Comfort & Joy

Yuletide décor highlights architectural details of historic home


By Joan Pearlstein Dunn | Photos by Craig Thompson

Some homes were made for Christmas.

In the summer of 1977, Nancy Barsotti and her husband got an early Christmas gift when they learned of a house about to go on the market. With her husband working for the local newspaper, they were able to check it out a day before it posted. “The minute we pulled up to the 100-year-old Queen Anne style home, I said, ‘I’m buying it’ and we closed on the deal that night,” Nancy says.

When the couple woke up the next morning, they looked at each other and said, “What did we do?”

“My husband asked me what the front door looked like, and I said that I didn’t even know if it had a front door,” Nancy remembers.

Muddle-free remodel

The house has since been restored to its original glory without “remuddling,” a term Nancy uses for typical renovations on old homes. “When a house is transitioned without sensitivity to the era, or when it has original details replaced with modern things, I call this ‘remuddling’,” she says.

Nancy, of Nancy Hoff Barsotti Interior Design and a Fellow of the American Society of Interior Designers (FASID), believes that a home’s history or integrity should never be compromised. Fortunately all of the real bones of the house were still there, and the woodwork, walls and floors were in original condition but required painstaking restoration.

Decking the halls

Christmas décor dominates the home each winter as Nancy’s spacious foyer awaits the annual arrival of a king-sized Christmas tree. “I select my tree in September so that I can measure the diameter and height ahead of time,” she says.

Because of size, the tree is always delivered and then anchored to the ceiling with cables for a sturdy hold. Nancy fills it with everything from gifts, to memorabilia from her childhood. She admits to running out of room but says that it doesn’t stop her from buying more. “Everywhere I travel, I buy a Christmas ornament. So the tree has become my life story,” says the designer. “I decorate the tree in sections, such as an international travel section, ski trips section, and so on.” At last count, there were 460 ornaments on this tree alone.

Custom garland climbs the staircase and gives the interior a true Victorian flavor. “When my grandmother passed away, they found balls of rolled up, crocheted lace. No one knew what to do with them so they gave them to me,” Nancy says.

She then saw a class being offered at the garden center for holiday decorating, and she learned how to take the lace and weave it into garlands for her tree.

Nancy likes to celebrate the cold weather in winter months and has ornamented the living room with glitter, pinecones, berries, dried flowers and branches. “It’s not just about Christmas; it’s what I call Yuletide decorating,” she explains.

Old and new

The designer uses an abundance of greens and tends to leave her decorations up a little longer than most folks. A snow village conceals the wooden sideboard and is speckled with magical tiny houses that once belonged to Nancy’s mother. “They are from the thirties and I just always loved them,” she smiles. “After the holidays are over and there’s less stress, that’s when I invite friends over to catch up and enjoy the comfort and warmth of my home.”

Mirrored chairs were the impetus for the dining room scheme. The table has been formally dressed in gold, crystal, and silver lamé, and emerald green Wedgwood. There is a compilation of both old and sparkling new. “The tinsel trees remind me of ones that I had in my bedroom as a child and I actually bought them at Phipps Conservatory,” Nancy points out. “I think the visual experience of a beautifully set table is as important as planning the menu and cooking the food.”

The traditional setting lures guests back in time, and the hostess takes pleasure in hand-washing her crystal and china after a holiday feast.

Nancy restored the butler’s pantry in an effort to showcase some of her collections. Fiesta ware, menus, cookbooks and green-handled kitchen tools cover the shelves. Somewhere in her busy schedule, the designer finds time to make hundreds of jars of homemade jam and salsa each year.

Come on in

Keeping in beat with the inside décor, the exterior of the home has been decorated with a traditional and inviting touch. “As a designer, I have a creative eye and will be drawn to something that I don’t necessarily have a need for at the time,” says Nancy. “Sometimes you have to let something rest or marinate, and all of a sudden you have an ‘Ah Ha’ moment and find a wonderful purpose for it.”

The pebble dash exterior has been decorated with greens, candles, ribbons, and pine cones that came from a forest in California. “I like an inviting, Yuletide look,” says the owner. “When guests pull up, I want my home to have a come on in look!” When guests pull away, they will surely be looking over their shoulder and hoping for an invitation to come on back!”

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