Monte Durham on Spiffing Up

"This time of year you really spiff up your home, and you also dress yourself up. While you're picking out the linens for your table you're also thinking, is that cashmere sweater gonna work tonight? This is the time when women become more daring, wearing more sparkles than they normally do. For the house: I just finished decorating mine. One of the quickest, most efficient and cost-effective measures across the board for the holidays is..."
1. Wreaths on windows and doors. "You know that door hanger you can hook over the door and put a wreath on? I buy those for all my windows. I always buy natural wreaths: I don't have to store them and they get recycled. My favorite is still those big red velvet bows. It took me literally an hour and I did 16 windows and one door and a lamppost."

[Find fresh wreaths at your local farmers market or even Home Depot.]
2. Flower arrangements. "Fresh flowers are a luxury. But if you go into the backyard or walk through neighborhood, take a couple branches off the pine trees. Just cut them on an angle and if you smash the end of the branches they'll absorb the water and stay longer than just cutting them. So you take a hammer and smash them and spread it out. Put them in a vase with some fresh greenery and a few red balls in the water below and you've got an incredible table decoration that's natural, cost effective and will last through the season you have your decorations up. One year I did mason jars on my dining table with pink roses and holly. And my china was pink of course. It really made a statement.

For flower shopping, my first choice is always the farmers market. I love listening to the stories. The guys will say I just got these this morning, there was a huge fresh crop -- and I love the history of what they've done and I love giving back to the community, that's important to me. A lot of times if you have a ribbon you love you can take it to the farmers market and they may well tie a beautiful bow for you if you're not a great bow tier. We have beautiful flower shops [in Georgia and Virginia] -- even the grocery stores like Trader Joe's have incredible boutiques. There's an abundance of flowers indoors this season if you can't find them outside."
3. Shopping: Greenbrier Resort. "One of my favorite stops when I'm traveling is the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia. It's the jewel of my state. We have many but this is the top of the crown. I always stop and have lunch. I go to Draper's. Dorothy Draper decorated the Greenbrier. Carleton Varney, her protege, is still there decorating. At Draper's there's two things you must have: The classic BLT -- the thing is huge. And if you ever are so brave to take a banana split, it's all homemade ice cream, fresh fruit, everything. When I tell you that this is over a foot long -- and to this day no one ever is able to finish it by themselves.

At Greenbrier, you could have afternoon tea (they serve it British style). They have a children's tea, movie theater, bowling alley, horseback riding, four-wheeling, stream fishing, shooting clay pigeons -- you can have dinner in the main dining room where they do a ballet dance every evening... And you have to dress for supper. I love that!"
4. Ugly Christmas Sweaters. "I know everybody makes fun of those darn Christmas sweaters but can I tell you I get a chuckle every time I see one. I know they are so passe and touristy but I don't give a darn, I like 'em. Every time I see one I'm like, 'Good for you, girl, you're braving two things: a fashion faux pas, and they're not the most flattering thing!' They are so bad they're good -- can that be?"

[Find ugly Christmas sweaters at shops like Target and Urban Outfitters.]
5. Makeup Makeovers. "Now's a good time to redo your makeup. Foundation you might have to lighten up because in summer you've got color from the sun -- make sure your face matches your neck. Also, try a beautiful red lip. Red lips and a sparkly earring will go far for you this season. There is a red for everybody. I know lots of women say, "I can't wear red." I'm telling you, you can. You might have to put a paler shade over it or a deeper shade under it... but there's a red for every girl. And if you're going to holiday parties in the afternoon, go to a brown-black mascara instead of a black. It won't be as harsh. And save that dark black or navy blue or color until after 6pm when you maybe are gonna be under dim lights and where you can make a stronger impact with your black. Make sure you do a gloss on your hair or a treatment during the holidays. Helps maintain the flyaways if you have curly or wavy hair. And if you have straight, the sheen under any of those chandeliers or icicles will be beautiful.

For makeovers... if you're in West Virginia, by all means stop in at the Greenbrier Perfect Image -- their makeup consultants do a beautiful job. Those girls are good there. What I tell every women about makeup is it's like looking for a wedding dress. Look at the ads. See what speaks to you. Some are more dramatic, some more natural. I personally like Chanel. I think they're frontrunners and classic, but dramatic enough that you're not like goth. They speak to me when I look at their ads. Classic and understated -- and they were the first to come out with that black nail polish. So they are trendsetters. They just do it on a more sophisticated level. Not to bash anybody else but it seems like they've got their finger on the pulse and they're really paying attention but still that classic beauty."

[Shop for Chanel at department stores like Macy's, Nordstrom, Bloomingdales and Kohls.]


Monte Durham is the Fashion Director for Bridals by Lori in Atlanta, GA. See him on 'Say Yes to the Dress Atlanta' Fridays 9|8c on TLC.

To pick up his MONTE haircare products, go to TLC's 'Say Yes to the Dress' Shop.