In Bessemer, a small number of 1920s and 30s homes perch on a hill in what Chris Hutchens calls “an untouched, really cool neighborhood.” It is here that he and partner Bill Brayman bought a three-bedroom, two-bath Tudor-style home that they are slowly remodeling. Despite the house not yet being perfectly in-line with Chris’s final design vision—he is creative director for Gabby Home and Summer Classics, after all—the couple opens their doors wide to family and friends to celebrate the holiday season.
Luckily, Chris is a seasoned pro when it comes to Christmas decorating. For years, he worked as a floral designer and event planner through his own business, Christopher Joseph Designs. “I loved my Christmas clients and had a fun time taking their style to the next level,” he says. “It’s always harder to decorate my own home, though, because I think people expect it to be over-the-top.” But the designer explains that his style is much simpler. “I like my own décor to be a little more subtle, and I try to keep it natural,” he says.
For Chris, the natural world has long been a source of awe and inspiration. As a result, his home is peppered with plants, feathers, rocks, and other finds from the outdoors, and he even has an aviary where he raises birds. “I’ve been obsessed with birds since I was a kid,” Chris says. “Around the house, you’ll see lots of Audubon prints and evidence of my obsession with waterfowl and wildlife.”
On this year-round backdrop, Chris layers in holiday accents using wreaths, garlands, and lights. In the living room, the usual focal point—the mantel on which treasured finds from the couple’s international travels are displayed and knit stockings are hung with care—takes a backseat to the giant Christmas tree glowing in the corner, each branch meticulously wrapped in colored lights. “Just because you choose simple décor doesn’t mean you can’t go big,” says the designer. “Create one statement piece and keep everything else in the room a bit quieter.”
According to Chris, making a holiday statement is even more important when you’re entertaining and your home is full of people. “You have to think in terms of what is still visible when people are standing and the room is full,” he says. “Bodies cover up tabletop centerpieces and arrangements, but everyone can see what’s above their heads. So be sure to focus on those decorations that will highlight the party and show up in people’s pictures. It just makes your gathering feel that much more like a celebration.”