“When it comes to Christmas, too much is never enough.” That quote from the late Charles Faudree, a world-famous interior designer, has been this talented homeowner’s mantra for years. Raised in the Deep South, she’s made holiday ornaments since childhood, and the spectacular décor of her West County home at Christmastime proves her lifelong passion for the beauty of the season. But first, a little background information…
Six years ago, the owners decided to relocate from the East Coast. Both had retired—she from pharma, her husband from a lengthy career as a CFO, and they wanted to live closer to family here in St. Louis. Eventually, the couple found a classically styled residence in an upscale Town and Country neighborhood that appealed to their traditional tastes. Custom-built in 1992, the expansive 1.5-story had a remarkably open floor plan for its time. “The house had great potential,” the wife remembers. “We liked the architecture and the brightness of the interior, and the finished lower level was ideal for entertaining.”
With Lewis Homes as the builder, exterior and interior remodeling began. The kitchen, baths and laundry were redesigned to the wife’s specifications; all of the home's draperies were designed by Pizazz 2 Interiors. New hardwood flooring and vintage lighting fixtures were installed, and paint colors were carefully chosen to create a sophisticated backdrop for another of the wife’s passions—antiques! At one time, she’d worked in an antique store, and the home showcases a magnificent assortment of hand-selected period furnishings and accessories that reflect her appreciation for history and fine craftsmanship. So, it’s hardly surprising that she devotes the same meticulous attention to decorating for the holidays.
Although her “storehouse” of ornamental items has been collected since the 1980s, each year’s display is original and astonishing in its scope. She designs and fabricates the impressive array herself, combining favorite pieces with new creations and elaborate fresh and artificial arrangements. “Coming from the South, I like to use natural materials—feathers, dried pods, pinecones, twigs,” she explains, “but I’ll sometimes add shiny, store-bought things.” She notes that the color scheme varies from year to year but is always designed to complement the décor of each space.
The massive project typically begins in October. Asked if she has an annual master plan, the owner laughs, “No, I pretty much fly by the seat of my pants, but it all comes together. And there’s still glitter everywhere until at least July!”
A brief tour illustrates the energy and artistry she invests in each season’s panorama. Starting at the columned entry porch, holiday guests are greeted by a sophisticated gold-and-bronze color scheme that harmonizes with the brick masonry. Oversized bells and bows in faux birch bark ribbon are tied to the carriage lamps, and fresh noble fir trees flank the entry doors, which are draped with a majestic swag and hung with handmade wreaths trimmed with feathers, dried pods, birch ribbon and gold ornaments.
Inside the foyer, fresh poinsettias are arranged under matching early 19th-century demilune tables, topped with the owner’s collection of antique Imari porcelain. Garland and bunched gold lamé fabric line the handrail of the dramatic, freestanding main staircase, and blue-flocked, copper-glittered sprays accentuate the newel post.
The earthy colors and metallic accents continue into the 3-story formal living room, where the 10-foot main tree (one of four throughout the interior) corresponds to the palette of the furniture and draperies. Filling the branches are gold and coppery glass ornaments, pine cones, gold bows and lamé and—a salute to the owner’s Georgia roots—sienna-hued magnolias.
With an antique brass fender skirt and andirons, the sheen of the fireplace is repeated in a lavish swag featuring gold botanicals and amber glass beads. On the mantel are Imari vases filled with bouquets of fresh greens, roses, orchids and berries. “I love to do floral arrangements,” says the owner, “but there just isn’t enough time before Christmas, so Mary Tuttle’s does those for me.”
In addition to its stunning antiques and exquisite holiday décor, the living room includes a vignette worth mentioning. Grouped around a demilune George III sideboard in a side alcove are several small art pieces, each with a story. Commissioned by the homeowner, an oil painting above the sideboard portrays a building in Milledgeville, Georgia, that served as the governor’s mansion during the Civil War. On either side are original botanical prints by Crispijn van de Passe, a renowned 17th-century Dutch engraver.
Similarly elegant, the step-up formal dining room has a tray ceiling and is lit by an antique Italian crystal chandelier. Set for festive holiday gatherings, the double-pedestal dining table is finely crafted in flame mahogany and satinwood and surrounded by traditional Chippendale-style chairs. Glittering deer and a crystal-and-silver epergne filled with fresh gloriosa lilies, roses and hypericum berries create the centerpiece. On the wall, silver sconces with similar floral arrangements flank a tranquil landscape by a German artist.
In the family activity areas, the color scheme shifts to the traditional red, green and white of Christmas. The “kids’ table”—an antique Hepplewhite table with shield-back chairs—is located in the octagonal bayed breakfast room. Each place is set with custom holiday stemware, tatted linen napkins in ornamented holders, Christmas crackers and sugar cookies. Overhead, Santas festoon the candle chandelier and, for the colorful swag above the architectural window, the owner devoted countless hours to hand-spraying crystalline glitter on artificial fruits.
The “sugared” fruit is a key decorative element in the cathedral-ceilinged family room, as well, reappearing in the mantel swag and organically themed tree. Trimmed with feathers, birds, amaryllis, berries, okra pods, velvet ribbon and much more, the tree is a work of art in itself.
One final anecdote demonstrates the owner’s ingenuity when collecting items that just might come in handy at Christmastime. On the kitchen island is a beautiful cake iced in red fondant she’d once made for a holiday party. Too pretty to eat, she served the guests an alternate dessert, then preserved and stored the cake, which is likely to become an annual kitchen decoration.
It’s said that passion drives perfection. Based on the wonderland this multi-talented homeowner creates every year, there can be no doubt that she is perfectly passionate about Christmas.
Builder: Lester M. Brotpeter
Cabinetry: Archway Cabinetry
Flooring: Boardwalk Flooring
Granite: Hallmark Stone Company
Tile: The Tile Shop
Window Treatments: Pizazz 2 Interiors