Hillary, Martha and Mother

Mother Earth News adorned the mantle of the Jackson Place Sitting Room with sheaves and cobs

My Christmas treat this year was photographing a series of exclusive rooms at the Blair House in Washington where the State Department had invited shelter magazines to come and show off their holiday decorating skills.   This elegant set of DC homes often serves as guest quarters for visiting heads of state and is generally off limits to most visitors so this was a rare view indeed.  The folks at Mother Earth News and Natural Home, sister magazines at Ogden Publications, enthusiastically agreed to participate and asked me to come and document their work.  Martha Stewart Living, This  Old House, Traditional Home and Better Homes and Gardens also signed up and soon a phalanx of editors, decorators, designers and photographers arrived from all over the country.

The table was symbolically set with food crops

What none of us expected were the immense logistical challenges of bringing dozens of people and mountains of props into a high-security, historic site right across the street from the White House where the week before, two thrill-seekers managed to waltz into a presidential party.  The scrutiny was friendly but  intense.  Entering the small service entrance, cell phones were surrendered and boxes and bags were prodded and probed.  With no loading dock (or even a loading zone), packages and equipment had to be schlepped from nearby intersections. The Blair House curatorial staff also had their hands full keeping overly enthusiastic decorators from damaging priceless furnishings.

Natural Home found recycled glass bell jars, reclaimed metal temple bells. pine cones and beeswax candles to promote their sustainable message

Mother Earth News’ theme focused on grains that feed the world and beautiful sheaves and cobs arrived from heirloom seed suppliers.  Natural Home went the “green” route showcasing low impact decorations made from recycled items.  Within a few days the transformations were complete.

Bryan Welch, Editorial Director at Ogden Publishing, waits with Capricia Penavic Marshall, Protocol Ambassador, while Martha and Hillary pose for pix.

The opening reception began at the Blair House but then moved to the State Department’s elegant upper floor for a fine Christmas program hosted by our most gracious Secretary of State.  And that’s where Hillary, Martha, Mother and me converged for a moment.


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