Designer Benjamin Bradley unequivocally adores Christmas. He makes no secret of the fact that he is re-living happy childhood memories when he creates Christmas in his apartment using his collection of over two thousand ornaments, many of which are antique ornaments he has been collecting since high school and college days. Unfortunately he had to deal with a die-hard Scrooge in this interview, because Sian is no fan of Christmas …
I wanted to talk about all of this because I have to admit to you because I am such a Scrooge when it comes to Christmas. I hate Christmas music—in fact I came in here thinking “Oh my God there’s going to be Christmas music …”
And there was!
And there was. I really just wish I could leave Manhattan between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Obviously you don’t feel like that, so maybe you should explain to me what makes you so cheerful about the holidays that makes me so cranky!
I think probably I just have really wonderful memories as a child. My mom made every holiday something special. There was always a holiday to look forward to. When it came to Christmas time she would save the Christmas cards from the mail that morning so that when we came home from school so that we could open them. I have a German background and she always made sure we baked cookies. So there was sort of a magic that literally always captured me and it never has gone away.
Where did you grow up?
So it’s a childhood thing?
It’s a childhood thing. I think people for the most part are in pretty good moods during the holidays or at least a little more willing to say ‘Happy Holidays’. There’s sort of a celebration about the whole thing, or at least an over-the-top abundance, which someone like you finds annoying. I find invigorating.
Are you religious?
I was brought up Catholic but I’m not a practicing Catholic. That kind of fell by the wayside in high school, probably. So, it’s not a religious thing, it’s just more of a joyful thing. We have a big holiday party, all of our friends come together. There’s really nothing I don’t like. I like the baking … on Sunday I baked nine different types of cookies. I was in the kitchen for twelve hours. It took fourteen-and-a-half hours to put the tree up.
I find it stressful to get all the gifts done. In fact I buy gifts during the year so that I don’t have to go shopping between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Which is probably the smart way to do it. I find it exciting to find the right gift for the right person.
I guess I’m such a Scrooge about it all because Christmas really emphasizes to me the great divide between the haves and have-nots. It gets me upset.
I get that too. Much like when I see a client or somebody in the world do excessive building or something so outrageous design-wise and millions of dollars go into it. But you know what? Part of my stomach turns and yet at the same time, for future generations I’m going to be thrilled to bits that all of those people … the Rockefellers and everybody, built what they did. I’m glad that today’s modern billionaires are doing what they’re doing. Ultimately I think for the most part those people are doing good for the world too, their philanthropic things.
It seems to be that, particularly in here, it is a very different way to be creative.
It’s just another opportunity to decorate, and you know, pull out all the stops. I actually laugh—it’s always the time to be a little tacky because most of the time we’re sort of dictated by taste, you know, understated and elegant.
It’s very different from what you do day-to-day.
Yeah. A completely different way. It’s almost like the appeal of window dressing. I always thought that would be such a wonderful profession. It allows me, again, to be childlike … I want Santa Claus and I want angels and I want cranberries and I want sugar cookies and I want a gingerbread house and I want … anything that seems Christmas!
You’re re-living your childhood!
[Laughs] I think there is that!
So what happens January 1st? Do you go into depression?
[Laughs] You know what? I’m always very happy to get it all back down but I’m a little sad it’s over … the grey days of January.