Warm and Welcoming
Fabulous ideas for a festive décor
The holidays are a time of fun, festivity, and family gatherings, and your décor can boost the merry mood, whether your taste runs to glitter and dazzle, warmth and coziness, nostalgia, or fantasy. Coastal Home looks inside two houses, part of the 2014 Exeter Holiday House Tour, that present a wealth of holiday decorating ideas.
Fort Rock Farm
Fort Rock Farm in Exeter, New Hampshire, was built in 1750 on a location near its present site. In 1903, it was moved to where it sits today. Originally a Black Angus beef farm, it is now the home of Teresa and John Toomey, who still do some small farming on the acreage.
Renee Carman of Mandeville Canyon Designs, based in Exeter, dressed up Fort Rock Farm for the holidays. From the minute the door opened, she cast a holiday spell with the stairway decorations in the front hall. Carman wove fir, pine, winterberry, fairy lights, and golden ribbon down the railing, then added layers of glittering Christmas balls in hues of gold, copper, silver, and platinum, which she wired to the garland. As a finishing touch, oversized holiday ornaments in sparkling silver were set on the far side of the stairs themselves.
“The home’s overall decorating theme was ‘Precious Metals’ so I continuously worked those colors into all of the home’s décor,” she says. “I used battery-powered fairy lights so you did not have to worry about cords or finding a nearby outlet.”
The living room was a holiday fantasy in gold and white. The fireplace mantel was piled high with evergreen boughs and glittering metallic ornaments with fairy lights gleaming among the bows. A large mirror behind the greens reflected the sparkling decorations. Gracing one end of the garland were large, bronzy pheasant feathers, which echoed the colors in the balls and gave a nod to the home’s rural roots. They also celebrated the history of Fort Rock Farm and the decorating styles of earlier times when feathers, berries, shells, and other natural elements comprised much of the décor.
Carman’s clever use of filament line took the room’s décor to another level. Suspended from the mantel—seemingly in midair—were gleaming rows of metallic balls. At dusk, with the lights dimmed, the balls appeared to float and glow on their own.
Collections of miniature trees in white and metallic hues were positioned on several tables around the room. Some trees were flocked with white feathers; others were glass painted gold, silver, and copper; and a few were paper stamped with gold. A large swath of fishnet gold ribbon wove through the trees like a shimmering river. Positioned above one “forest” (thanks to filament line) was a cluster of tea lights with golden candles; as the room darkened, the lit candles were magically airborne.
“When I decorate, I try to bring in the five essential elements—fire, wood, water, air, and metal,” Carman says. “It keeps the design grounded and connected, and these elements always work well together.”
Tucked under the stairway was one of the home’s most popular and unique elements—a tree made of decorative wooden boxes. With wood donated by Exeter Lumber, Carman’s husband crafted dozens of open-faced wooden boxes that he and Carman then spray-painted gold, silver, and copper. They stacked the boxes into the shape of a Christmas tree and wired them in place. Within their open fronts, Carman placed little ornaments, candles, clusters of lights, and here and there a large Moravian star. Teresa also supplied personal ornaments, such as a little antique car and part of a child’s train set. Carman then overlaid the entire tree with strands of fairy lights and silver beads.
“People loved this tree,” Carman says. “They loved peeking in the boxes and seeing all the details. It’s the kind of decoration that is easy to customize with whatever you want to put in there. The finished design really represents family and tradition.”
In the dining room, Carman created a scene that told the story of an elegant dinner on a winter night, with the stage set for a romantic interlude after the guests had gone. Giant mercury glass ornaments with fairy lights inside and clear glass balls were nested among copper-sequined grapes and oversized cones. The dazzling centerpiece was the perfect pairing to the gold and silver dinnerware. The room’s white mantel, cool gray walls, and white accents lent perfectly to the wintry theme. Carman played up the arctic elements with an array of silvery white branches, glass ornaments, and clusters of fairy lights on the mantel. Shimmering pillows, large gold bows on the chair backs, and a stunning mercury glass ornament hung from the chandelier completed the effect. To finish the storyline, Carman laid a faux fur rug and two champagne glasses on the floor in front of the fire—suggesting a relaxing moment alone for the host and hostess.
The dark blue walls of the breakfast nook set the stage for its transformation into a snowy forest setting. White-branched trees draped with silver beads, large snowflakes suspended from the ceiling, a white-draped table, and the floor heavily dusted with “snow” combined for a dramatic tableau. Lit glass fairy balls cascaded from the table down to the floor. To bring a touch of warmth to the frosty scene, Carman scattered brilliant red poinsettia blossoms along the tablecloth and floor.
Of all the home’s creations, one true labor of love was the book tree. Set in a corner of the den, it was made from dozens of books, carefully stacked and layered to form a tree. “We got the books from the Salvation Army,” Carman explains. “They were bound for recycling and we took them and painted the covers with milk paint. Then we wove lights and ornaments among the layers of books. It really was an engineering feat—the books were not glued together, they were balanced that way. It took some time to work it out because they were different sizes and depths. The ornament at the top is a 1960s Sputnik—just for fun!”
No Christmas would be complete without reading a holiday classic, so Carman transformed the top of the den’s coffee table into a tribute to “The Night Before Christmas.” She used an old table from the Toomeys, painted the surface with chalkboard paint, and wrote out the opening lines of the story. In lieu of key words, symbolic elements were used, such as actual stockings, a picture of St. Nick, and a little mouse figurine.
“Teresa was a trouper!” Carman says. “There wasn’t anything she wouldn’t let us do. We took over her house for a week and she was 100 percent supportive.” Teresa laughs upon hearing this. “I was in a state of amazement the whole time,” she says. “When Carman was done, I couldn’t believe it was my home. Every corner was transformed; it was magical, warm, and welcoming all at the same time.”
Little Pine Lane
Little Pine Lane is the home of Heather Nadeau, who undertook its makeover. For the tour, Nadeau says she hoped people would “feel that sense of family and envision the activities a family might enjoy in each room.” Thus, the dining room is elegantly dressed for a holiday dinner, the kitchen is “baking central” and filled with delectable treats, and the family room is ready for gift-opening on Christmas morning with a dazzling 12-foot tree.
“I wanted the décor to reflect the way we live, with nothing off limits and everything cozy and welcoming,” says Nadeau. “After all, isn’t that what the holidays are all about?”