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Shining Bright | Holidays at Home with the Phelps Family

Photography by Michael Patch

Holiday wonder and joy greet visitors at the home of Sandy and Bill Phelps. With four grandchildren brimming with the love of Christmas, the Phelpses have tailored many of their holiday decorations toward pleasing these younger family members. Whimsical fairies, Steinbach nutcrackers and crystal ornaments are the main collections found throughout their holiday wonderland.

Originally hailing from Indiana and Pennsylvania, the Phelpses have lived in many houses and cities over the years since moving south. Married 50 years, Sandy and Bill bought their house in the Boonsboro neighborhood of Lynchburg in 2012. Built in 1942, the Colonial-style house features four bedrooms and a master bedroom and bathroom addition off of the main floor at the back of the house. Since moving in, the Phelpses have updated the kitchen and master bathroom as well as added a screened in porch and a new deck. Sandy says, “We chose this house because it is a walkable neighborhood that is close to restaurants, the grocery store, shops, and most importantly Starbucks.” The Phelpses also like the close proximity to Oakwood Country Club where they love to play tennis on a regular basis.


Sandy decorates for many of the holidays, but when November rolls around, she starts to get particularly excited about the coming Christmas season. Because she loves the spirit of the season so much, she gets her decorations up right after Thanksgiving and leaves them up well into January. This ensures that even with their own busy schedules, all of her grandchildren are able to visit and see the decorations each year. They love to find the new additions to the decor each year. The Phelps’ holiday home has two distinct color themes throughout the house. The den, porch and kitchen feature pops of red while the dining room, front hallway and living room are turquoise and gold. These rooms flow naturally into each other, with the hallway dividing the color scheme.

Approaching the house, visitors are greeted with large gold ornaments hanging at varying heights from the ceiling of the front porch. The Phelpses added this porch along with a new front walkway a few years after buying the house. A treasured dogwood tree in the front yard used to house the large ornaments, but it was lost in a storm. Not one to fret, Sandy came up with the idea of using the newly installed porch instead. Now, each year Bill hangs the ornaments from white teacup hooks he installed in the ceiling. On either side of the front door are two large Christmas trees in gold pots and a wreath with gold sprays that picks up the gold from the hanging ornaments.

In the front hallway, greenery is aplenty. Pine garland with white lights and pinecones is swagged down the staircase. Wired teal ribbon bows adorn the garland on the steps as well as the garland draped around the hallway mirror. A long-time friend, designer Jim Wirt, found this ribbon for Sandy and she has tried to find more of it ever since, to no avail. For that reason as well as her affinity toward Jim, who passed away a few years ago, she carefully packs it away each year in hopes of extending its lifespan. A pair of gold resin flying angels with trumpets, as well as a small wreath on a stand, sit beneath the garland around the mirror.

The elegant dining room, which extends off of the front hallway, continues the teal and gold theme. In the center of the dining room table is a gold Santa sleigh filled with greenery and gold flowers. Two brass candlesticks with gold candles flank either end of the sleigh. Tiny wooden gold stars are scattered on the table, and crystal snowflakes hang from the brass chandelier. Sandy sets the table with a gold charger, teal plates, gold napkins and silver snowflake napkin holders. On the nearby sideboard sits the “Father Time” Steinbach nutcracker that has a working clock within it. Sandy adores collecting Steinbach nutcrackers. She searches online, locally at TJ Maxx and Tuesday Morning, and wherever she travels. On a trip to Oberammergau, Germany, Sandy found “The Mouse King” from the holiday favorite “The Nutcracker,” as well as a shepherd; these are two of her most treasured nutcrackers. She tends to prefer the natural wood-color nutcrackers and says these are harder to find, thus more fun to look for. These nutcrackers are found all over the house and are favorites of her grandchildren as well.

The living room rounds out the teal and gold scheme found in the house in a stunning fashion. One of the two Christmas trees in the house resides here. Dripping in crystal, it reflects light all over the room. Back in 2006 while living in a different house with a large bay window, Sandy had dreams of hanging crystal ornaments from tension rods in that window. From that starting point grew the Christmas tree that now stands in her living room. Sandy and Bill visited a close family friend living in England and picked up a few Waterford crystal ornaments there. Over the years, this friend has since sent six more to add to their collection. Sandy seeks out Baccarat, Waterford and Orrefors crystal ornaments to add to her tree. To add depth, gold glass balls are spread around the whole tree. Gold butterfly clip-on ornaments add dimension. A few teal ornaments are interspersed throughout, tying in the color theme. Crystal garlands and white lights amp up the sparkle effect. The angel on the top was purchased from Jim Wirt at one of his open houses at Oakwood Country Club and was actually how the friends first met. It is one of Sandy’s favorite Christmas decorations.

The most magical part of the tree for the young and young at heart is the how it is turned off and on. Four years ago, Sandy was given a “magical wand” by her daughter for her birthday. Sandy remembers thinking, “What was she thinking giving me this?” With the waving of the wand by a flick of the wrist, a mystical sound is emitted and the tree lights turn on, as if by magic. The neighborhood children as well as Sandy and Bill’s own grandchildren are smitten with this wonderment. Sandy says she has had “so much fun with it and have given it as a gift myself on many occasions.”

The rest of the living room feeds off of the glamour of the crystal ornament tree. Silk curtains in teal, cream and gold stripes adorn the windows, while a pair of chairs upholstered in soft blue and gold damask sit in front of the fireplace. A cream sofa resides opposite of the fireplace. A green wreath with gold accents and three gold wise men figurines sit on the mantel. The wise men are another special favorite of Sandy’s, purchased at the Silver Thistle, because they remind her of the true meaning of the season. Hanging from the mantel are gold stockings. Gold fairies, small brass Christmas trees, snow globes and gold candles are found on tables around the room.

In the den, kitchen and screened-in porch, the color red reigns supreme during the holidays. Whimsical decor emerges in the den, with a redthemed tree that Sandy calls her “Charlie Brown Tree” due to its smaller scale than the tree in the living room. This tree shows off pictures of the grandchildren, as well as red glass ball ornaments, garlands and tassels. Sprite elves and red tennis racquets round out the tree decorations, with the feet of elves playfully emerging as the tree topper. Sandy says she buys “what catches my eye when it comes to this tree.” The den mantel features more of Sandy’s beloved nutcracker collection, tucked in a green pine garland. These nutcrackers have more color to them than the rest of her collection— mainly pops of red. A large wreath resides above the mantel with red berries, flowers and a bow. Monogrammed red stockings hang from the mantel. Two red Santa pillows sit in chairs on either side of the fireplace, each chair with a Santa hat hanging off the back.

The den also has a wall of bookshelves that lends itself to more holiday collections. A grouping of Santas and elves are located here. Additionally, a miniature Erzgebirge Christmas church scene found its way back to the Phelpses after the passing of Bill’s mom. It had originally been a gift to her, many years ago.

The kitchen, located off of the den, also features bright pops of red. Sandy chose all of the finishes for the kitchen herself. The main cabinets are white Shaker-style doors with white quartz countertops. For a little punch in the room and to bring in the teal color found throughout the house, Sandy had the island painted this color and switched these countertops to black quartz. She had bead board added to the island as well for texture. Hanging from the light above the island are red balls. The island has seating for two so Sandy keeps out a pair of her Debbie Mumm Christmas tree plates with a napkin folded like a Christmas tree placed on top. Two red reindeer also reside on the island, to keep whomever is eating company. A Christmas ornament rug from Ruggables runs in front of the stove. Sandy loves this company because the rugs are machine washable and perfect for high-traffic areas.

The screened-in porch, also off of the den, carries red out onto it as well. Bright solid-red pillows are mixed in with smaller throw pillows with red Santa cardinals on them. Two three-foot Christmas trees with white lights add sparkle to the porch, especially when enjoying a cup of coffee with a holiday throw blanket before the sun rises. Sandy says she and Bill “love a screened-in porch and try to use it as many months of the year as possible.”

The Phelps’ Christmas decorations manage to be both elegantly formal and whimsical at the same time. By mixing traditional elements with a few funkier pieces, there is something for every guest. From the nutcrackers to the magical tree wand, their home brings out the childlike wonder in all of us.

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