Family Tradition

Each Christmas, Natalie Smith makes the season merry and bright with her evolving décor and favorite family traditions.

Christmas tree
O Christmas Tree: Over the years, Natalie has chosen a variety of themes, from animal print to Auburn to Mardi Gras. This year, she chose elegance as her theme and kept the tree ornaments simple and straightforward. Along with 5,000-plus twinkle lights, she incorporated peacock feathers, green and gold bows, mercury glass, and a variety of ornaments in shades of blue and green to match the existing décor of the room. Also included in the mix are a set of vintage ornaments from Eutaw, Alabama, where her mother grew up—a set that can be found on her tree almost every year. Photography by Jean Allsopp
Exterior of house

There’s nothing more special to Natalie Smith than Christmas, except for perhaps family traditions. So when the two combine, big things tend to happen. “Christmas is the most magical time of year for me, especially because it’s about tradition and family,” Natalie says. “It has been that way since I was little when we’d spend Christmas Eve at my grandmother’s house every year. We would always put on our pajamas before coming home so that we’d be ready to hop in bed before Santa came. Then we would get up Christmas morning and have breakfast and open presents with the family.”

Family photo
A Family Affair: The Smiths are a tight-knit family, which is especially true at Christmas. Each year, Natalie and Shawn’s sons, Ryan (pictured on the left with his wife, Morgan) and Blake (pictured on the right with his girlfriend, Allie Adams) come over on Christmas Eve to spend the night. “I know at some point that will change as they have their own families, but for now we’re enjoying these longstanding family traditions,” Natalie says.
Going Green: Inside the front door, a simple cedar garland and vintage Santa head welcome guests. “I’ve probably had that Santa for more than 20 years,” Natalie says. “I don’t use a whole lot of red, so he becomes my focal point because he’s one of the few red pieces I have.”

Natalie kept the magical experience going when she and her husband, Shawn, had their own children. In addition to serving the traditional Christmas morning breakfast of sausage balls and monkey bread to a house full of extended family, Natalie decks out her entire home with carefully-curated Christmas décor. She begins working on the theme each year practically as soon as the last holiday wraps, and it all starts with her Christmas tree. “Anyone who knows me knows that I never do the same theme—ever,” she says. “I may use some of the same ornaments, but it will never be the exact same tree.”

Dining room
Place setting
Set the Scene: Taking center stage in the dining room is Natalie’s dining room table, which was originally her grandmother Sue’s. “We had family meals around that table for years,” Natalie says. “I remember hours and hours of conversations around it. There’s something special about this dining room table.” Natalie had a special orchid arrangement made to sit atop the table, and she paired it with gold reindeer from HomeGoods and fresh greenery on the chandelier to bring in the special holiday feel. She added to the formality of the space with place settings of her grandmother’s china and mother’s silver. Green-and-white napkins from Table Matters accent the china perfectly while also speaking to the season.

Though Natalie may not recycle her themes, there are a few details friends and family can expect to see each year: upwards of 5,000 twinkle lights on her tree alone and many of her favorite family heirlooms, including vintage Christmas ornaments, her grandmother’s china, and her mother’s silver. And a few new pieces are always mixed in with those special memories to add to the magic of her favorite time of year. “I love to get out the decorations, put on some Christmas music, and just start visualizing,” Natalie shares. “I think about and plan for it all year long.”

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Front door wreath, kudzu light balls, mailbox arrangement: Beth Phillips, “Kudzu Mama,”;
@kudzumama. Tree: Andy’s Creekside Nursery,

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