Attire: Drawstring peasant dress in hibiscus red stripe $328
Three-drop earrings in gold $220
Star cuff with crystals $250
All is available for purchase at Matilda’s boutique in the Historic Downtown Shopping District of Stuart.
Tangerine Pom Swizzle
2 12-ounce cans Minute Maid Limeade frozen concentrate
36 ounces Tito’s Handmade Vodka
48 ounces fresh squeezed tangerine juice (or Noble 100-percent Florida Tangerine Juice)
12 ounces club soda
Lime wedges (for garnish)
Pomegranate seeds (for garnish)
How to Make It
Pour two cans of Minute Maid Limeade frozen concentrate into a 4-liter vessel
Add 36 ounces Tito’s Handmade Vodka and 48 ounces of tangerine juice. Mix well.
Before serving, slowly pour in 12 ounces of club soda. Stir gently.
To serve, fill a traditional double old-fashioned glass to the rim with ice. Pour drink mixture over ice. Garnish with a lime wedge and a sprinkle of pomegranate seeds for color.
*To make a non-alcoholic version, replace the 36 ounces of vodka and 12 ounces of club soda with 24 ounces of water and 24 ounces of club soda.
Yields approximately 16 servings