Rules for a cozy-Christmas home year-round

Designer Nancy Riesco invites you into her Vancouver home already prepped for the holidays
By Viginie Martocq
Rules for a cozy-Christmas home year-round

Photo, Janis Nicolay.

The designer

When asked what she loves best about her 1920s Tudor home in Vancouver’s Shaughnessy neighbourhood, designer Nancy Riesco laughs and answers, “Space. I grew up with six people in a 700- square-foot home.” Her house is anything but cold and cavernous, though. The vibrant personality of this family of four is visible everywhere. “There’s nothing I dislike more than a show home. Our place is full of interesting objects and eye-catching colours. It’s a higgledypiggledy approach to decorating that comes from the heart.” Indeed, ancestral portraits are easily mixed with hand-painted silk chandeliers and minimalist Japanese chairs, while antique rugs anchor Italian glass coffee tables. The approach to festive decorating is just as eclectic: Come Christmas, the family unpacks longcollected and hand-made ornaments and hangs them on white branches, a towering green tree and the Charlie Brown–tinsel tree. It’s anything but traditional, but the end result couldn’t be more welcoming.

Nancy Riesco's home, home decoration, ChristmasPhoto, Janis Nicolay.

Decorating ideas

1. Mix eras and styles. If your approach to decorating is to throw together everything you love, stick to a simple colour scheme to make it feel cohesive. In the dining room, different tones of white, buff and pale grey all work in unison to create a sense of calm.

2. Add sofa seating to the dining room. Instead of the usual buffet server, Nancy decided to place a comfortable sofa in the bone-coloured dining room. It makes guests feel instantly more relaxed. “After dinner it’s a wonderful place for people to sit and chat without having to leave the party,” she says. Since the dining room has cold, northern light, a hand-painted silk lamp adds warmth and a well-travelled feel to the room.

Get this look: Fortuny chandelier, Chairs, Lilith Rockett pottery, Linen tablecloth, Rug, Custom handcrafted beeswax candle, Atkinson’s, 604-736-3378. Deer horns, Vitra Algues sculpture, Mercury candle holders,

3. Hang decorations in surprising places. When the overall decor of a room is sparse and simple, little touches add a festive air. Hang vintage holiday cards and sparkly branches on the doors of the hutch.

Rules for a cozy-Christmas home year-round


Rules for a cozy-Christmas home year-roundPhoto, Janis Nicolay.

Turn a bench into a console

A long, low bench effortlessly anchors large paintings on a wall. It also makes a handy place to display objects. Update old lamps by making new shades with graphic fabric and ribbon trim.

Get this look: Nelson bench, Painting, Orange vase, antler candlestick, silver bowl, Glass bowl and ornaments, A Bakers Dozen Antiques, 604-879-3348.

Home decoration, holiday decoration, home designPhoto, Janis Nicolay.

Embrace natural wood

Sometimes, the character of a house is too special to change. That’s how Nancy felt about the 1950s mahogany panelling in the den and the hall. Instead of painting, she decorated around it, using stark white as a contrast. Nancy placed a striking lacquered table in the hall to complement the wood’s mellow tones. The table’s unusual legs reference classical form with a twist.

Get this look: Rocker, sofa, Giraffe lamp, Coffee table, Area rug, Large white bowl, Rina Menardi Ceramics at Ceramic vase, Viburnum berries, Similar white lacquer table,

Rules for a cozy-Christmas home year-round

home decoration, holiday decoration, home designPhoto, Janis Nicolay.

Create a drink station

It’s the perfect place to set the tone for having plenty of holiday fun. Choose some brightly coloured ornaments and reflect their jewel tones in flowers, glasses and books. Bonus: You’re always ready for unexpected company.

Get this look: Table, Tray, Floral arrangement, Silver bowl, bell and lantern ornaments, heatherrossinhouse. Branches, Vintage ball ornaments, A Bakers Dozen Antiques, 604-879-3348. Jonathan Adler squirrel, Books,

Christmas decoration, holiday decoration, home designPhoto, Janis Nicolay.

Forgo the island

There’s no more intimate space than the kitchen, especially when it’s furnished with an easy-to-care-for table that seats the entire family. The turquoise chairs are a cinch to wipe clean, and create a crisp contrast to the white-on-white decor. Wood flooring that runs throughout the house and into the kitchen also warms up the room, despite the cool colour scheme.

Get this look: Kitchen table, Kartell Maui chairs, Tea towels, Overhead light,

home decoration, holiday decoration, home designPhoto, Janis Nicolay.

The kid's room

7. Choose a chandelier for a kid's room

Nancy jazzed up her 13-year-old daughter Gemma’s room with a fanciful crystal chandelier and a vintage bronze bed. Asian-inspired touches like modern pop-graphic characters on the linens and a Chinese lantern make the room playful.

Get this look: Glitter birds and stars, Salmagundi West, 604-681-4648. Floral cup, Vintage lantern, Chair, Desk, bookcase, Duvet cover and sham, Riesco & Lapres chest of drawers,

8. Paint half the wall

Here’s a clever designer trick: Bring the ceiling colour down onto the walls to make low ceilings seem higher. In her son’s room, Nancy was lucky enough to find a nifty desk that wraps around the corner of the room. She updated the look with a simple chair that gives the whole room a cool, eclectic vibe perfect for 11-year-old Charlie.

Get this look: Jielde lamp, Teddy-bear painting, A Bakers Dozen Antiques, 604-879-3348. Green cube, Red globe, Tree decorations,

holiday home, home decoration, home designPhoto, Janis Nicolay.

Mismatch your area rugs

Lend a formal room a relaxed atmosphere by combining an antique Persian rug with simple, textural sisal. During the holidays, an ottoman works double duty as a coffee table or extra seating when company comes calling.

Get this look: Antique rug, Jute carpet, Sofa slipcover, Cushion, Drapes, Tree, Vintage white reindeer, A Bakers Dozen Antiques, 604-879-3348.

home decoration, holiday decoration, home designPhoto, Janis Nicolay.


Subscribe to our newsletters for our very best stories, recipes, style and shopping tips, horoscopes and special offers.

By signing up, you agree to our terms of use and privacy policy. You may unsubscribe at any time.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.