By Susan Braden
The “perfect” fresh-cut Christmas tree is leaning in the foyer, looking very verdant and smelling – well – piney. Strewn on the floor are dusty boxes just removed from the attic, jammed with newspaper-wrapped ornaments and tangles and tangles of lights.
The ghost of Christmas Past is all around.
At this point, you may be looking for a little inspiration for your holiday décor – maybe a fresher look this year or you have visions of shimmering silver Christmas balls dancing in your head. Or was it red? Blue?
Three holiday house tours promise to give you plenty of ideas on how to add holiday sparkle to appease the ghost of Christmas Present. All three house tours are benefits and offer guests a sneak peek into distinctive and historic homes in the area.
In Madison there is the Holiday Decorating Open House, Saturday, Dec. 2, from 1 to 5 p.m., a benefit for Habitat for Humanity, through Madison Cares. The suggested donation is $20 per person and includes a chance at raffle prizes.
The Room Doctor, interior decorator Lisa Leonardi of Madison, worked tirelessly over two weeks decorating not just her house (the prominent former Stamos house in Madison), but two entire floors in two homes.
Leonardi’s home at 49 Buck Hill Road in North Madison may be far from the shoreline but you can see Long Island on a clear day from one of the highest vantage points in town. Her home, situated above the tree line, offers a sweeping view of the Sound.
Leonardi, who specializes in staging homes for sale, is an award winning “re-designer.” She worked her holiday magic on her own house and the historic Rankin home at 8 Warpus Road,
Her spacious home and rolling grounds, which more resembles an old estate, is “built like Fort Knox,” she laughingly says. On the first floor are exotic Brazilian and Cherry hardwood mahogany floors and cabinetry and built-in mahogany bookcases in the library. This manor-like Colonial has contemporary flair with thoughtful, architectural details.
The house’s most distinguished feature is a dramatic, elongated stone breezeway that spans a full house-length, leading to the main structure.
Leonardi has a simple decorating philosophy for the holidays: “use as many fresh greens as possible – not only does it look natural, there is the pleasant smell of pine.” In her home-staging business, Leonardi assesses rooms and gives them a makeover, using mostly the clients’ possessions. The decorator rearranges their furniture, suggests cosmetic changes and adds accessories to give the rooms a fresh, new look – all to hasten a sale.
Unlike most homeowners, who are leisurely putting up their holiday decorations, for the tour, Leonardi is working on a tight deadline to create magical spaces, spending two weeks pre-Thanksgiving and over the holiday weekend.
Kirkland Furnishings of Waterford loaned holiday decorating accessories such as topiaries, wreaths, candleholders, hurricane lamps and apothecary jars for Leonardi to add her festive touches to.
“It’s a good thing I have a big Expedition” she jokes about transporting the carloads of stuff. Friends of Hammonassett are donating the Christmas trees for the event and are holding a poinsettia sale at the tour. (Live Christmas trees delivered, donated by Friends, will also be raffle prizes.)
For the Rankin home, a historic house, Leonardi says, “That has guided me in the type of decor.” She wanted a Colonial “rustic feel” with touches of Williamsburg featuring fresh greens – lots of Boxwood and lots of fresh fruit as decorative accents. Lemons, limes, apples and berries are but of a few of the au naturel holiday ornaments.
“It’s a great way to inspire people to decorate their own homes,” she says about the tour.
From the Shore Line Times, December 1, 2006. Reprinted by permission.