PANAMA CITY— If you’ve been dreaming of a white Christmas, you are in the perfect place.
While a traditional white Christmas is filled with snow, a coastal Christmas can celebrate the sugary white sand beaches and warmer temperatures.
“A coastal Christmas is an interpretation for every traditional element — a decorated evergreen becomes a decorated palm tree. If you have a reindeer, it’s a flamingo. Those flamingos can be doing anything. … I did a painting of a flamingo wearing antlers,” said artist Paul Brent, who owns an art gallery off Beach Drive.
In fact, the beach is just the sort of place Sandy — I mean, Santa — Claus should relax after delivering all of those toys. Brent has designed ornaments showcasing Santa reading, fishing, balancing presents on a surfboard, riding a sailboat and paddling a rowboat.
“Santa is wearing a tropical colored shirt with Hibiscus on it and flip flops,” said Brent, who also has designed snowmen in resort attire.
The Paul Brent Gallery’s Christmas trees, including two that are upside down, are adorned with flamingos (some wearing Santa hats) and painted balls with coastal scenes. Brent’s Three Chairs Ornament features wreaths hanging on Adirondack chairs, while another beach chair is stacked with presents. Brent’s lobster is dressed in a Hawaiian shirt and holding a “party animal” sign.
“There have been times we use different types of trees from year to year. The important part of an upside down tree is ornaments hang and you can see them and get up close to them,” Brent said.
Some ornaments from other artists and companies include jeweled starfish, glass crabs, seahorses, lobsters, flip flops and dolphins.
“The blown glass ornaments are all sorts, some with a little sparkle and glitter and crystals in them,” Brent said. “What we really focus on is the coastal theme — flamingos, alligators, turtles, tropical fish, boats — great things from the area.”
A glass boat ornament with lights strung on it is reminiscent of the area’s annual boat parade.
“These are the things we experience here,” Brent said. “I think the fun aspect is part of decorating coastal.”
Brent’s limited edition presidential ornament, “Gulf Coast Salute to Freedom,” celebrates the coast as well as our country. The ornament is in honor of the ornament Brent was asked to design for the White House Christmas Tree in 2008.
“I was asked to make it a representation of our area and our relationship with the area and theme, red, white and blue,” Brent said. “It’s an eagle with a flag and coastal scene in the background. It’s patriotic and relating to coastal environment.”
Each of the 200 ornaments, hand blown glass and hand painted by Brent from the inside on reverse, are signed and numbered.
If you want to send Christmas cards celebrating where you are, Brent has designed cards featuring beach scenes.
The holiday season also is about giving. Coastal gifts can be mementos from a vacation and add a personal touch.
“It might be a sculpture of a pelican or a crab; it could be a painting of a beach scene or sunset. We have pillows, rugs, dinnerware, and even fans that convey the feeling of the coast that make unique gifts for Christmas giving,” Brent said.
Brass sculptures range from about $20 to more than $300.
“We just got the sculptures in Friday and those go fast for the holidays,” said Christine Boyer, business manager at the gallery.
Find blown glass serving dishes for hors d’oeuvres and sushi, as well as pottery for dipping oil and cheese board sets for holiday parties. Check out the salt and pepper shakers featuring a flamingo with a Santa hat and a snowman with Hawaiian shirt, or the same design on a set of mugs. The gallery also has local cookbooks for sale, including “Bay Leaves” and “Gulf Coast Favorites.”
Jewelry, such as glass design earrings and necklaces, also is a big seller during the holidays.
And how will Brent be spending his holidays?
“Most years we have a very large Christmas tree, and we’ve collected ornaments like everyone else, dozens from every place you go to commemorate, ornaments the kids made, to ornaments I’ve designed. I always keep one to put on my tree.” Brent said. “I also decorate with palmetto, a local theme, instead of sprigs of evergreen and spice and spray it in gold. This year in the gallery, we have silver palmetto wreaths and sand dollars and shells.”
His home, which features “over 70 nutcrackers” during Christmas time, even has a few fishermen nutcrackers. A Brent tradition, his boys have received a nutcracker each year. When he visits his son and new daughter-in-law in Cincinnati, he will go armed with coastal gifts.
“Whether it is coastal or related to activities, people like to celebrate Christmas and have it relate to them. We’re here in Panama City. Let’s have a Panama City Christmas. … It doesn’t have to be red, gold and green .. we can expose our locality. We are at the coast, we can use this starfish instead of a twinkling star on the tree.”
PAUL BRENT GALLERY
Where: 413 W. Fifth St., Panama City
Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday; special holiday hours also include from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday
Details: (850) 785-2684 or PaulBrent.com.
Florida Linen on Panama City Beach Parkway in Panama City Beach also features seasonal bath accessories and home décor with a coastal edge.
“We have 10 different designers on the tree,” said owner Lyn Retherford, whose home is decorated in a “West-Indies style.”
Retherford, 41, has worked at Florida Linen since she was 15, taking over the business opened by her father in the ’90s. Florida Linen built up a local following before moving to the current location in 2002. She does do personal consultations for others’ home designs.
Where: 12011 Panama City Beach Parkway, Panama City Beach
Hours: Noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday
Details: (850) 230-4261 or FloridaLinen.net