All-0ut Holiday Decor Makes the Season Magical | Christmas with the Hunts
Photography by Michael Patch
Looking for an older home that was warm and welcoming, Sara and Vaden Hunt knew they had a winner when, in 2010, they walked through the doors of a traditional Colonial on Clayton Avenue in Lynchburg. Built in the early 1940s, the brick home with a slate roof quickly felt like home for the Hunts and their young sons, Vaden and Penn. With two sports-crazed children, the Hunts have worked on creating a beautiful home but also creating a comfortable place to raise active boys.
Almost immediately after moving in, the Hunts painted the exterior brick of their home a pale gray—a big change from the original red brick. They also set about brightening the trim to white and painting the shutters black. This refresh set the tone for the rest of the redecorating as they respected the traditional bones of the house but added some modern elements along the way. Instead of knocking down walls to open up the house, they have embraced the separate spaces for their kitchen, dining room and den. They wanted the house to feel cozy with lots of different places to find a comfortable chair and enjoy a cup of coffee or glass of wine.
At no other time of the year does the house feel more welcoming than during the Christmas season. Sara loves the holidays and especially loves decorating for them. With the help of both her mother and mother-in-law, Sara goes over the top to make the season bright for her two young boys. “We always choose a behemoth tree that is way too big for the room,” Sara says. In fact, the ceiling shows the scratch marks from the trees over the years which Sara intentionally leaves alone because it shows character and reminds her of the season. The live tree is festooned in turquoise and gold ornaments with white lights. Peacock feathers jut out from the limbs and gold ribbons swirl all over the tree.
The living room walls are painted pale yellow which allows the blue sofa and pair of floral club chairs to pop in contrast. Flanking the sofa are pink skirted tables, the tops covered in treasured silver-framed family photos. Above the sofa is a gold mirror featuring a cameo that Vaden’s parents purchased for the couple at a flea market in Paris. The mirror took a year to arrive stateside, but Sara says it was well worth the wait. “It’s one of our most treasured possessions in the house,” she says. Spread around the rest of the walls are original watercolors from Venice and original oils of Russian street scenes.
Besides the large tree, the living room mantel is also over-the-top, in the best way possible. The mantel is adorned with a mixture of both real and faux greenery. Sara spray painted real magnolia leaves to mix in with other faux gold sprays and peacock feathers. She says she set aside a Saturday to “spray paint gold anything that wasn’t moving.” These touches of golden greenery are found all around the house, tucked into bookshelves, bowls, and other garland. Sitting above the magnolia sprays on the mantel are a pair of gold angel figurines as well as two glitter miniature Christmas trees. “This is the room I love to sit in and turn the gas logs on while I enjoy the tree in the evening,” says Sara. “It’s therapy for me when things get so busy in life.” It’s easy to see why this room would bring serenity.
In contrast to the overt splendor of the living room, the sun room, located just off the living room, is home to the children’s Christmas tree. This 4-foot-tall white artificial tree is covered in UVA ornaments (Sara and Vaden’s alma mater), sporting event ornaments and schoolmade ornaments. The angel on top was hand crafted with a picture of young Vaden’s head on it. At the base of the tree is a child’s nativity set that is “well loved” according to Sara. She says the family jokes about which member of the nativity will garner another broken or lost limb during the season. The Hunts enclosed the former screened-in porch to make it a sunroom soon after purchasing the house and have loved the bright natural light it provides. Being the only female in the house, Sara decided to go markedly girly in this room with hot pink walls, pink zebra-striped lamp shades and a framed Hermes scarf on the wall. Needless to say, Sara enjoys hiding out in this room when given the chance.
Stretched across the back of the house is the room the family hangs out in the most: the den. The room has a comfortable gray sofa and matching ottoman for watching TV and a hardworking Oriental rug on the floor that hides a multitude of spills. Currently she has two blue and white lamps on either side of the sofa, but jokes that she “can’t get too attached to anything because it will end up broken with two boys.” On the walls are two framed blue-and-white-fabric screens, purchased from Enchanted Antiques, as well as a wall of original watercolors from Lynchburg artist Purnell Pettyjohn. One whole wall features built-in bookshelves that hold the TV and a huge Dickens Village collection. The village was Sara’s grandmother’s and was in her parents’ house growing up. Her dad built special wiring units to make the lighting easier to turn off and on once it was given to Sara. In the corner of the room is a flocked Christmas tree covered in blue and white chinoiserie ornaments, many of which Sara and her mom made. Blue and white ribbon acts as the garland for the tree and picks up on the other blue and white accents in the room, like the pillows on the sofa and the ginger jars on the floor at the foot of the tree.
Especially enjoyed during the Christmas season, the dining room is the little jewel of the house. Plaid silk draperies dust the hardwood floors, with the green wall color pulled straight from the colors in this fabric. A sisal rug banded in green sits under the dining room table. A small antique sideboard sits directly opposite an antique chest, with the dining room table in between. On the front walls are two pictures from Paris that Sara and her mother-in-law found together in their travels. One is a page from a sample book of antique wallpaper and the other is an original antique pattern for a French settee. Additionally, a watercolor of Vaden’s grandfather’s childhood home in Norfolk hangs on the back wall. To acquire local artwork, Sara loves to attend local estate sales as well as the Lynchburg Art Club art show at E.C. Glass High School each year.
Sara chose to work with silver and gold as her color theme during the Christmas season in this room. On top of the sideboard and chest are silver putz houses and bottle brush trees. Above the corner cabinet, which the Hunts added and made to look like an original built-in, is a bowl of large gold balls and more of the gold spray-painted magnolia leaves. The dining room table often stays set during the season, waiting for the special Christmas meal. Sara places a white table cloth on the table and then layers on beautiful traditional accoutrements. A gold charger rests underneath her Limoges wedding china. Waterford crystal water goblets and green-stemmed wine glasses pick up on the green in her china, and Old Maryland engraved sterling flatware rounds out the place settings. Silver Christmas trees and sterling candlesticks create the centerpiece. Sara describes the dining room as “happy” and hopes to use it more as the boys get older, transitioning from the kitchen table that is currently used the most.
In the front hallway, Sara combined the turquoise and gold from the living room with the silver and gold from the dining room to unify the themes in one space. A large garland drapes down the stairway, swagged on both sides of the banister. The base of the garland is faux but Sara added more spray-painted-gold live greenery to it, including nandina, yew, camelia, holly and magnolia. More peacock feathers and turquoise balls tie it back to the living room as well. Sara also added a garland above the exterior front door, using the same technique. It creates an impact walking in the front door and signals guests for what to expect once inside.
Combining art and furniture found both locally and while traveling abroad, the Hunts have created a home that respects the past but is very much livable in today’s world with two young sons. They are very aware that with two young boys at home, some updates are better suited for a later time. For this reason, the house will grow and evolve alongside the boys. The Christmas decorations also vary slightly year by year, and by doing so, every Christmas season is a fresh and magical experience for their sons and the rest of the family. ✦