A Christmas Story

Forget tinsel on the bannister and tockings hung with care; this Webster Groves homeowner decks the whole house with a rotating collection of heartfelt holiday trimmings amassed over a lifetime.

By Jamie Siebrase
Photography by Anne Matheis


“I decorate our home for every major holiday,” says homeowner Renee Stout. Christmas, though, is special — and you’ll know it the moment you pass the rustic, restored working sleigh in Stout’s front yard. This particular piece resided in the Crestwood Commons Schnucks lobby for years, until Stout convinced the owner to sell it! Now, it’s the first indication that, for the Stouts, Christmas is more than a mere day. “It’s a feeling,” Stout says. “A scurry extending from Thanksgiving weekend into the New Year.”  

It starts on Black Friday with three trees. “My husband, Brad, knows to bring a truck home because we’re going to get our live trees before the good ones are gone,” says Stout. “Once I get the lights on the tree – and, you can't have enough lights – everything else follows,” she continues, noting that this year’s whimsy entryway evergreen has unexpected multicolored oomph up top thanks to leftover bows from bid day at her daughter’s sorority. 

Overarching themes vary by year, but Stout always aims to add youthful touches to traditional ornamentation from local vendors – Rusted Chandelier and Enchanting Embellishments, among others – and national chains, including Cracker Barrel. Lighthearted frill fosters an inviting vibe, she says, pointing to the giant Santa preceding the tree in her foyer. “He comes out every year,” Stout says; same goes for those playful Santa legs dangling over the staircase. “Not everything has to be red and green,” Stout continues. 

In the master bathroom, Stout took into account the room’s natural colors, incorporating holiday warmth with an elegant gold and coral palette. Other deviations come in the form of mishmash glass jars brimming with colorful candy in the kitchen, where sconces are temporarily replaced by wrapped presents. Modern style melds easily with tradition, though, which overtakes the two most pivotal Yuletide rooms. 

Stout serves Christmas breakfast and dinner in her dining room, and draws on classic nostalgia there: fanciful covered soup bowls sourced from Neiman Marcus set atop jolly red plates and snowflake mats from Pier 1 Imports. This year’s centerpiece is a train from an estate sale. “It wasn’t necessarily a Christmas item,” Stout admits. So, she ad-libbed, adding elves, oversized ornaments and garland. The bows and bells tied to chairs? “That was something my mom started,” Stout explains before turning to an antique tortoise shell china cabinet – another parental gift – made festive with time-honored garland and poinsettias. 

Nearby, Stout’s mantel pays homage to Christmas magic, boasting an oil painting of Santa’s face – a la Stout! – that’s symmetrically framed by red pillar trees placed at varying heights. A low layer of garland and big, classic balls – all locked in place with Command strips – span the shelf. Stockings are hung with great care, true, but Santa prefers putting presents in old-school red postal bags at the hearth. 

“I used to make the room really formal,” Stout says. That’s changed over time. Take the elves peeking from tree branches and a treetop bow up high. “This tree used to drip with ornaments,” adds Stout. “It was stunning,” she says, “but stiffer.” “Christmas,” continues Stout, “gives me permission to put sparkle everywhere.” More than that, it’s her legacy — an over-the-top gift her children will remember fondly for years to come.

Decor: Rusted Chandelier, 314-821-7881
Decor: Enchanting Embellishments, 314-361-5300
Dining room soup bowls: Neiman Marcus
Dining room plates and mats: Pier 1