Dedicated to Decorating

Couple pulls out all the stops when creating Christmas spirit

Decorating a 12,000-square-foot home might be a daunting task for some, but one couple relishes the challenge to their creative sides by tackling some jobs together, some apart and others with the aid of their four children, ages 5 to 20. Comfort, holiday cheer and collaboration help transform this grand home into a winter wonderland. “I love Christmas. It is my favorite time of year. It is all about spending time with family and friends,” says the homeowner, adding that traditions, such as baking cookies and throwing intimate dinner parties or grand gatherings, are just par for the course for the couple during the holidays.

Oh, Christmas tree

Christmas trees—14 in total—can be found in almost every room of the house. From artificial to fresh, the trees are individually inspected to make sure that they meet the homeowners’ very high standards. For instance, the tree in the great room is usually a 15-foot Frazier fir that is hand selected every Christmas from their landscape company, Pinecrest Nursery. It is then personally delivered by Pinecrest and adorned with 1,500 white lights. One of the homeowners then meticulously decorates each of the trees in the house with a specific theme, such as snowmen in one child’s room and gingerbread men in another.

When the couple originally came together, they discovered they had a mishmash of Christmas ornaments, with many classic pieces that they desired to keep and others that were donated to friends and family. They worked together to marry the old with the new, and had extra shelving constructed in the garage and basement to store their extensive collection.

The gifts under the tree are deceiving in that they are really wooden replicas from Botanica. The local store located in Symmes Township also has created the custom greenery and arrangements seen throughout the house. For the front foyer staircase, eight swags were chosen so that they would add a touch of the season without covering the beautiful wrought-iron railings.

Lighting up

While one homeowner is busy decorating the 14 Christmas trees inside the house, the other homeowner is busy focusing her attention on adding her own personal holiday cheer to the exterior of the house. She tightly wraps the branches of the deciduous trees that line the driveway with strands of twinkle lights and painstakingly tests each strand before getting to work. If some of the strands do not light up, she tosses them and buys new, given that her philosophy is that time is money and to sit and try to figure out which light is bad out of the strand is simply not worth it. Plus, she jokes, “I just don’t have the patience to find which bulb is out then replace it.” She does admit to having a large investment in extension cords, and not just any color will do. They have to be in either green or brown, depending on the location of the strand, in order to blend into the natural surroundings.

From top to bottom, with the help of a 12-foot ladder, the homeowner installs all 60,000 lights on her own, including illuminating the barn located on the property, sometimes at her own peril. “Last year when I was placing lights on one of the trees located along the driveway, I was on the top rung of the ladder where it states in bold ‘DO NOT STAND,’ trying to hang the last few—totally ignoring the warning and in the mindset that I was going to make sure that the lights were strung from the top of the tree to the bottom. The next thing I knew, I landed in one of the bushes and laid there thinking, ‘Wow, am I going to be able to get up?’” She confirms that she did not break anything but did have one heck of a bruise. When telling the story several months later, she is able to laugh about it but at the time of the fall, she says, “it was no laughing matter.”

The village people

The same homeowner that is fanatic about installing the lights on the exterior of the house started collecting “Christmas in the City” about 10 to 12 years ago. She states, “I started collecting my village after walking into the local Hallmark store. My eye caught the display that had approximately 20 different stores set up. I was fascinated by the intricate detail of the pieces that made up the village and immediately told the sales person that I wanted everything that was part of the display. At the time I thought this is it and there was nothing else to be purchased. Boy was I wrong. I have since been acquiring every new piece that comes out each year.” She can honestly say that she has every building that makes up the collection, with the exception of 12 older buildings that she is in pursuit of acquiring. These pieces are now highly sought after with a steep asking price to boot.

At the time that the homeowners constructed their home, it was placed into the plans that there would be an outlet installed along three of the walls in the basement, every four feet, to handle the multitude of plugs needed to light up the display. They then had two tiered alder wood tables custom made to house the collection. It takes approximately two and a half to three days to put up the entire collection. The homeowner says that this collection is “a labor of love” and that she is particular about how it is set up. For instance, she places the miniature Rockefeller Center near the Tavern on the Green, two famous New York City icons, so that the layout makes sense to those familiar with real geography. Nothing is haphazardly displayed, but thought through in detail. The homeowner says she keeps thinking that she is finished collecting, but she cannot ignore the siren song of the annual additions that calls out to her. As a result, a few more buildings continue to be added each year.

Another collection that both homeowners have taken to is the Clothtique Santas. These jolly old Santas are posed doing different activities and are displayed around the house on various bookshelves and as a table centerpiece in the breakfast nook. “I never considered myself a collector until I started counting the number of Clothtique Santas that we had,” laughs the one homeowner.

In addition to the shelving in the garage that they had installed, the storage room in the basement and the barn loft also serve as storage for their Christmas decorations. To put the size of their overall collection into perspective, they filled one entire moving truck with their ornaments, Santas and other Christmas holiday decorations; however, this does not take into consideration the decorations that they continue to add onto their collection each year. The first year they moved into the house, they started with 8 trees and have since moved up to 14 trees and intend to continue to add to the collection. The couple add “it is all part of the holiday cheer.”

The proud homeowners say that the first words out of the mouths of individuals that come to the house for the first time, and even those that are close friends and come over frequently are, “This is such a warm and comfortable house.” It is this sentiment that really drives the homeowners to create a whimsical holiday atmosphere for themselves, their children, immediate family, friends and guests.

Editor’s note: This home and its incredible resort-style pool area were featured in Housetrends earlier this year. Please feel free to check out the space sans decoration  “A Jewel in the Crown”


Designers: Homeowners; Architect: Kenneth R. Bowerman Architects, Inc.; Builder: W.V. deStefano Homes, LLC; Flooring: Kemper Tile; Montgomery Hardwood Flooring; Cabinetry and beams: Miami Woodworking; Window treatments and bedding ensembles: Blue Grass Interiors, Euna Williams; Lighting: Fine Arts, Central Lighting; Wall treatments: Gary Lord Wall Options; Art: Gallery Veronique; Furniture: Henredon, Arhaus; Accessories: Botanica; Interior stonework and fireplaces: Brick Tec; Frontgate: Eads Fence Co.; Fencing: Mills Fence; Landscaping: Pinecrest Nursery; Stair railing: Steel, bronze, mica, copper by Kate Demske, Solid Ground Studio

To see this article as it appeared in the magazine, please visit our Digital Edition, pages 20-28.


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