Infused with Christmas

An empty nester and her design team blend the holidays into her home.

By Melissa Mauzy   

Photography Anne Matheis  

Architect Lauren Strutman Architects

Interior Design Castle Design  

Contractor Barco Construction 


When Thanksgiving approaches, homeowner Brigette McMillin knows Patti Porter and her team of holiday elves from the Rusted Chandelier are not far behind to deck her home for the holiday season. “She comes in and waves her Christmas wand, and POOF!” Brigette laughs.

McMillin and husband Tom have lived in their 1938 residence for 15 years and completed several renovations during that time. Brigette describes her style as traditional with a twist, and she always wants the home to feel warm and welcoming but beautiful at the same time. When it comes to decorating for the holidays, it has always been important to McMillin to keep it feeling like her home while adding the special memories and touches of the holiday season. She has worked with Porter for several years during the holidays to make her home merry and bright. “Patti is creative with a meticulous eye. She just knows her clients and makes sure she includes the things that are important to us whether it be pieces handed down from family or made by our kids,” McMillin says.

Over the years, Porter has helped McMillin pare down her Christmas décor to keep meaningful items while saying goodbye to pieces they no longer need. While they reuse many adornments from season to season, they add to what they have and tweak the overall design. One of Porter’s favorite recent additions is a glitzy tree in a gold urn tree stand in the foyer, which she says makes the entrance so inviting and festive coupled with the banister wrapped in greenery and adorned with bows.

Every year, there is an area that Porter and McMillin focus on to enhance it and give it a fresh look. The outdoor porch and dining tables were the focus this year and interest was added with greenery, birch, beautiful ribbon and a tree on the porch.

The Christmas color scheme plays right along with the colors McMillin already has in the home to make the holiday ornamentation blend into her everyday décor and not shout “it’s the holidays.” Instead of removing items on the mantel and bookshelves, holiday greenery and adornments are added to enhance what already exists. “I love to see in a home that holiday has been added to everyday life and not stripped of that look. It makes a home very lived-in and homey,” Porter says. To create consistency from room to room, Porter uses the same quality satin and velvet ribbons in complementing colors. Double-face satin ribbon along with velvets give a more lush look.

The family room is bright, fun and festive with bold colors that stand out against the serene color scheme. Even though the McMillin children are all grown up, the family room tree is still the kids’ tree and features sentimental ornaments made by the kids as well as each child’s special collection. The living room décor is much more subdued than the family room. Porter and McMillin chose to use silvers and golds while weaving in new ribbons.

Brigette likes to use a mix of fresh and faux florals and greenery. Her go-to florist is Ken Meisner’s Flower Shoppe, which did all of the fresh arrangements on the dining room tablescape. In more normal times pre-COVID, the McMillins host a large holiday gathering for family and friends, and special attention is given to the dining table. The couple have owned the dining set for more than two decades, and Classic Woodworking refinished the piece and also added multiple leaves so the couple can seat up to 20 guests for dinner.

McMillin readily admits she is a sucker for holiday entertaining and owns four sets of Christmas dishes. This year’s tablescape features a charger topped with a red-rimmed plate with Christmas greenery, pine cones and bells. Fluted dishes passed down from family member to family member sit atop the place setting. “The fluted dishes are my favorite holiday piece because no one else has them and they are antique,” Brigette explains. “They are so versatile. You can do anything with them.”

A credenza in the dining room is a cheerful holiday vignette. Candelabras that belonged to Tom’s parents flank a tray featuring a silver tea set handed down from Brigette’s mother who had it handed down from her mother. The tea set is displayed with one of Brigette’s many nativity manger sets, which she collects. The white nativity set was a wedding gift given to the McMillins and hand-made by the wedding guest. Each room has a different manger that is special to Brigette and the touchstone of Christmas. Another favorite is a handmade dark clay manger with a white glaze she has owned for 30 years. “As much as I love hosting and parties, the mangers center me back to the reason for the holidays, the spiritual connection of Christmas,” she says.

Last December, the McMillins were honored to be selected as one of the homes featured on the Deck the Halls for Glennon Homes holiday tour. Brigette, who is a member of the Glennon Guild benefitting SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital, loved how the event brought the neighborhood and community together. “The tour was THE holiday event,” she says. “People were dressed up and ready to celebrate. COVID had robbed us of so much in 2020, but the home tour was done in a safe way and it truly felt like Christmas that day. It was a fun opportunity to spread good cheer. And the best part was at the end of the night there was no party mess to clean up!”   



Architect: Lauren Strutman Architects

Builder: Barco Consctruction 

Interior Design: Castle Design 

Plumbing Fixtures: Immerse 

Window/Doors: Kolbe & KolbeKirkwood Stair & Millwork 

Decor: Rusted Chandelier