New England Homes Decorated for the Holidays

November 6, 2020

Text by Tovah Martin

Tradition with a Tweak
“I’m unabashedly into Christmas,” interiors and fine-art photographer Sarah Winchester admits. With two young children who still believe in Santa Claus, she wants to deliver the full experience. To make that happen, the family’s 1880 American foursquare home in Chestnut Hill is decorated with the help of stylist/florist/friend Jennifer Figge of Figge Floral Studio. No mantel is left unadorned; no bannister is naked, with lots of wired ribbons, ornaments, and greenery called into action. “When we bought the house seven years ago, we wanted to honor the architecture but throw in modern details,” Winchester explains.

For the holidays, the high ceilings come in handy, expanding the decorating dialogue upward while lending a sense of formality. Growing up in the South, Winchester was influenced by an ultra-cool aunt “who lived in the most stylish big old home in Atlanta and was way ahead of her time.” Family heirlooms now figure into Winchester’s equation with frequent nods to that favorite aunt, who inspired the home’s black library. Traditional nutcrackers, paperwhites, and holiday pillows further fabricate the fairytale, while ornaments dangle from ribbons between blossom buds. If it is all a suspension of reality, that’s exactly what Winchester has in mind.

Painted Farrow & Ball’s Black Blue, the library is now the Winchester family’s favorite room, especially when stockings are hung from a mantel decorated by Jennifer Figge with curly willow, magnolia, and pheasant-feather arrangements beside a ribbon-wrapped

Photography by Sarah Winchester

Making Merry
When Tony Elliott purchased his 1750 farmhouse, it was the former hangout of “three guys who never threw anything away.” Gradually, he transformed it into a polished, warm home with an overarching style that is “eclectic, old New England, and global with a twist.” A frequent traveler to find inspiration and vendors for Snug Harbor Farm—his nursery/shop in Kennebunk, Maine—Elliott is the first to confess that he’s a forager. Outdoors, his property hosts various poultry, pets, and plantings. Inside, the farmhouse is furnished with tidbits that mesh with their surroundings, but Elliott never loses sight of simplicity. “There’s nothing precious,”
he promises.

Although Elliott confesses to being a “spring person,” he does like to make merry for the winter holidays. That can shake down into a lineup of simple, spare grass plumes tucked into vintage bottles found in the wall while renovating, or it can mean voluptuous arrangements concocted while wandering his hedgerows. Those bouquets come together in his hands as he walks along, adding smoke bush, conifers, and grasses. In the barn, stems are stripped and lines are perfected. The vision is to live close and personal with the nature he loves.

Photography by Kindra Clineff
Produced by Tovah Martin

Home Sweet Home
While creating magic for clients of Les Fleurs—Sandra Sigman’s Andover, Massachusetts, destination flower shop—she weaves extra eucalyptus wreaths and orders additional myrtle topiaries for her own family fête. Sigman lures in the forty family members who attend her annual Christmas Eve party with the commingled scents of lit candles and freshly snipped greens. She always leaves her own decorations for last. “And I secretly look forward to that,” she admits.

Guests arrive to the strains of Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson’s “Winter Song” floating softly from the oversized, sparkling-white kitchen Sigman designed specifically to host this sort of family affair. They leave a potluck dish on the counter beside live plants and fresh greens arranged in the smart, sleek geometry of repeating shapes. There’s laughter, there’s sparkling limoncello, and the family circulates around eloquently decorated rooms before sitting down to a many-course meal at tables set throughout the downstairs. With stories flowing, logs sputtering in the fireplace, and Céline Dion serenading in the background, this is anything but a silent night.

Sandra Sigman created a mini snow scene in a glass canister, which she smartly paired with a treetop anchored in sand. Sigman sets tables throughout the house; in the kitchen, the floral designer ran a simple centerpiece of fresh treetops surrounded by princess pine along the table to encourage the flow of conversation. The festivity continues with myrtle topiaries and eucalyptus wreaths.

Photography by Kindra Clineff
Produced by Tovah Martin

Comfort & Joy
Ever since he adopted a former parsonage in Vermont’s deep snowbelt, artist, interior designer, and stylist Terry John Woods has honed “hunkered down” to a fine art. “I celebrate the settling in,” he’ll say. “I crave reconnecting. Winter is my creative time, and the holidays are a prelude in the innovative process.”

To spark his inner fire, the designer composes meaningful vignettes of family farmhouse treasures. Often, they express a sophisticated whimsy. Always, they access the fodder from favorite collections, deftly layered to create a dialogue between texture and form. Most importantly, everything is framed in ample white space (Behr Swiss Coffee is his go-to shade), echoing the snow-laden scene outside. Besides the prevailing white, the color story adds only green with an occasional, prudently invoked glint lent by tarnished silver. The green is furnished by boughs newly cut from the surrounding forests.

Besides a few tiny lights, the Christmas tree is not decked out. But Woods’s intention goes deeper than honoring simplicity. “It’s about thankfulness and celebrating the gifts nature provides,” he explains. “Let peace be appreciated.”

Atop an early-1800s pie safe that he picked up in Pennsylvania sits Woods’s grandmother’s wooden bowl, which she used to make bread stuffing every holiday. With a camelback sofa and softly lit tree, the living room is accented by a galvanized swivel table holding a welcoming lantern. Clocks and watches (including his father’s) symbolize that time is of the essence. The colorful vintage toy pickup collection is the brightest element in the room, so it stands alone.

Photography by Kindra Clineff
Produced by Terry John Woods

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