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Charming Cottage Showcases Collections at Christmas and All Year Long


If ever there were a house designed with Christmas in mind, Carter and Richard Bendall’s home is it. Built in the mid-20th century, this charming stone cottage sits nestled in a lot bordered by stone and a picket fence.

Recently married, Carter and Richard Bendall spied the house off VES Road in Lynchburg and liked it immediately. “The bay window sold me,” says Richard of the massive window in the living room. 

When they purchased the home, the Bendalls recognized that they had their work cut out for them. “There were a lot of quirks in the house,” says Carter. Heat pipes snaked all throughout the walls. “Our contractor would not consider the job until we got rid of them!” she explains. “But the house had good bones.”

The first thing the Bendalls did was remove a huge cornice and draperies on the bay window. Sunlight came flooding in and the draperies have never been replaced. After gutting the kitchen, redoing two baths and adding a third, and pulling up linoleum and carpet to reveal beautiful hardwood floors, the Bendalls have their perfect house. And thanks to Carter’s extraordinary decorating skills, their little cottage has been transformed into a showcase home.

cottage2Young Couple, Old Collections
It is not too often that a young couple starts out with such a fine collection of furnishings and decorative ware. From the time she was a child, Carter learned from the best. Her mother, Patsy Wilkinson, was her mentor, giving Carter a huge advantage in the decorating department. Patsy has long been known in Lynchburg for her decorating flair and gardening skills. With genes on their side, the old saying applies: like mother, like daughter.

The Bendall home combines both good looks and style. It is decorated with Carter’s cherished treasures inherited by family and collected from the time she was a youngster. Carter has amassed an impressive array of antiques and art and incorporated them into her home with extraordinary flair. Everywhere are displays of favorite china, pottery and art accumulated over the years. Carter has the uncanny ability to see possibilities wherever she looks, and can gather assorted finds to produce just the right look in just the right spot. 

Carter frequents estate and junk sales and picks up treasures to add to her collections wherever she goes. Her work as a registered nurse with Central Virginia Family Physicians takes her throughout the area, giving her opportunities to shop in many locales. Even when she was in school, Carter was a shopper. While spending six months studying in London, she took the opportunity to frequent the flea markets well known for their treasures. In college, while her friends decorated their rooms with IKEA, she used antiques.

Throughout the Bendall home a combination of heritage, comfort and style abounds. A beautiful Queen Anne table in the living room was her grandmother’s. An overstuffed sofa provides a cozy place to settle down and enjoy a cup of tea. And a yard sale pillow decorated with beads and buttons adds just the right touch.

Artwork covers the walls. Many pieces were created by her mother who has a huge influence on both Carter’s style and her collections. “She started me at a young age,” says Carter, recounting how the two would attend Kaleidoscope each fall. “She would tell me to save up $100 and we would pick out one thing,” she explains. Often the piece was not framed or matted, but that never mattered. “It was a good way to start, and this is why I have the artwork now—because I started that way.” 

Some of her collections began with just a handful of cherished inherited pieces. “My grandmother had a couple of Imari plates that she left to me,” says Carter. “So I kind of ran with that.” The living room features an impressive collection of Rose Medallion china. “The first thing that my mom trained me in was Rose Medallion,” she notes, explaining how her mother taught her to look for “orange peel” embedded in the china, indicating that it is very old. If there is no mark, it is still quite old, but a “Made in China” mark underneath is a clue that it is somewhat new. The Bendalls’ Rose Medallion collection combines several inherited pieces, wedding gifts and Carter’s various finds.

cottage5Holidays Call for Special Collections
While every room showcases various collections year-round, each Christmas season Carter transforms her home into an elaborate holiday display. The Bendalls’ decorations center on their Christmas trees, and here trees are not taken lightly! During the season, the Bendall home features as many as 20 trees of various shapes and sizes. Carter is very serious about her tree trimming!

Carter carries the spirit of Christmas to an entirely new level. Each of her trees is unique, striking and memorable. There is one tree covered with frog ornaments of every description in a corner of the living room. A tree, in the upstairs guest bedroom, centers on her alma mater. Decorated in UVA college colors, the tree features everything orange and blue. The first floor guest bedroom features a “patriotic” tree to coordinate with the room; here her tree is covered in red, white and blue with ornaments of historic interest picked up along the couples’ travels. Even the bathrooms feature decorated trees.

In addition to the frog tree, the living room plays host to the couple’s main tree that stands directly in front of the large bay window. Everyone, both inside and out, can admire it here. Carter displays ornaments of every type and color, including her collection of glass balls from the 1950s, her Christopher Radko ornaments, other special antique finds, and one-of-a-kind treasures.

A large hutch, salvaged from her mother’s former business, The Flower Pot, graces the kitchen’s seating area and features Carter’s collection of Majolica. “I love plates,” she says. “Richard always says that I am on plate probation!” Her collection of tole and tinware is on display here, as well as several very small Christmas trees. On the wall is a portrait of the family’s dog Macon, painted by local artist Kelly Mattox. This special spot was created during the renovation, when the kitchen was enlarged to include the former dining room. The kitchen has lots of counter space, which Carter uses to display tiny safety-pin trees that she picked up at yard sales. A painting on wood hangs on one wall. She rescued it out of a relative’s basement; removing the dirt and grime that covered it revealed a lovely pastoral scene. 

Perhaps the most spectacular and festive room in the house is the dining room. Here unexpected colors abound. “I always wanted a room with color,” explains Carter. Decorated in hot pink, “This is where the fact that Richard is color blind comes in handy!” she says. A pink and silver tree adds the glitter ingredient so necessary for holiday décor. It has become a quest to find pink ornaments. An ornament featuring a poodle with pink sequins all around it—a gift from her husband—is Carter’s favorite ornament of all. The table, set for a formal feast, is decorated with a collection of tree toppers—some old and some new—and a combination of wedding china from both Carter and her grandmother. Silver goblets purchased at an estate sale and a Repose silver service provide an elegant flair.

The basement is divided into two areas. One is devoted almost entirely to their Christmas decorations. Plastic boxes are piled high, and shelves and tables are devoted to decoration storage. The other portion of the basement is a “play area” with a wide-screen television (for watching and playing “Wii,”) and of course housing more decorations. Carter displays her Putz collection from the thirties era here. Made in Japan, these tiny homes and assorted buildings were a product of the war when there were no supplies to make shiny decorations. They got their glamour from a light inside. A tiny crystal tree stands in the corner. Purchased years ago from Lowe’s to use in her grandmother’s home, Carter has recycled it here.

Indeed, the Bendalls’ home showcases Carter’s special treasure-hunting talent. “Everything in this house is a combination of yard sales,” she says. “It’s the thrill of it—always looking for that next treasure.” She discovers ornaments everywhere; antique stores, junk and consignment shops, and even retailers like Big Lots, Pier One, and Wal-Mart. Estate Specialists in Lynchburg is another spot where Carter finds many of her treasures. When traveling, she never misses an opportunity to pick up a new treasure. The auction website eBay is another great source. She discovered this online shopping extravaganza while housebound recovering from a tennis injury.

Around the home is a tiny parcel of property ideal for a special garden. The backyard is surrounded by stonework, and a picket fence decorated with holiday lights lines the front. “Grandmother had gardening skills that were legendary,” explains Carter. And Carter’s mother is well known for her green thumb. Patsy Wilkinson’s home, Cobweb Cottage, was featured on Lynchburg’s Garden Day 2007. So it is natural to expect a pretty garden here. “I am learning,” says Carter. “The garden was a jungle when we moved in. We are shaping, pulling and bringing it back to life.” The Bendalls’ home is to be featured on Garden Day 2010, and they are working steadily toward that goal.

Just as Carter can always squeeze one more ornament onto her trees, she can always find the perfect spot in her fine collections for new prizes. While the Bendalls may deem their home a work in progress, it is still a showplace brimming with treasures and memories.

cottage31Carters Tree-Trimming Tips
The Bendalls host a Christmas party every year, inviting family and friends of all ages and traditionally hosting the gathering early in the season. “It is a good way to start the holidays,” says Carter. “Everyone focuses on a different ornament, and it is neat to see which ornaments people like.”

It takes Carter two full weeks to put up all of the decorations each year and three days to take everything down and pack it away. The decorations are up by Thanksgiving, and she does the entire decorating job on her own. Each ornament has its own special box and is wrapped ever so carefully in tissue paper. Richard is quick to point out, “She doesn’t let me touch a thing! I am like a bull in a china cabinet.” But Carter enjoys every minute of it. “I love it! I look forward to it every year!”

Carter offers a few important tips that have helped her create her enchanting holiday scene each year:

• Purists may prefer a live tree, but if you have an extensive ornament collection including some of the older, heavier ornaments, use an artificial tree. The branches from live trees just do not support the ornaments as well. 

• When decorating a tree, always begin with the lights. Be sure to string the lights deep into the branches as well as in the front. Add the garland next, and finish it off with the ornaments.

• Hang large ornaments deep in the branch foliage to give the tree depth.

• Be sure to hang ornaments around the entire tree. Use your least favorite ones in the back and in the corners. The extra ornaments add depth, color and reflection. 

• Vary the style of ornaments throughout the tree. Use both small and large ornaments and various shapes. Look for long and thin ones as well as unusual shapes. 

• Use clip ornaments that rest on the branches as well as those that hang down from the tree.

• If you plan to have multiple trees, pick a theme for each. It can be based on the type of ornament, a color scheme, or a specific subject (like Carter’s frog tree).

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