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Southern Hospitality, Holiday Home Style!

It's the Holiday Season

This Victorian home with Gothic arches felt like a candy cane cottage, all bedecked in ribbons and confectionary.

 When it comes to the Christmas season, a great source of design and creative inspiration always comes from a holiday home tour. 

Recently, I had the good fortune to tour not just one but two lovely Southern towns. Their graceful, historic and storied houses did not disappoint. In fact, I could share so many photos that it might feel as though you had embarked on the day-long visits with me. For the sake of time, I’ve combined both Camden, South Carolina –an antebellum beauty in the middle of the state — and Concord, North Carolina — the city where my mother and her family grew up–into one lovely collage of images.

Pour yourself a cup of hot tea or cocoa and enjoy touring these Southern holiday gems with me!

Christmas Home Tour Houses 1

Expansive front porches present a grand entrance to visitors.

The inviting front porches adorning many of the homes present a wonderful place to catch a breeze or be protected from the elements.

One of the days was rather rainy and cool, so we appreciated a nice wait station as we arrived.

Grand Entries

Notice the aqua blue color under the porch roof in the photo on the right, above. There’s a reason this is a popular color for porches in older Southern homes. (And it’s not about the bugs.)

Delightful Dining

Each home had grand-sized dining rooms for entertaining guests. While this one fell into the formal category, I felt as if I could enjoy sitting for a while in the comfortable chairs for great conversation and merriment. The chandelier was covered in fresh greens and the table was set with monogrammed silverware and napkins. Oh so southern!  

Lincoln's Table

The dining room furnishings in this Concord, NC home has furnishings used on the set of the movie “Lincoln.”

One of the aspects I loved about touring these old home places were all the stories that took place within their walls over the years. There was a tale of a newly engaged ingénue testing the validity of her diamond against a dining room window pane. It passed her test because her initials and the date are forever etched in the glass! The dining room, in this Concord home, has furnishings which were used on the set of the movie, “Lincoln.” I zeroed in on the red and white transferware, as it’s the same pattern I collect. They placed snow villages throughout the table top and it was spectacular!

Fresh and Fragrant home tour

Many of the homes featured all fresh arrangements and trees. The fragrance could have guided you from one space to the other, even with your eyes closed. Of course, who would want to miss every delightful sight? Even simple greens and oranges took on an elegant air, placed in stacked milk glass pieces. The tree was chock-full of family heirlooms.

Simply Lovely

In this Camden, SC home, the tree skirt was replaced with a bed of white poinsettias.

Camden is a place with a love for all things equestrian. You can see the influence in the designs of stunning fences and special posts, even with grass in the place of sidewalks. It’s easy to hop on your horse and pay a visit to the neighbor. In this instance, where there wasn’t a worry of an indoor pet, the tree skirt was replaced with a bed of poinsettias. While it’s striking, be sure not to do this if you have “children” of the furry type or a toddler who likes to test out different tastes. They are poisonous to ingest. Candy Cane Wishes Even though many of the homes had cozy dens, the crowds prohibited me from capturing good photos, so I’m sharing my inspiration board for one. The Bradington Young Corrigan Sofa would make for the most cheerful of spaces. Who says you can’t enjoy the Christmas color palette, year-round?

Coordinated Colors

How to pull it all together when you have collected or been given a “mish-mash” of ornaments? My biggest tip: Fill in with ribbon and simple balls, which are all color-coordinated. It unifies the look while allowing the treasures to shine through.

One of the things I’m often asked about when it comes to holiday décor, is how to pull it all together when folks have collected or been given a “mish-mash” of ornaments. My biggest tip is to fill in with ribbon and simple balls, which are all color-coordinated. It helps to unify the look while allowing the treasures to shine through. If you look closely, the tree, above, plays off of the mantel as they weave similar ribbons and balls back and forth.

Tabletop Trees

 Many of the homes had soaring ceiling heights, some elevated up to fourteen feet. Many of us may be in older homes, too, but they could be either a ranch style or a condo or townhome with limited space. I love how the tabletops or sideboards were graced with smaller tree versions. The tiered poinsettias, paired with the nutcrackers, were absolutely adorable. The miniature version of a tinsel tree captured the evening glow and sparkled in the mirror.

Christmas Home Tour House 2

This grand Queen Anne beauty in Concord had just received some fresh paint, and I was excited to see something a little different. Turquoise, lavender, jade and deep plum accents were frosted with touches of white.

Vintage VibeSM

I could just imagine finishing off the interiors with a pair of these Sam Moore Kelsea Wing Chairs! The owners were a young couple with a playful sense of design. I’d top off their tree with some pastel vintage ornaments. A cookie swap of snowflakes would make for a festive event at their home.


No historic home would be complete without a bevy of fireplaces and mantels to be decorated. The carvings and the mirrors, along with all of the everyday decorations, were offset with simple greens. Sometimes you don’t need to overdue what’s already so perfect. Lots of Easter egg colors make for a different season of bright.

Twist on Tradition

For some of the homes, it was all about the golden glow. In fact, this particular family collected pieces on their travels, which might not fit into the category of a traditional spread. I loved how they kept it all intact, while adding nandina leaves and berries on a dramatic, Asian alter table. Working with the things you love makes it less stressful to decorate.

Designer Details

More golden neutrals were found in this home. A little bit of embroidery, in the form of a dining chair monogram and in the table runner went a long way in adding fabulous style. If you don’t have the ability to redo your chairs, just consider making a back flap of fabric to attach and put your initials on them for a personal touch. You could change them seasonally with color, too!

Musical Chairs

As I went through the homes, I noticed how many of the dining chairs were upholstered. Like a beautiful chorus, they all “sang” to me in different ways. Here are some wonderful options from Hooker Furniture Co., which are similar to the ones I’ve shared: Arabella Dining Arm Chair, Grand Palais Lillian Tusk Arm Chair and Rhapsody Tufted Dining Chair.

Traditions Live On

No matter where you live or celebrate the holiday season, the one common thread is how traditions are honored. Sometimes they are passed down, from generation to generation, and other times they are reinterpreted. For me, it was a comfort to see these homes are still intact, with the care and love of the families who live in them. They are truly a valuable asset with a connection to our history and to the people who lived before us.

Much of design is based on the beautiful architecture and the elements which have been preserved. Be sure to look into your local historic societies to see if there is a tour and to help keep these old beauties vibrant.

And may you and your family enjoy celebrating the most meaningful traditions this 2014 holiday season!


Christmas in Merry Olde England


A traditional oranges, pinecone and clove wreath that might be seen in England’s Lake District. Photo credit: wildatheart.com.

Holiday issues were among my favorites in my magazine career, first at Better Homes and Gardens, and then at Victoria Magazine. We covered traditions around the country–and around the world.

Joy was always the goal—to enrich our readers’ own holidays with inspiring ideas.


The British love to adorn their trees with ribbons. Photo Credit: Arbor Day Foundation Blog.

One of my very favorite Christmases was the one I spent with my family at a grand country house in England’s Lake District. The following year, I happily shared the wonderful experience with the readers of Victoria Magazine.

The British have a special relationship with the holidays. After all, it was Prince Albert who brought the tradition of the Christmas tree to England in Queen Victoria’s time. The huge tree at Michael’s Nook was decorated with the prize ribbons the Great Danes of the house had brought home.


The Christmas tree at Michael’s Nook was decorated with prize ribbons. Photo credit: Simon Brown, courtesy Michael’s Nook.

How wonderful to make a tree so personal—and in the pages of the magazine, we often encouraged readers to make their trees such by attaching a small toy, an old pocket watch or a wee baby rattle to tree branches, as well as treasured photos in miniature frames.

Lovely indeed this grand house looked festooned with pine branches, pine cones, holly and flowers. Candles flickered on the mantel and on the table tops about the house.


A grand holiday mantel in England’s Lake District. Photo Credit: Simon Brown, courtesy Michael’s Nook.

Coming in from a walk amid grazing sheep on the misty moors, a roaring fire greeted us.

On Christmas Eve, we journeyed to nearby Dove Cottage, the 19th-Century home of the poet William Wordsworth!


Dove Cottage is the 19th Century Home of the poet William Wordsworth. Photo: Simon Brown, courtesy Michael’s Nook and Dove Cottage.

Here the poet lived until his family outgrew the cottage’s quaint size, and here again, candles and firelight reminded us we were in another place and time.


Photo: Simon Brown, courtesy Michael’s Nook and Dove Cottage.

Wordsworth wandered with daffodils in this most romantic terrain–and on this night, visitors from America found their way in the dark down a winding road with just a dusting of snow to enjoy warm fellowship and English holiday feasting.


Beef Wellington is a specialty of Michaels Nook. Photo credit: foodnetwork.com

At Michaels Nook, meals were a lexicon of English holiday feasting, with such specialties as Beef Wellington. Tyler Florence has a wonderful video here to encourage you to prepare this traditional favorite.  And of course, there was flaming plum pudding. The recipe was shared with our readers, but to have the pleasure of a “pudd,” why not order from the Vermont Country Store? They import it from England in two sizes. Add your own hard sauce from Michaels Nook’s own recipe.


Plum Pudding is a traditional English holiday favorite. Photo: foodviva.com.

Michael Nook’s Plum Pudding Sauce

2 sticks softened unsalted butter

1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

3-4 tablespoons brandy

1-2 tablespoons orange juice

2 teaspoons grated orange rind

 In a bowl with an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in brandy, a little at a time. Beat in the orange juice and rind. Transfer to a serving dish. Sauce may be chilled covered, but bring to room temperature before serving. Yields about a cup.


An English Christmas dinner would not be complete without party favors, called celebration crackers because of the festive noise they make when pulled. Photo: Caspari

Inside the cracker boxes are party hats and little gifts. Caspari has very special ones with lovely decorations that will add that merry touch to your holiday table.

Since our trip to England, we have celebrated Boxing Day–the day after Christmas. There are various explanations about the history of Boxing Day, but it usually means a wonderful lunch, almost picnic in atmosphere. A boar’s head graced the table at Michaels Nook–certainly something we were unlikely to have at home! Gifts are part of this occasion, and under the tree a Michaels Nook were gifts for all the staff and guests. How wonderful to have one more day of Christmas!


A Christmas wreath from wildatheart.com.

I continue to be charmed by the British devotion to creating Christmas magic, and with my editor’s instinct, still seek out creative talents like Nikki Tibbles. Her flower arrangements and Christmas wreaths are spectacular and inspiring. Visit her website for Wild at Heart to enjoy her talent. It will put you in the Christmas spirit with each click of a key.


The First Noel Bouquet from wildatheart.com.

The First Noel Bouquet and red berry wreath above are two stunning examples of her work. The red berry wreath features pine cones, pussy willow and eucalyptus–not only festive but fragrant.

The British have their own edition of House and Garden magazines. Susan Crewe is the editor, and I have admired her editorial skill for some years now. In this December issue of England’s House and Garden, she shares here ideas for her own tree with imitation snow, many lights, and pine cones. Susan suggests misting the tree before applying the fake snow. Editors always have their secrets!


A lovely tree featuring imitation snow accents and surrounding the base as a blanket. Photo: houseandgarden.co.uk.

What better background for an English manor house holiday than the Tynecastle Collection  from Hooker Furniture with its classic Georgian details.  Named for an area in the north of England known for its manor houses and equestrian lifestyle, Tynecastle features a long rectangular dining table with two 18-inch leaves to accommodate a host of dinner guests.


The Tynecastle Collection is named for a British region known for its manor houses and equestrian lifestyle. Photo: Hooker Furniture.

Christmas comes but once a year, but this welcoming seating will beckon family and friends for celebrations all year long.

Happy Christmas to all!


Warm Up with Marsala this Holiday


You may be dreaming of a Marsala Christmas with rich, warm décor like this mantle from Frontgate. The Nicholas armchair is from Sam Moore Furniture and the garnet and opal earrings are from Ross Simons.

If you’re not the all-silver type for Christmas but find fire-engine red just too much, relax and help yourself to a little Marsala.

pier one marsala christmas stockings

Stockings in a Marsala hue, layered with other earthy hues can warm up your mantle. Photo credit: Pier 1

A soft red with toasty undertones, Marsala is Pantone’s Color of the Year for 2015, but it makes a rich, earthy statement for Christmas right now.

marsala wreath pier one

Paired with metallic tones, marsala can even have a contemporary vibe, such as in this wreath from Pier 1.

While Pantone’s 2014 color of the year, Radiant Orchid, encourages creativity and innovation, Marsala “enriches our mind, body and soul, exuding confidence and stability,” according to Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute.

And by turning to this softer, gentler red for the holidays, you’ll be spared the crash of bright to dull when the holidays are over. Your Marsala will keep working its warm, undemanding magic all winter long.

When it comes to apparel and fashion, Marsala is flattering on just about any skin tone.


With its vegetable-dye look (wine stains, rejoice!), Marsala takes naturally to handmade, folkloric embroideries like this Lucky Brand top. Even on a dreary day, you’ll look naturally radiant.

More subtle and interesting than scarlet, it’s a standout with metallic and black.


Long, short or in between, soft Marsala swirls invitingly and flatters any skin tone because it’s a hue derived from nature. Dress shown from Anthropologie.

It’s also sophisticated yet easy to live with in any room of your home. It’s enriching, soothing and earthy qualities make Marsala spot-on for today’s home fashion trends.


Tawny wood teams with Marsala to make a timeless dining armchair. Photo credit: Sam Moore Furniture.

Marsala looks great with medium wood tones as with the Nicholas upholstered arm chair from Sam Moore Furniture, above, or with folkloric designs, brocades, rustic and English and French country styles, like this Louis XV Bergere  Pierre chair and ottoman.


Look how frisky eyelash fringe in soft Marsala plays off the olive gold-green hues of this sophisticated but inviting Pierre chair and ottoman. Photo credit: Sam Moore Furniture

Marsala is a challenge to match with brighter reds, but it works with deep maroon or any brandywine hue on the brown (not purple) side. It’s also flattering with its pastel cousin, the naturally pretty blush.

Marsala is a complex hue, so pair it with equally complex tones such as spruce green, teal blue or dense gold such as with this Brunswick Club Chair from Sam Moore Furniture.


Dense gold and Marsala paisley can stand up to everyday life in the family room and make an elegant impression on guests, too. Photo credit: Sam Moore Furniture.

In footwear, Marsala has always been a natural.


Boots by Sam Edelman and Frye are beautiful investments in a go-with-everything hue that’s a brighter version of classic cordovan/oxblood leather.


Soft Marsala makes a pretty print in “Venetian” flats from Land’s End.

So, what do you think of the Color of the Year for 2015? Do you find it as livable and authentic as we do? Let us know in the comments!