A behind-the-scenes look at Gracie Mansion’s colorfully festive holiday decorations
Photos courtesy of Roey Yohai Studio
Gracie Mansion, the residence of Mayor Bill de Blasio, is officially in full holiday spirit. The historic home, which dates back to 1799, is showing off decorations that promote some of the mayor’s top initiatives, plus the overall theme of togetherness. It’s all the work of New York City’s First Lady Chirlane McCray and renowned event planner Bryan Rafanelli, who have been refining the vision since this summer. This is Rafanelli’s second year working with McCray to decorate the people’s home of New York. For 2018, they selected jewel-toned colors, lots of ribbon, and even worked in some participation from New Yorkers.
Keep reading to figure out how the pair made it happen, an effort that includes bringing a 17-foot-tall tree through a narrow French door into the mansion’s ballroom. The images are sure to put you in a New York holiday spirit.
Gracie Mansion’s history dates back to 1799 when a prosperous New York merchant named Archibald Gracie built a country house overlooking a bend in the East River. The city purchased the property in 1896, incorporating its 11 acres of grounds into Carl Schurz Park. Once home to the Museum of the City of New York, it became the “Little White House” after Parks Commissioner Robert Moses convinced city authorities to designate the house as the official residence of the Mayor and, in 1942, Fiorello H. La Guardia moved in. An entertaining addition to the home was added in the 1960s, under Mayor Robert F. Wagner.
The holidays have become an opportunity for the Mayor to open up Gracie Mansion to the public. Every year since Mayor de Blasio’s inauguration in 2014, he and First Lady McCray have hosted an open house holiday bash that includes a chance to tour the historic property, peep the decorations, and view the art. This season, the open house event took place on December 8th.
Pictured above is the Wagner Foyer, the entrance into the entertaining addition of the home.
This year, the couple wove their city initiatives into the room-by-room decorations, using ribbon to tie it all together. According to Rafanelli’s team, a whopping 45,000 feet of ribbon donated by the designer (some of it from the ribbon stock at his warehouse) was wrapped throughout Gracie Mansion.
The 18-foot-tall ballroom showcases a 17-foot-tall tree provided by the NYC Parks Department. If you can believe it, the tree was brought into Grace Mansion through the door just to the tree’s left. It took a team of roughly 10 people, and none of the historic home was damaged in the process.
This year, visitors to the holiday open house were invited to complete the sentence “I thrive when…” on jewel-toned ornaments. They are now hanging from the tree. The sentiment ties into the ThriveNYC initiative to address mental health issues.
Ribboned decor is found throughout each room.
The Peach Room displays a holiday tree made up of 50 soccer balls, which will be donated after the decorations come down. It symbolizes the 50 mini-fields pledged in Mayor de Blasio’s Soccer Initiative.
Beside each mantlepiece is a plaque describing the mayor’s various efforts. There are five total designs from Johnson.
After months of planning, it takes about one week to put up the decorations. Besides the open house earlier this month, the rooms serve as the backdrop to a number of festive mayoral events. It’s certainly not a bad place to soak in Christmastime in New York and reflect on some of the mayor’s work.
“I have enjoyed designing the Holiday Decor for Gracie Mansion, again this year!,” Rafanelli told 6sqft in an email. “The First Lady shared so many inspiring stories about the city’s initiatives; it made it easy to share her passion through the holiday decorations throughout the house.”
For more photos of decor details, be sure to check out the gallery below.