A Christmas Showcase Salon
The entry into Jennifer Chapman’s two-story family home in Carlsbad is far from modest. The entry’s interior door has been beautified by gold leaf and oil-painted panels of florid decoration. Framed by fragrant evergreens and a live wreath with pine cones, the door is decked out for the holidays. When the eye is guided upward beyond that door, a dramatic ceiling giclée — one of Chapman’s latest line of fine art murals printed on canvas — depicts a romantic skyscape with birds in flight, gilded-framed and indistinguishable from her hand-painted designs. It sets the tone for Chapman’s palatial salon-style living room that serves as her personal gallery.
Walls are filled with large-scale portraiture and landscape masterpieces; Chapman’s fine artistry is the result of a father-mentor, Loyal “Bud” Chapman, 92, who still paints and golfs everyday. Renowned for her portraiture, a future client is Prince Lorenzo de’ Medici, who has requested that Chapman paint his daughter’s portrait.
One piece stands out among the rest: a regal 18th century-style portrait of her daughter, Elsa, that Chapman transforms to harmonize with her holiday decor through live crimson blooms and cascading greenery placed directly on the canvas — as though in Elsa’s lap — adding depth and texture.
Fresh evergreen garlands with scarlet ribbon wrap the banister of a stairwell that curves around a romantic image of a maiden — a mural inspired by Boucher’s painting, “Lovers in the Park” — painted in oils by Chapman. Live holiday floral bouquets in the maiden’s two baskets echo the treatment of Elsa’s portrait.
“Every inch of the living room is filled with beauty,” says Chapman, who adds that Christmas is her favorite holiday as it gives her the chance to not only design a festive interior but takes her memories fondly to Christmases past. The centerpiece was then, and is now, the grand Christmas tree.
It stands 7½ feet tall and is topped by a shimmering crystal chandelier suspended from the ceiling, modified with additional crystals cascading down into the top branches. Strings of fairy lights are threaded down through the chandelier and throughout the branches, interspersed with blue lights. The wiring is carefully hidden by golden ribbon, and flickering flame candle lights illuminate the tree’s perimeter.
“The tree symbolizes a lot of things,” Chapman says. “But for me firstly, it’s the perfect artist’s tree because it’s filled with miniature masters’ paintings everywhere you look.”
Vintage ornaments are selected to reflect the room’s French decor. Some are delicate 18th century mirrors paired with antique bird figures. But several are miniature framed photographs of Chapman’s Norwegian ancestors and parents. “Everyone is honored here,” she says. “So secondly this is truly a family tree.”
Chapman’s mother, Mitzi, made Christmas special. “Our tree was so beautiful and we all helped decorate it,” Chapman recalls. Her mother collected antiques and would take her daughter “to every barn in Minnesota and every antique show, so the way I was raised meant I grew up loving antiques.”
Accenting a window seat is a grouping of Chapman’s pillows highlighted in Betty Lou Phillips’ French decor books. Crafted from Fortuny fabric accented with leather panel inserts, Chapman uses each pillow as a miniature canvas to hand-paint portraits of 18th century aristocracy. For the holiday season, she has made hand-painted miniature Christmas stockings to harmonize with the pillows.
Chapman says she loves to create vignettes. “Every single space has to have some point of beauty.” Against one wall is a curio repurposed from an old church window and its casement. Once layered in centuries of white paint, Chapman stripped it and then finished it with gold leaf. Antique Fortuny fabric lines the back and it contains an 18th century church banner, woven with the image of a priest, which reflects the Christian aspect of the holiday, Chapman explains. The curio is flanked by two 17th century French hall chairs upholstered in Verdu tapestry.
Across the room is a white terra cotta and porcelain 18th century Austrian stove, massive in scale, where Chapman places a grouping of fragrant candles of apple and spice to fill the room with warmth and aromatic holiday ambiance; a room where everything has been touched by Chapman’s artistic hand, including painted table chairs, reupholstered seating, and painted goatskin sconces and light shades.
It’s a showcase salon that gets the “wow” factor, but for Chapman it is still home, she says. And Cupcake and Gertie, her rambunctious pets, have free rein to roam through its gilded interior, made even more beautiful for the holidays. (www.jenniferchapmandesign.com) DIANE Y. WELCH
Photography by Vincent Knakal