“If you decorate by what matters to you, you create a home.” That statement has been fundamental to Laura Wilson’s success as owner of Marketplace at The Abbey. Located in Glendale, the European lifestyle boutique opened in 2014, featuring a wide variety of unique home décor pieces, accessories, made-to-order floral arrangements and handcrafted custom furniture. The award-winning retail/design establishment was an instant hit and now encompasses 6,000 square feet with a staff of nine.
Meeting Laura for the first time, one might expect an intense, highly focused entrepreneur. Instead, this native St. Louisan is warm, gracious and an easy conversationalist with a delightful sense of humor. She’s also quick to admit that her path to interior design has been rather circuitous.
With a degree in finance from the University of Arizona, she started out in pharmaceutical sales, then worked with her husband, Matt, to found Dents Express, a paintless dent repair facility in operation since 1992. Design, however, has always been one of Laura’s passions. “For years, I dabbled doing people’s houses for fun,” she says. “Then one of my husband’s friends actually hired me, and I decided to start my own design company.” And the rest, as they say, is history.
Custom-built 12 years ago to accommodate their expanding family, the Wilsons’ spacious, six-bedroom, two-story home in Wildwood gave Laura a blank canvas to express her personal design style. She chose a simple black-and-cream color scheme that she describes as “crisp, current and dramatic, with warm pieces to give the house a homey feel.” Proof of her achievement, the residence is bright and comfortable, and seems almost to vibrate with cheerful energy, particularly at Christmastime.
Simple and “homey” characterizes Laura’s approach to Christmas decorating, as well. “Less is more,” she maintains, “and you can repurpose things you already have for the holidays.” Working with Linda Higgins, principal designer at The Abbey, Laura has created a yuletide ambience for her own home that’s whimsical, yet tasteful, and avoids being “over-decorated” or “busy.”
The festive mood is immediately established in the entry foyer, where guests are greeted by a vintage Santa and a large rustic dough bowl, filled with antique ornaments. The staircase newel is trimmed with a black-and-white bow in velvet and dupioni silk, and a life-size rattan reindeer lolls beside an antique pine accent table in the adjacent alcove.
Displayed on the table are more heirloom Santas and an example of what Laura means by “repurposing.” Scattered throughout the home are a significant number of MacKenzie-Childs ceramics, complementing the décor with their signature checkerboard pattern. Filled with greens, pinecones or other small ornaments, these everyday accent pieces become an integral part of the holiday concept.
Off the foyer, the formal dining room is a showstopper year-round with its daring black walls, creamy columns, round table and mix of boutique ladderback and fully upholstered dining chairs. “I love round tables, because no one has to vie for a spot,” Laura explains. “And there isn’t much wall space in this room, so painting them black was actually more of an accent.” At holiday time, the walls become a dramatic background for three graceful, lit white birch trees and a jingle-bell garland is all it took to transform the table’s existing centerpiece arrangement.
Two slender evergreen trees — one “planted” in a large urn — add seasonal interest in the corner of the hearth room. Trimmed only in tiny white lights, the trees accentuate, rather than distract from, the CR Laine-upholstered settee and comfy wingback chair. A traditional wreath, centered in a window above the settee, and a simple holiday throw pillow add a dash of color.
Crowned by a 12-foot box beam ceiling, the living room is holiday central and features the main Christmas tree, positioned against a floor-to-ceiling corner window. This tree is reserved for special ornaments and treasured mementos collected over the years, including vintage Santas, personal gifts from friends and family and keepsakes made by the owners’ children.
The wood-burning fireplace showcases several more examples of repurposing, starting with a simple swag that adorns the heraldic “bee” artfully painted on two antique windows above the mantel. Small mistletoe bouquets were tied to the mantel’s decorative urns and, on the hearth, the vintage galvanized log carrier is filled with fresh cedar. On the antique sideboard that serves as a sofa table, an old-time tobacco planter is filled with miniature lighted birch trees and surrounded by evergreen sprigs and pinecones.
A secondary Christmas tree is located in the adjacent sitting room, which has grass cloth wallcoverings and a more natural, earthy décor. Reinforcing the ambience of this space, the tree is decorated in soft greens and cream and hung with large mercury balls. Similarly, the oval, antique pine table centering the room is topped with a basket of potted grasses, mercury balls and votive candles.
Père Noël would feel right at home in the roomy French country-style kitchen, with its brick range alcove, contoured black granite island, subway tiles and creamy white windowpane cabinetry. In fact, distressed metal letters spell out “NOEL” in red on the face of the alcove, and the island displays a live miniature Christmas tree on a MacKenzie-Childs cake stand.
Open to the kitchen, the casual dining area features a 72-inch round Lorts table with a rubbed black finish. The candle chandelier overheard is festooned with holly and there was no need to remove the hydrangea-filled Corsica bowl that normally serves as the table’s centerpiece. Laura simply replaced the flowers, with fresh greenery, sugar pine-cones and a few small ornaments.
By now it should be obvious that Laura Wilson actually lives by her philosophy of design. “These are a few of my favorite things,” she concludes, gesturing around the space with a sweep of her hand. And while she might be quoting Oscar Hammerstein, that’s unlikely, because “favorite things” is what Marketplace at The Abbey is all about. They call them “Abbey finds” — those one-of-a-kind treasures that clients absolutely love and can’t imagine living without…at Christmas or any other time of year.