BY JUDY CARMACK BROSS
Tastemaker Todd Schwebel is known for his creative exuberance, and at Christmas time he really lets it all loose! Ringing with holiday cheer, we invite you to join us for a look at these traditional settings designed by Todd to celebrate the season, both in memory and in the present as we think all Christmas’ are best conceived, but this year in particular!
Hark, you can hear the angels sing at Todd’s glorious gothic front door!
Deck the Halls and the Dining Room! Cedar garland festoons frame the fine Philadelphia and New York antique Federal furniture at Todd’s house.
A Christmas Lunch tablescape, laid for multi-generational guests, is oh-so-jolly with playful Santa bottle toppers, ornament place card holders and red water goblets that mix it up with heirloom silver and Spode. Todd sets it all on Pimpernel placemats to avoid spills on his special tablecloths like this cashmere wool paisley Winnetka Antiques and Modernism find!
Monograms mean memories, and often of loved ones no longer with us. Peggy, Katherine and Alice, you are gone but not forgotten. Say their names!
Amongst the cognoscenti, a gingerbread house from Gerhard’s in Lake Forest is a requirement for a proper Chicago Christmas celebration. Hurry, is your’s ordered? As gorgeous as it is, this delicious gingerbread is made for eating, so pass it around the table on a galleried silver tray (it catches the crumbs) and let everyone break off their favorite section. Served with peppermint ice cream and chocolate sauce, it’s guaranteed to be a hit and bring out the inner child in all of your guests!
The secret is out, sssh. Schwebel mixes fresh and faux winterberries for his signature garden container designs, like this one in a very grand antique carved limestone urn. Todd says use the fresh berries to feed the birds, but add the faux to keep the color pumping all the way through winter: win, win!
Dickens would be right at home under this holly and ornament be-decked Victorian chandelier in this beautifully restored Entrance Hall.
This timeless holiday lunch table is laid with antique and vintage collectibles. Visit the Swedish Museum gift shop in Andersonville to find the cheery Christmas candle rings adorning the antique Anglo-Dutch.
The star of the show in this Gilded Age room designed by Schwebel for his parents is the bespoke, hand-carved A.H. Davenport dining furniture. Davenport was famous for their robber baron clients, like the Vanderbilts, and for furnishing the White House for Teddy Roosevelt often collaborating with Stanford White. The missing carver, or arm chair, from this set can be seen on permanent view at The Art Institute of Chicago in the American Galleries.
Generations of ornaments dating back to his great great grandparents grace Todd’s tree magnificently aglow here. Among his many favorites are the German blown glass nut and fruit shaped ornaments that still hang by the green string his great-grandmother, Anna, placed on them herself in the Depression because hooks were expensive. And don’t miss the little antique sled loaded with a pretty package under the tree!
Living with antiques and art is the hallmark of every Schwebel-designed house regardless of the period. Here, handblocked William Morris “Golden Lily” wallpaper and gilt lincrusta make a perfect late Victorian or Edwardian backdrop for this George Inness sunset decorated with greens and a bow for Christmas.
Todd believes in connecting the inside and outside as much as possible. Even in the darkest days of winter every window has a view, so Todd suggests cheap and cheerful Christmas lights are a sure bet to enhance it! Each year Todd’s partner, William Beggs IV, carefully wraps the beech tree outside their front door with thousands of lights.
This JOYFUL still life of friends and family, both on the wall and on the mantel, is anchored by a Jacques Amans portrait, a Marc de Montebello landscape and a Suzette Bross photograph. Why not get out a vase and try filling it with long lasting greens and amaryllis to decorate your holiday mantel too?
While completely re-imaging the inside as contemporary family living space, The Schwebel Company perfectly restored this landmark Hyde Park aesthetic movement Victorian rowhouse’s historic facade. It’s pretty as a picture dressed for Christmas with its wreath and bow!
Is it Venice or Hyde Park? Classical swags of garlands and wreaths are a must on a hand-wrought iron balcony under a very rare to find in Chicago, Venetian-style arch.
Memories of The Schwebel Company office on Superior Street in Chicago. Many of our readers will recall attending the annual Christmas Party held here for more than 20 years with its jolly crush of people!
Custom made flourishes and decorations by Todd! Note the very special “Museum Bees” ornaments made with gilt antiques frames by Todd’s pal Trace Mayer down In Louisville.
A bountiful pantry is a necessity for a Christmas host. Aunt KK’s seasoned oyster crackers are a coveted hostess gift in Chicago.
All that glitters: Todd’s table is almost ready for a special black tie New Year’s Eve dinner party. Add the placecards!
The groaning board on Christmas Eve at Todd’s.
After Christmas, and before the candles are completely gone, Todd has a tradition of making a cassoulet using the left over Christmas ham and turkey, he adds some fresh sausages, pops it in the aga and a few hours later is ready to serve a buffet dinner.
…..and to all a good night from High Street!
…..as we dream of a White Christmas and a very very Happy NEW Year!