Christmas and Beyond

Seasoned with a light touch

By Deborah Salomon     Photographs by John Gessner

Minimalist. Christmas. Opposites.

Decorating a home for Christmas suggests tinsel, paper chains, gingerbread villages, candles, holly wreathes, mangers, Santas, angels, lights-lights-lights.

Not necessarily. A few absolutely perfect — in scale and taste — Yuletide arrangements can make a house glow. Especially when the house itself is tailored to its occupants’ lifestyle, where decorations lean toward the elegant, the traditional, the spare.

Garlands. Ribbons. Wreaths.

This happens at the Country Club of North Carolina home of Teresa Marshall and Rick Kline, who married in their new living room last December. Accommodations for the COVID-19 pandemic limited them to 10 guests sitting on white sofas arranged like pews.

Framing the scene were miles of moldings: crown, window, door. High ceilings completed the effect — airy and calm — which, all things considered, also provides the ideal stage for Christmas decorations.

No snowmen. No reindeer. No elves. Santa survived the cut.

“We just wanted a little bit of Christmas in all the main rooms,” Teresa says.

Helping to realize the effect was Matthew Hollyfield of Hollyfield Design. He was tasked with creating arrangements that could be augmented with red roses for the wedding on Dec. 27. In Teresa’s childhood home, the tree, decorated by her mother, was the focus. “I felt strongly about that,” she says. All Rick remembers is “just a tree and a lot of toys.” And butter cookies. Their wish was simple. “We wanted to establish our own traditions, carry over decorations and add to them every year,” she says.

Teresa wanted the main tree in the living room, in front of a window, and a tabletop tree visible from the bottom of a high staircase, festooned with greenery — the very staircase she descended in her wedding gown. Partial to large glass ball ornaments, she sat back, turned on the music and watched Hollyfield hang them. A tray of succulents extended over the kitchen countertop; a small arrangement centered the dining room table. Understated, but a presence.

Outside, more garlands of pine and fir, to be augmented this year by lighted trees. Teresa and Rick decorate immediately after Thanksgiving. Otherwise, there’s hardly time to enjoy. Greenery must be best-quality manmade, and reusable. Spray-on piney scents are optional.

Hollyfield confirmed the house was an excellent backdrop. The decorations didn’t have to compete with “a lot of heavy oil paintings,” he says. Rick and Teresa prefer landscapes by local artists, including one by Jessie Mackay, who lives just down the road. Otherwise, expanses of white walls, framed by those amazing moldings, beg seasonal adornment.

Ah, the house: White-painted brick stretches asymmetrically across a knoll overlooking the Dogwood Course and lake beyond. A circular driveway surrounds close-cropped grass, green enough for putting. Tall pines dominate the background, where a pair of eagles nest.

Location. Location. Location.

Teresa and Rick were living within sight of this prime property, conveniently vacant. Their house needed renovations. Why not start over, build their dream home on the lot with the million-dollar view?

Rick, an attorney, and Teresa, a retired banker, negotiated the purchase. They drew a layout suited to their needs, where the pool (with hot tub and sun shelf) is close enough to the living room — with its interesting tray ceiling — and adjoining screened porch to seem part of it. The dining room with built-in bar serves as a passageway into a large kitchen, all white and stainless steel, with miles of natural quartzite countertops, a chevron tile backsplash, and paned windows with nothing to obscure the vista — all for Teresa. She prepares Thanksgiving dinner for a multitude of relatives.

“I make Sunday breakfast,” Rick says.

Adjoining the kitchen is a small “keeping room.” Teresa adopted this New England designation that refers to a small area where family gathers around the fireplace in an unheated cabin come winter. More sitting room than den, this fireplace and TV are still the draw, especially when guests congregate in the kitchen. That leaves the dining room for contrast, painted a deep sea blue with teal overtones on the walls, ceiling, even the moldings.

The master suite is off the kitchen-keeping area, enabling an entrance from pool deck to bedroom. Here, again, a splash of wall color. Not mint. Not lime or avocado. Maybe celery. “It’s called Teresa green,” she says, therefore pre-ordained.

Area rugs over stained white oak floors throughout are colorful, but muted. The furnishings are in the comfort/contemporary mode, excepting several antiques from Rick’s family.

Upstairs the scale changes. Two comparatively small bedrooms, each with a bathroom, accommodate family and guests. Yet, citing the careful design, they use each room, almost every day.

We have been very blessed,” Teresa says. “I had the ability to retire, and we’re both healthy.” Their decision to marry in December ensured that Christmas will always be doubly special. As for the house they built for their wedding and beyond:

Serene. Beautiful. Absolutely perfect.  PS

Recommended Posts