In the Spirit: Holidays at Home

Four families put their own special stamp on one of the year’s most traditional seasons

One // Collections Mingle Merrily During this, the Jingle Season

What // A Turtle Lake family and their interior designer roll up their sleeves to create enchantment

Christmas Story: One of Ann Heath’s most beautifully designed homes, located in Bloomfield Hills’ Turtle Lake development, shines during the holidays with everything from a soaring tree in the great room to mercury glass vases filled with holly to an enchanting collection of Santas. Ann, the owner of Birmingham-based Duncan-Fuller Interiors, a member of the collaboration Forest Avenue Design, assists her Turtle Lake client, a busy parent and executive, with creating captivating holiday vignettes. “My client (Ann also oversaw the entire home’s interior design) and I enjoy shopping together for whatever she might need for holiday décor,” Ann says. “She is a big entertainer. I think that’s one of the reasons she bought the home — it’s so great for entertaining, with lots of gathering spots.”

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BOUGHS OF HOLLY: A Turtle Lake family and their interior designer enhance décor with wintry silvers.

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WILD GOOSE: A large goose made of pinecones (from Coach House in Birmingham) makes quite a statement and is right at home on the mantel.

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NIGHT LIGHTS: Ann and the homeowner prefer the beeswax candles they discovered at Zieben- Mare in Franklin. Also captivating: mercury glass pieces from the Antiques Centre of Troy — perfect for birch-themed candleholders.

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FAMILY AFFAIR: “The kids and various house assistants love getting involved in decorating; it’s quite a tradition here, and everyone participates,” Ann says.

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CALM AND COLLECTED: “I like collections together,” Ann says. “You lose impact when the elements aren’t displayed together.” She fills a wire basket with silver balls, for example, and places all the Santas in a grouping.

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RADIANT REDS: A joyful tabletop arrangement and a bark wreath (from Detroit Garden Works in Sylvan Lake) await their holiday destiny in the family’s pretty Turtle Lake home.

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EMBELLISH THE EVERYDAY: Ann likes to mix on-hand elements with holiday-themed additions.

STUNNING STAIRWAY: Deborah Silver of Detroit Garden Works designed magnificent and festive magnolia stair trim.

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PINING FOR NATURE: Large, beautifully textured pinecones are from Detroit Garden Works.

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OUTDOORS, TOO: Containers filled with ornaments, patio railings out back adorned with greenery — those types of additions “are a simple and easy way to not forget the outdoors when decorating,” Ann says. “Or just a lit tree in the back of the property is great, so when you look out the windows you see lights and beauty.”

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CRAZY FOR SANTAS: “My client loves Santas, and so do I.”

Two // Oh What Fun it is to Decorate

What // An Old English Manor-Style House

CHRISTMAS STORY: When Judy Anderson, an interior designer and dedicated docent at the Detroit Institute of Arts, decorates her 1927 English Tudor-style home for the yuletide season, it’s with a nod toward the home’s fascinating history. The home where she and her husband, Dr. Jonathon Anderson, live was built around the same time as the nearby Bloomfield Open Hunt club. “There would be fox hunts in the area back then, and you can see where riders would tie up their horses out front,” Judy says. Her fondness for history and her home inspires her to use only fresh greens and natural decorations for the holidays, “a stark contrast to the glitzy, shiny, artificial aluminum tree with a tricolored projection light that I had as a child in the 1960s!”

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A BIT OF THE OLD WORLD: Judy, above, loves classic details. Benjamin Moore’s Danville Tan wall paint and fabrics by Stark’s Old World Weavers blend well with her elegant holiday décor.

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MAGNOLIA MAGNIFICENCE: Judy gets her magnolia leaves and large sugar pinecones from Georgia, and then blends those with fresh greens. “The dried magnolia and cones last about three years, if stored properly — not in plastic,” she laughs.

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A PRO’s PRO: Come the holidays, Judy calls on Lynn Jovick of Warren-based Clever Bumblebee Creations, who orders all the greenery for the outdoor pots, decorates the front entry, creates indoor swags with magnolia and greens, and more.

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COPPER CHIC: Large copper ornaments (ordered through Nordlie in Warren) pepper various outdoor pots that are lit from beneath. “I don’t like a lot of bright color; the copper goes with the pinecones and, when the snow falls, it shimmers beautifully.”

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A VERY FAIRY HOLIDAY: Judy started collecting Mark Roberts fairies about five years ago (she found hers at La Belle Provence in Birmingham) and places most of them on a tree in her living room.

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MORE BEAUTY TO BOOT: Judy’s cozy boot room just off the foyer (not shown) would welcome fox hunt participants decades ago. There, they’d take off their boots and warm their feet in front of the fire before heading into the living room for a post-hunt gathering. Here, Judy serves “special holiday spirits” as guests arrive on Christmas Eve. “It’s sort of Downton Abbey-ish,” says Judy, a Downton fan (for Downton Abbey-inspired décor, click here).

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IN THE OVEN: Every season, Judy makes pistachio bread, which she wraps in unique packaging for friends and family. The Andersons’ Christmas Eve dinner always includes beef Wellington and a traditional yule dessert log (English treats, of course!). Another favorite is Judy’s appetizer: Stilton bleu cheese cake. Guests gather at a table set with whatever strikes Judy’s fancy. (Incidentally, Judy was a designer at the 2013 Cranbrook Holiday Tables event; her “The Hunt” table was striking.)

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SYMBOLIC FLORAL: Who needs the Christmas rose when you’ve got the Tudor rose embedded in the design of your windows? Judy’s house features leaded-glass Tudor roses — sometimes called the Union rose — as design elements on windows and on molding. (The Tudor rose is the traditional floral emblem of England; it was first adopted by King Henry VII and symbolized the union of the white rose of the House of York and the red rose of the House of Lancaster.)

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KNOCK-KNOCK: The home’s front entrance features the original door and a horseshoe doorknocker.

Three // A Tradition of  Trees and Treasures, Family-Style

What // Preparing for Parties in Troy

CHRISTMAS STORY: Every year, Krista and Dr. Jeff Falk (they met while working at Beaumont Hospital; she was a nurse, he an intern) throw a holiday soiree that wows some 120 guests, thanks to a range of spirited displays — from trees with family-style green-and-reds to handcrafted treasures to elegant crystal and silvers and golds to a tiny pink tabletop beauty. “We also host Christmas dinner with extended family at our house,” Krista says. A Norman Rockwell-like scene might feature son Jack, 12, playing a holiday carol on the piano, while his brother Max, 7, feeds treats to their Beagle, Sam, and Cocker Spaniel, Biff. Their sister, Maddie, 15, helps Mom decorate. “Christmas is our holiday,” Krista says.

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A NEW ADDITION: “I wanted something special in the dining room — a narrow tree that’s mine, and that would fit in the dining room window. So my friend and I embellished a tree I found at English Gardens with sparkly things and lots of white; items that catch the light.”

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TABLE TALK: In the dining room, Krista sets a pretty table with Lenox napkins, Waterford crystal in the Ballymore pattern, Gorham silverware in the Golden Melon Bud pattern, her great-grandparents’ vintage salt and pepper shakers, and white dishes “that are simple, so that we can add table embellishments.” More informal settings in the kitchen feature her grandmother’s German red dishes.

MIX IT: “My friend talked me into throwing gold onto the dining room tree. I was leery to mix gold with silvers and whites, but it looks beautiful.”

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MANTEL MARVELS: A mantel garland from English Gardens got a spruce-up when Krista tied mostly silver ornaments onto it and tucked crystal candlesticks among the branches.

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STOCKINGS WITH CARE: The Falks’ stockings, from Pottery Barn, are “all in the same color families — lime green with reds,” Krista notes.

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GET REAL: The authentic tannenbaum (one of six trees) is always in the living room. “It’s nice to have that pine smell.”

ENGLISH ACCENT: “I love topiaries and found some great ones at Restoration Hardware.”

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ON THE MENU: For the family dinner, Krista serves her family’s longtime traditional pineapple-and-cheese casserole, ham, turkey, peaches stuffed with sweet potatoes, and other goodies. “And to-furkey,” she says with a laugh. “We have a vegetarian, too.” Dessert? Grandma’s cookies, of course — some 15 to 20 varieties, all made from scratch.

Four // Bring the Outdoors — and More — In

What // Home for the Holidays in Franklin

CHRISTMAS STORY: The Schiano family (Mom, Cindy; Dad, Dominick; four grown sons; Cindy’s mother; and others) cherishes the great outdoors. For homeowner Cindy Schiano, that translates into hauling acorns, pinecones, birch bark, boughs, berries, and other plants from her six-acre property into the house (or onto the porches). Cindy then embellishes the spaces in and around her Colorado ranch-style abode with au naturel tidings. The tree, too, is real, but no tree is bought until every one of the sons is home (they live all over the United States), “so over the years, it was … they’re at college or traveling or working … we wait until they’re home and can go get a tree together,” Cindy says. “We’ve had frozen trees, half-decorated trees … there’s always a tree episode.”

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MAINE ATTRACTION: “When I lived in Maine,” Cindy recalls, “I changed the way I decorate. Residents there decorate with their outdoors — beautifully rustic.” After moving to Michigan, she joined the Franklin Garden Club, through which she finds decorative inspiration. “If I need anything, I go outside.” She adds touches of rustic elegance by spray-painting sticks or pinecones gold. Or she’ll place cranberries in clear vases and fill with water.

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BIG ON CONES: When Cindy wants really large pinecones, she purchases them from English Gardens. “I throw them around … in my window boxes … you name it.”

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A PRO’S PRO: Cindy often calls on Kim Elliott, owner of Farmington Hills-based Plantscaping, for outdoor holiday assistance on everything from hanging lights to decorating window boxes.

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GIVING THANKS: “Being here with my family at the holidays just adds to my grateful state.” Cindy can’t quite pinpoint what makes decorating so special for her. ”It’s not just decorating … it’s the feeling you get.”

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YEAR-ROUND: Although red may be known as a Christmas color, Cindy likes it throughout the year, especially on her front door. My door is red because I think it’s good Feng Shui!”

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HERBAL DELIGHT: Cindy keeps rosemary plants handy throughout the year for cooking. “I use fresh rosemary for steak Florentine, rosemary chicken, rosemary bread — lots of things.” She also makes her renowned pepperoni breads as holiday gifts; last year, she made 101 of the treats. “I even mailed several out of state!”

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LET’S EAT!: Christmas Eve finds the Italian (on both sides) family enjoying a traditional Feast of the Seven Fishes dinner. “Dominick does most of the cooking.”

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HER DEAR DEER: Deer also evoke Christmastime. Cindy keeps a large deer sculpture she found at a Franklin antique shop years ago in her foyer year-round.

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CREATION WITH CRAFT: “I admit I like to get my glue gun out during the holidays and make some things with whatever. It’s mental therapy!” She’s crazy about wine bottle corks and magnolia leaves, which can be dried and glittered (or not).

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FESTIVE FRUIT: Cindy, who recently created a table for the Cranbrook Holiday Tables event, always has a bowl of Christmas-y fruit out. A wooden platter from Detroit Garden Works in Sylvan Lake often brims with bright clementines (get them at Plum Market, says Cindy, where you’ll find the greens still on them). Baby pomegranates also can be found adorning a counter or table.


Photographs by Joe Vaughn