Siesta inspired, Santa approved

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Gemma Lewis has the holiday-tree touch and she’s happy to share it

By Jane Bartnett

As the holiday season for many got underway, Siesta Key rolled out the red carpet. In the Village, festive lights adorn Ocean Boulevard, a beautiful tree went up in the gazebo, and there’s a definite festive feeling in the air.
For florist and designer Gemma Lewis, spending the holiday season on Siesta Key reminders her of many merry Christmases spent in her native Caribbean. “Siesta Key reminds me of home,” she says. “I really enjoy mixing the beauty of the coast with seasonal holiday decor.”
Here on the Key, Lewis’ decorative talents are on display at the Silver City jewelry store on Midnight Pass Road in Southbridge Mall. When store owner Monica Galfre wanted to add some coastal holiday cheer, she turned to Lewis to deliver some Siesta Key-influenced holiday design touches.
Galfre and Lewis have neighboring businesses in nearby Osprey. Lewis’ Flowers on Bay Street opened in May of 2023, shortly after Galfre’s Diamond Bay Jewelers opened its doors last January, in the Bay Street Village Town Center. The two business owners work together whenever possible.
“Beautiful flowers and beautiful jewelry go hand-in-hand,” said Galfre. “Gemma’s designs are exceptional and we have them on display at both of our stores.”

Gemma Lewis decorates a holiday tree with a coastal-themed approach. (photo by Jane Bartnett)

Last month, as the holiday season got underway, Lewis and Galfre donned red Santa caps and spent several late after-business hours adding a coastal holiday glow to Silver City’s window and exterior.
“I wanted Silver City’s decor to complement Monica’s blue-green Siesta Key Watercolor Gemstones,” Lewis said. “The store’s jewelry reflects the beauty of the gulf waters. The holiday decor just had to be filled with beautiful blue and green turtles, seahorses, dolphins and other animals that live here.”
When it comes time to decorating for the holiday season, Lewis enjoys capturing the beauty of the coast. Although she also embraces traditional Christmas and holiday design, she believes that the natural beauty of Siesta Key and nearby coastal communities lends itself to a lighter, more natural design.
She draws on her lifelong passion for flowers that she discovered while teaching school in her native Trinidad. After opening her own floral shop there, Lewis’ career led her to Washington, D.C., and New York City. Her floral designs appeared at special events on Capitol Hill, in New York City’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral, at the Plaza Hotel, and leading museums in both cities.
Queen Elizabeth became an admirer of Lewis’ floral designs when the late monarch stopped to view Lewis’ work at the Royal Horticultural Flower Show in London.
“I love what I do and I’ve never thought of it as work,” said Lewis.
When she and her husband relocated to Sarasota in 2010, Lewis spent the next 10 years with Beneva Florists and Luxe Art Silks of Sarasota, before opening her own shop, last year.
As the holiday season moves into full swing, Lewis is enjoying these busy days.
When she isn’t working with clients and managing her own shop, Lewis offers monthly design classes where she teaches her students how to create silk flower designs.
If interested, visit flowersonbaystreet.com or call (941) 445-5698.

Gemma Lewis (inside store) and Monica Galfre (foreground) enjoy getting Silver City in festive holiday shape. (photo by Jane Bartnett)

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Ready to decorate, Siesta Key style? Here’s what you need to know

To create a Siesta Key-inspired holiday coastal look this season, Lewis offers these design tips:

  1. Select your colors. Blue and green are good choices. Pops of soft white and pale beige will bring in the look of Siesta Key’s soft white sands.
  2. “Decide on a sub-theme that will determine what ornaments and decor will be added to your tree, wreath or swag,” Lewis said.
    She suggests these Siesta Key decorating sub-themes:
  • Boating and fishing
  • Sailing
  • Sealife
  • Shells
  • Siesta Beach
  • Turtle Beach
    “Shells come in all kinds of shapes and colors,” Lewis said. “For a more formal design, use strings of pearls in place of garland. Seagrass and driftwood can also add interest and color.”
    Another alternative to the traditional gold or silver rope that Lewis suggests is white sailing rope.
    For a twinkling tree that will add to your Siesta Key coastal look, use small white lights and place them throughout the tree, not only on the edge of the branches.
    To crown a tree, consider a starfish, a beautiful shell or a glittering manatee who will look over the festivities through the season.
    And for a tree skirt, Lewis suggests large matching beach towels.
    If space is limited, decorate a wreath or swag with ribbon, ornamental sea creatures, shells and pieces of driftwood. Hang it from a door or on a main wall and enjoy your Siesta Key-themed holiday season!
    — Jane Bartnett
Jane Bartnett
Author: Jane Bartnett

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