Holidays in Washington: Decorators ‘Light Up the Season’ to raise funds for Children’s National

Holiday decorations included the “Safari Santa” mantel by Susan Nelson and Todd Martz of Home on Cameron. (photo by Jessica Yurinko)

By Harriet Edleson

When interior designer Susan Nelson created a holiday display for the Light Up The Season benefit for Children’s National Health System, she worked with a teen patient whose favorite animal was a cheetah and who dreamed of visiting Africa.

“We’ll make this a Christmas village” in Africa, Nelson said. “I had been to Africa and was aware of the bright colors and the patterns.”

They went online and found balsa wood animals — cheetahs, giraffes, lions and baboons. They painted them in bright blues, oranges, reds, yellows, purples and greens, and then they placed them on the 60-by-20-inch tablescape. Named “Safari Santa,” it is a mantel or console table decoration for the holidays.

In fact, the display’s St. Nick — a troll doll in a Santa outfit — drives up in a bright orange Jeep. “It’s an African Christmas village instead of an Alpine Christmas village,” Nelson said.

She and her business partner Todd Martz of Home on Cameron in Old Town Alexandria were among 20 designers who teamed up with patients at Children’s National Medical Center as part of a Dec. 3 benefit at the Four Seasons Hotel.

“Santa Safari” is among the holiday displays on view at the hotel until Dec. 20, with each available for purchase as part of a silent auction during the gala and through Dec. 20. They are valued at $1,000 to $4,000.

Four hundred adults and children attended the inaugural benefit, sampling cupcakes, cookies and other snacks from local restaurants and caterers. While a live Santa greeted guests and music filled the air, gala-goers decorated cookies, made ornaments, wrote holiday cards to patients at Children’s National and bid on items in the silent auction.

Holiday decorations included “A Colorful Family Christmas” by Annie Elliott Interiors. (photo by Jessica Yurinko)

Performances included a cappella groups and dance ensembles from the area. Among them were the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber Singers, the Georgetown Saxatones, Capital Blend, the Blessed Sacrament Angel Choir, the British International School of Washington choir, cellist Benjamin Gates, harpist Victoria Paytonwebber, and the Metropolitan School of the Arts and its “Frosty Follies.”

Other entertainers were sketch artist Cris Logan, ballerina Tina Pereira and Reggie Rice the Magician.

Christi Perez and Margarita Arroyave-Wessel co-chaired the benefit for Children’s National. The Creative and Therapeutic Arts Services at Children’s National paired designers with patients through the Children’s Health Board.

Decorations on view include wreaths, mantels and a menorah, in addition to trees.

Holiday tree designers included Allie Mann and Alexandria Hubbard of Case Design/Remodeling Inc.; Annie Elliott and Christy Maguire of Annie Elliott Interiors; Camille Saum of Camille Saum Interiors; Charles Almonte of Charles Almonte Architecture/Interior Design; Caryn Cramer of Caryn Cramer Interiors + Textiles; Christopher Nutter of Christopher Nutter Designs and Pamela Harvey of Pamela Harvey Interiors; Julia Walter of Boffi Georgetown and Brian Fell of B&B Italia; Lena Kroupnik of Lena Kroupnik Interiors; Nadia Subaran, Megan Padilla and Kelly Emerson of Aidan Design; Quintece Hill-Mattauszek of Studio Q Designs; Sarah Wessel of Sarah Wessel Designs; Skip Sroka of Sroka Design; and Victoria Sanchez of Victoria at Home.

Mantel designers included Eleanor Niermann and Claire Niermann of Niermann Weeks; Josh Hildreth and Tara Price of Josh Hildreth Interiors and Lisa Tureson of Studio Artistica; and Kelley Proxmire of Kelley Proxmire Inc.

Wreath designers included Laura Dowling, former White House florist, and Ashley Greer of Atelier Ashley Flowers; and Nicholas Beck of Nicholas Beck Interiors.

The menorah designer was Samantha Friedman of Samantha Friedman Interior Design.