LINDA ALLEN is a self-confessed "aluminum Christmas tree baby." Although that may make her part of the generation of interior designers who celebrated their first holidays in the 1970s, her work has evolved into a synthesis of 21st century multicultural influences.
Her 1950 design-and-build home in the Oaks neighborhood of the Hollywood Hills is a case in point. Playing off the clean lines of Case Study Modernism and Asian fretwork exterior details, Allen has created a living and dining space she describes as midcentury Pacific Modern.
It is the perfect setting for her nontraditional holiday table, which is a part of a set of early 1960s furniture with Chinese Chippendale-style chairs and cabinets with Modernist metal pulls.
"This is an artistic impression of Kwanzaa traditions such as candles and mats," she says of the dining room display. "I am proud of my heritage, but I also believe that everyone should celebrate the season in their own way."
Her vision, she says, was to work with the main symbolic elements of Kwanzaa as well as Christmas colors "to create a wintry feeling for an unexpected but balanced table setting."
Channeling "a little Zen simplicity," Allen says she covered a white tablecloth with a black organza table topper featuring welted seams that ran diagonally across the table, which inspired her to arrange the place settings and chairs to form an X.
Allen laid four 24-inch square linen napkins in a mossy green linen ($22 each from TableArt of Los Angeles, http://www.tartontheweb.com ) on the bias so that the corners of each met, defining a square in the middle of the tabletop for the centerpiece.
Allen fell in love with TableArt's Red Berry pattern, elegant bone-white china plates with a minimalist botanical print by German designer Bodo Sperlein, available for $75 each.
As a focal point, she selected Sperlein's Black Forest orb vase with a black leafless tree print, filling it with branches ebonized with spray paint and flocked with spray snow. Instead of traditional Christmas bulbs, she attached porcelain flowers by Sperlein to the branches.
The effect, she says, "is like flowers and berries frozen in ice, a winter wonderland that's complex and layered, like something from 'Edward Scissorhands.' "
"These are truly collector pieces," she acknowledges, "but not everything on a table needs to be."
The red glasses and goblets, she notes, cost $6.95 each at Z Gallerie. The raffia placemat in the center of the table is from her own pantry, as are small wooden bowls from a trip to Fiji that hold pears as a Kwanzaa symbol for a harvest gift.
"For glitter — pine cones, glass bowls and red jewels," Allen says, "Pottery Barn is my friend."
The designer (www.lindaallendesigns.com), owner of Designs for the Nest, has already filled the living room and stairwell with her own holiday floral arrangements. She twirled a strand of Pottery Barn's faceted plastic gems around the cord of the classic PH 5 pendant light by Poul Henningsen, a fixture that she says resembles a "spaceship floating over the Los Angeles skyline when I look past it outside my window."
Lighting has long captivated Allen, who watched the play of colored illumination on ice during her days as a competitive and professional skater. After taking her degree in interior design, she worked as a lighting consultant for hotels and restaurants.
"Dimmers are a must for holidays and you want a fixture that provides down light on the table so your guests can see each other and the food," she says. "String lights around the room and battery-operated lights on the table give an unexpected sparkle, but there's nothing that adds more character than the romantic flicker of candlelight."
Allen's waxworks are a riff on the traditional Kwanzaa candle arrangement of a black candle surrounded by three red and three green candles. On her table, she placed two black tapers in a pair of candlesticks that look like branches covered in moss, designed by Ted Muehling for the German porcelain manufacturer Nymphenburg. For the red and green candles, she floated a trio of colored tea lights in two glass bowls — one filled with cranberries, the other with moss. This simple display casts a magical glow.
"It's just a little trick of mine," Allen says. "At Thanksgiving, I do candles with cranberries and lentils."