Ring Around the Cozy

A wreath-making workshop at Cornman Farms sparks the holiday spirit

BACKSTORY: Last year, we took a sneak peek at the Jen House Design-hosted Wreath-Making Workshop at Zingerman’s Cornman Farms in Dexter. Design firm co-owners Jen House and Kendall Goddard, based in Plymouth, brought everything from holiday greens and seasonal branches to pine cones and winter berries to the event, and showed workshop participants how to create beautiful holiday wreaths. While the venue’s founder and executive chef, Kieron Hales, whipped up everything from mulled cider to hot soup, folks snipped, tucked, and arranged their beautiful creations beside a crackling fire, all in a heated, cozy historic barn. “These workshops allow our clientele and followers to get in on the creativity and creation of their very own masterpieces,” says House, whose company does everything from event planning and producing to floral design.

Jen House, Kieron Hales, and Kendall Goddard stand ready to serve and assist.

HALES’ PEDIGREE: Chef Hales’ career began in England at the age of 13, when he was accepted into the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts. His posts have included the three-star Paul Bocuse in France and Dal Pescatore in Italy, and he’s cooked for the British Royal family and three U.S. presidents. In 2008, Hales emigrated from the U.K. to the U.S. to join food emporium Zingerman’s and pursue his entrepreneurial aspirations. After a few years as executive chef of Zingerman’s Roadhouse, he penned a vision and opened Zingerman’s Cornman Farms, an award-winning event venue and working farm.

THE BARN YARN: The barn was originally built in 1837, three years after the farmhouse was constructed, and the same year that Michigan became a state. During a renovation process, the team discovered the foundation was built in 1864 and a basement (now the lounge) was added in 1894.

The labeled holiday elements await crafty wreath-makers.

To restore the barn to its original glory, architect Chuck Bultman, who has an interest in the preservation and rehabilitation of historic barns, oversaw a process that involved taking the structure down piece by piece, shipping the pieces to a timber frame specialist in Ohio to restore and repair the wood, and then raising it back up in the same place it had stood for more than a century. He also added modern-day amenities such as heating and air conditioning, an elevator, and two wood-burning fireplaces.

TOOLS OF THE TRADE: Workshop attendees learn to use high-grade floral clippers, floral wire, and a selection of floral picks that secure items like pine cones and other unique dried items to the wreaths.

Candlelight creates a cozy ambiance on a wintry night.

PROS’ FAVE AT-HOME ITEM TO DECORATE WITH: House’s Dexter home brims with lots of garland come the holiday season. “Seeing my mantels, archways, and stairways decorated with garlands of fresh winter greens and magnolia just fills me with the holiday spirit!” she enthuses. Meanwhile, Goddard, who has three children under the age of 5, always decks her Plymouth home with a handmade wreath, which she hangs on her front door.

WREATH TRENDS: “Gold rings are big (crafters attach greenery and adornments to the rings and leave parts of the ring showing). They’re simple, clean-looking, and modern, and require very few elements — but they make a big statement,” House says.

WORKSHOP WREATH TIPS: One needs patience. Also, lay the pieces out and decide where you want things to go before securing anything, and take a photo so you’ll know how to design as you go. In addition, shake the wreath lightly as you build it, to be sure everything is well-secured. Finally, remember that fresh wreaths do best when they’re outdoors.

Left: A gold-ring wreath, a popular style, showcases both the bare ring and the adornments. “They make a statement,” says teacher Jen House.

NOW SERVING: Chef Hales, who lives in Chelsea, plans to prepare mulled wine, the facility’s signature cheese gougères (French cheese puffs), and celeriac soup for this year’s event. “I use a blend of spices (nutmeg, cassia bark, cardamom, and star anise) from Épices de Cru to make the red wine, which we source from small producers, even more special,” Hales says.

SIGN UP: The third annual workshop, scheduled for Dec. 5, will feature light bites and wine, as described above, crafted by the farm’s food and beverage team. Two class times are available: 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. The cost per person is $110. Cornman Farms, 8540 Island Lake Rd., Dexter; 734-619-8100. zingermanscornmanfarms.com.