See How We Transformed a One-Room Cottage on Martha's Bedford Farm Into a Winter Wonderland
The whimsical, woodland-inspired space offers a different perspective on holiday decorating.
Deep in the woods, in a faraway pocket of Martha's Bedford farm, stands a miniature dwelling that she affectionately calls the Little House. Originally built as a play spot for her grandchildren, but a bit too remote for everyday adventures, it stood empty—until Martha Stewart Living's style editor at large, Naomi deMañana, laid eyes on it. With charming eaves and a post-and-beam façade, "it looked like something out of a fairy tale," Naomi says. "It was begging to be transformed into a magical Christmas cottage."
Transform it she did, inspired by the dense trees and the Dutch picture books she loved as a kid—namely, Wil Huygen's Gnomes series, with its exquisitely detailed illustrations by Rien Poortvliet. The small space had all the makings of a storybook wintry destination: Taking a cue from the forest and its fantastical inhabitants, she handcrafted a cozy housewarming, with treats and decorations to delight creatures great and small. Then, as the winter's first snowstorm blanketed the ground, she got ready to throw open the doors.
As for the winter wonderland inside? The focal point was undoubtedly the fir, tucked into a brightly lit corner and adorned with all kinds of critters and whimsical woodland motifs, like mushroom ornaments, clipped-on cardinals (it's easy to imagine them chirping merrily), and all-natural walnuts, acorn, and almond garlands. Red wooden beads provided the cranberry pop. A whimsical—and subtly Scandinavian—homage to arguably the most festive time of the year, Martha's Little House offers a fun twist on traditional holiday decorating. Recreate these vignettes, projects, and recipes on your own for a whimsical, critter-filled take on winter design.
Art Direction by Dawn Sinkowski; Food Stylingby Shira Bocar; Prop Styling by Tanya Graff.
A Holly Jolly Helper
A friendly gnome—crafted from little more than foam, felt, and faux fur—perches on a toddler size sled.
Shop Now: Michaels Feathered Cardinal Set, 4 1/4", $22.68 for 12, michaels.com. Ashland Cardinals, $2.59 for two, michaels.com. Ashland Assorted Singing Birds, $2.59 for two, michaels.com. ArtMinds Medium Miniatures Mushrooms, $3.19, michaels.com. Consumer Crafts Cardinals-Flying (similar to shown), $2 each, consumercrafts.com. Kurt Adler Buri Woodland Animal Hanging Ornaments, $22 for four, amazon.com. Kurt Adler Wooden Red Bead Garland, 14 mm by 9', $11, amazon.com. Assorted Buri-Bristle and Sisal Animal Ornaments, from $2.50 each, factorydirectcrafts.com and christmasinprescott.com. Terrain Faux Noble Fir, 8', $398, shopterrain.com. Flexible Flyer KinderSleigh Wooden Sled, $100, kotulas.com. Creative Paper Co. Brown Kraft Paper, 17.75" by 100", $12, amazon.com. Studio Carta Striped Cotton Ribbon, 1 1/2", $30 for 10 yards, studiocartashop.com. Studio Carta Tight-Weave Cotton Ribbon in Red, 5/8", $10 for five yards, studiocartashop.com. Nashville Wraps Bakers' Twine in Cherry Red and White, $10 for 240 yards, nashvillewraps.com.
Be Our Guest
A host committee of bottlebrush animals—many of them from Martha's own collection, amassed over the years—awaits fellow revelers beneath a fir-and-pine garland and wreath.
The stems of the giant mushrooms are birch logs, and their caps are jumbo plastic Easter eggshells that we spray-painted ombré beige, or red with white polka-dot craft paint, and perched on top.
Shop Now: Surprise Eggs Toys Jumbo Fillable Easter Plastic Eggs, 14" by 11", $17.17 each, surpriseeggstoys.etsy.com. Walmart Jumbo Easter Eggs, 8", $13 for 12, walmart.com. Martha Stewart Gloss-Finish Spray Paint and Primer in Tartan Red, Porcelain Doll, and Chestnut Brown, $8 each, michaels.com. Martha Stewart Family-Friendly Multisurface Satin Acrylic Craft Paint in Snowball, $9.50, michaels.com.
Chalet All Day
In a departure from classic gingerbread-and-gumdrops, this miniature replica of Martha's Little House is subtly Scandi and (we'd venture to say) ski-in and ski-out. Its blond walls are made of sugar cookie dough flavored with Earl Grey tea; the lit-from-within windows get their glow from caramel and LED votives placed underneath. The wreath is a ring of thyme secured with floral wire, and the conifers are bunches of rosemary turned upside-down. The gum-paste mushrooms surrounding the cottage were custom-made by food stylist Jason Schreiber.
Fuel for Fun
If a gnome threw a mixer for his furry and feathered friends, what might he serve? Sweets galore, of course. Clockwise from top left: Hot chocolate with jumbo marshmallows, served in mugs wrapped in birch paper (sold by the roll at crafts stores); mossy dulce-de-leche sandwich cookies; chocolate birch bark; crackly cinnamon-sugar cookies; acorn-stamped linzer cookies; and spiced ginger mushrooms glazed with royal icing or chocolate, and dusted with poppy seeds, chopped pistachios, or crushed freeze-dried raspberries.
Nordic by Nature
These fellows of few words were made from cone-shaped foam and felt (to give the gnomes' hats an endearing curve, Naomi broke the tips of the foam cones after wrapping them in felt), with faux-fur beards and spun cotton balls for hands and noses. Overhead, a fleet of floral-supply-store cardinals and robins hang stockings with care. (These linen styles come together fast with a super-simple blanket stitch.)
Shop Now: Farmhouse Pottery Nordic Sheepskin in Gray, $195, farmhousepottery.com.