When Val and George Holman design and build a house, the location of the Christmas tree is always drawn into the plans. This house—the fifth one George and his brother, Richard, have collaborated on for George’s family—is specifically designed around hosting their whole family for the holidays. “The Christmas tree is in our den, where we spend a lot of time,” Val says. “We placed it there so that as guests enter through the front door, they catch a glimpse of the tree.”
While the house is outfitted with an entire second floor of guest rooms to welcome overnight visitors, the main level caters to entertaining large groups—a priority for the Holmans. “We know the kinds of things we like to do, so we designed the house in a way that would work for that,” Val says about the spacious, open kitchen; formal and informal dining spaces; and large, outdoor living area outfitted with a fireplace and TV. “I want to always share my house,” Val says. The family uses the outdoor space to watch sports together, and they gather in the den to celebrate holidays.
For the interior décor, Val turned to George’s two sisters, who each inherited a designer’s eye from their mother. The women helped Val select the color palette and outfit the home. Val wanted to achieve a simplistic, mid-century modern look, so they chose one neutral paint color for the entire house and then used art and furniture to add interest throughout.
The family affair continued with contributions from Val’s father, who has been a woodworker since he was in eighth grade. Since Val has always had a love for wood and handmade furniture, she wanted to make the shelving and cabinetry prominent features in her new house. Thanks to her father’s handiwork, the home showcases craftsman-built, quarter-sawn, white oak shelves in the den. In addition, a feature wall provides display space for family treasures, such as antique boxes and silver, creating the perfect background for family-focused gatherings.
As the holidays arrive, Val begins by decorating the tree with generations of ornaments. Then she simply adds a few modern, festive touches throughout the house to get it ready for the season. Square wreaths on windows, a garland on the stair banister, and fresh amaryllis and paperwhites in almost every room round out the décor. “I’m a minimalist,” Val says. “I like for my house to have the look of Christmas but still show our everyday style and how we really live.”
Your décor can be both beautiful and personal—even if you are showing Christmas decorating restraint. Michael Dyer of Vestavia’s Uncut Flowers LLC shares his tips.
Plan Ahead. If you are using live flowers such as amaryllis, paperwhites, or orchids, consider when you want them to look their best. “If you buy them at their peak, the blooms will have faded by the time your celebration rolls around,” says Michael.
Choose Lasting Looks. When it comes to materials crucial for holiday decorating, Michael believes more people should utilize pinecones. “I have always loved pinecones,” he says. “They are very traditional—a Southern thing. They can be used in so many ways, and some people like to tint them.”
Use items you treasure. Michael and his team seldom shop for items to add to clients’ collections. Instead, they just embellish the homeowners’ belongings. “Shop your own home for great items to use as vessels or stand-alone décor,” says Michael. “And if you do buy new, buy only what you love.” He also suggests creating a family tradition as you build a meaningful ornament collection, much like Val’s family does. Growing up, Val and her siblings received an ornament every year, and she has continued this tradition with her own family. “Each year, my children receive a Christopher Radko ornament that depicts something important to them from that year,” Val says. “It can be anything from taking piano lessons to playing soccer.”
Designer: Mary Lib Cole, Sofas & Chairs, Inc., of New Orleans, sofasandchairsnola.com, 504.486.9622 Architectural Designer and Builder: Richard Holman and George Holman, Holman Building Company, 205.870.0070 Kitchen Cabinets: Jeff Holifield, Cahaba Woodworks, 205.428.1025 Appliances: All-South Appliance, 205.942.0408, allsouthappliance.net Rugs: Paige Albright, 205.877.3232, paigealbrightorientals.com Florals and Greenery: Michael Dyer, Uncut Flowers LLC, 205.970.8850