MOTHER EARTH NEWS Decorates Presidential Guest House for the Holidays

MOTHER EARTH NEWS was invited by the Department of State to spruce up historic rooms with eco-friendly décor for the holiday season.

Dining Room Fireplace

The Jackson Dining Room Fireplace in the Blair House, the President's Guest House


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This holiday season, MOTHER EARTH NEWS was honored to showcase messages of environmental stewardship through beautiful holiday decorations as one of six national magazines participating in the first-ever Magazine Holiday Design Showcase, a partnership between the Magazine Publishers of America and the U.S. Department of State.

View a slide show of our decorations.

We spruced up two rooms in the Blair House, the president’s official guest house, and one of the Diplomatic Reception Rooms in the State Department’s Harry S. Truman Building in Washington, D.C. These rooms have borne witness to some of the nation’s greatest diplomatic achievements and will be visited by hundreds of guests this December, including foreign leaders and dignitaries, diplomats, senators and congressmen. Our decorations seek to support President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, Ambassador Marshall and their staffs in the vital role they play in welcoming visitors to the United States. “We’re grateful for the opportunity to highlight important environmental issues — the need to sustain biodiversity with heirloom food crops, reduce consumption and purchase sustainable goods —

at such esteemed venues,” says Bryan Welch, publisher and editorial director.  

Blair House: Jackson Dining Room and Sitting Room

These rooms emphasized the beauty and elegance of environmentally friendly living, while calling for Peace on Earth. Live trees display handmade dove-shaped cookies carrying flags of nations from around the world, and gorgeous rare heirloom corns, wheat and rice tell a story about world hunger. The decorations in these rooms were energy-efficient, handmade, fairly traded, recycled and reusable.

An International Tree for Peace. Decorating winter holidays with evergreen boughs and trees is an ancient tradition now practiced in many countries. During the U.S. Civil War, the Christmas tree was widely treated as a symbol of hope for the reunification of the country. Christmas trees became symbols of patriotism, and were often decorated with flags, liberty bells and cookies. The trees displayed in the Jackson Sitting Room feature handmade peace dove cookies carrying flags of the nations of the world, as a holiday symbol of all nations’ desire for peace and harmony.

Let Us Be Mindful of Those Who Have Less. For thousands of years, people all around the world have gathered during winter to celebrate their religious holy days and/or the return of light and warmth following the Winter Solstice. Food is often at the center of such celebrations. The unique decorations in the Jackson Dining Room feature the “Big Three” crops that feed the modern world:

  • Multicolored “Indian” corn varieties developed over centuries by Native Americans
  • Sheaves of wheat, first cultivated in the Middle East about 11,000 years ago
  • Rare varieties of multicolored rice, from Asia

As we enjoy our holiday feasts, we would be wise to remember that the world’s population continues to climb toward 7 billion, with about 1 billion people suffering from hunger while another billion are coping with health problems caused by excess food consumption.

State Department: Adams Reception Room

The Adams Reception Room at the State Department features ever-popular apples as the centerpiece of the holiday decorations. Conscientious growers from across the country have provided rare, heirloom varieties, each with a unique history, to fill bowls and perfume the air in this elegant room. Apples have been a part of winter festivals since ancient times, spreading throughout the world from their origin in Central Asia. Today in America there is renewed interest in the diverse flavors offered by beautiful heirloom varieties such as those on display.

In recent decades, artisan cider makers have reappeared across the continent, offering the concentrated (and sometimes fermented) liquid essence of this delicious fruit. In fact, when the State Department unveiled the gorgeous rooms in all their holiday splendor at its Dec. 7 reception, hundreds of dignified guests were delighted to taste handcrafted artisanal hard ciders from all over the country. The State Department's chef, Jason Larkin, was so pleased with the cider offering that he hopes to make it a holiday tradition at the State Department. "It was an absolute pleasure to have the opportunity to serve such a wide variety of handcrafted apple ciders. It is our continued goal at the Department of State to showcase American artisanal food products to our distinguished guests. The President’s Guest House was a fitting venue from which to serve them. I consider it a priority to ensure that local food producers get the recognition that they deserve and am excited that there is an increased appreciation for these products. Every cider was truly unique and reflective of not only the apple varieties and techniques used but also the personality of the individuals making them," Larkin said. (See Unique Apples and Artisan Ciders.)

A Special Thanks to the Team:


Tabitha Alterman, Project Coordinator
David Derbyshire and Stephanie Nelson, Room Designs
Rob Cardillo, Photography
Nathan Ackerman/Eighteenth Street Media, Video
Bryan Welch, Cheryl Long, John Rockhold, Matthew Stallbaumer, Heidi Hunt, Brandy Ernzen, Laura Perkins, Robyn Lawrence, Jessica Kellner, Kim Wallace, Heidi Alterman, Stephanie Nelson, Andrew Perkins, Cassie Lauver, Kathy Logiodice Fong, Ann Goldstein

The decorations were made possible by generous donations:

Eco-friendly decorations from Viva TerraBerwick OffrayBulbriteNashville WrapsRawganique and RoomMakers
Peace Dove Cookies by Kodi Malott
Heirloom apples from ApplesourcePoverty Lane OrchardsApplecrest FarmApple Hill FarmPrevedelli FarmsGray Wolf Plantation and Century Farm Orchard
Heirloom corn from Liz and Ron Rasser, Baker Creek Heirloom SeedsSouthern Exposure Seed Exchange and Nick’s Organic Farm
Wheat sheaves from Curious Country Creations
Heirloom rice from Eighth Wonder and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds