House Tours

Peek inside a converted schoolhouse home at Christmas

In preparation for the holiday season, a former schoolhouse is adorned with yuletide reds, evergreen boughs, punchy plaids and luxurious touches of gold.
By Christy Wright
Peek inside a converted schoolhouse home at Christmas

Photo, Angus Fergusson.

Home for the Holidays December 2014 Home Feature

Go with fresh greenery

If first impressions are everything, then it won’t take long for guests arriving at Susan Sanchez’s home in Oakville, Ontario, to discern that she is passionate about holiday decor. Greeted by a front porch festooned with lush pine boughs, fairy lights and a traditional red-ribboned wreath, family and friends know this embellishment is just a hint of what’s to come inside.

“For these garlands and the wreath, we used a combination of seeded cedar, regular cedar, pine and juniper — all in very large quantities.” says Erin.

Door paint, Toucan Black, Benjamin Moore.

feasby-bleeks-house-porch-christmas-decorationsPhoto, Angus Fergusson.

Personalize with vintage treasures

“I am a Christmas fanatic,” says Susan, a small-business owner who shares the 3,600-square-foot designated heritage home with her husband, their 15-year-old daughter, Lily, and their 11-year-old son, Alex. “I always decorate the whole house — even the garage door!”

The placement of a pair of snowshoes becomes a unique focal point. “I grew up in Winnipeg, and my family had a set of snowshoes,” says Susan. “These ones belonged to my dad, and I love that they are a reminder of winters past. I tease my children that I wore them to school, and they believe me!”

feasby-bleeks-garage-christmas-decoration-snow-shoesPhoto, Angus Fergusson.

Work with the character of the space

This year, Susan had a little help from Toronto-based designers Erin Feasby and Cindy Bleeks of Feasby & Bleeks Design. “I love their use of colour and casual elegance,” says Susan. “I knew they could create a holiday space that was warm and family-friendly.” It’s easy to see why the duo was the right choice. “We were crazy about the character of the home,” says Cindy, referring to both the Queen Anne architecture and the modern additions.

Know when to use restraint

Erin and Cindy note that while every main room in Susan’s house is decorated, it’s not done with abandon. “Between the dining room’s beautiful wallpaper, silk drapes and ornate pendant light, we felt there was a fair amount of embellishment going on,” says Erin. Their one touch? A faux-magnolia wreath suspended on a gold satin ribbon.

Lauren chairs, Cabinet Furniture. Wreath, HomeSense. Serena Drum light, South Hill Home. Framed mirror, Cocoon Furnishings.

feasby-bleeks-interior-design-dining-roomPhoto, Angus Fergusson.

Use colours that complement a space

To achieve the look, the designers relied on an abundance of fresh foliage that they transformed into expressive garlands and arrangements placed throughout the house. These were punched up with splashes of vigorous red and burnished gold, plus lots of ribbon.

Rather than weaving a traditional red ribbon into this lush cedar swag, Erin and Cindy opted for luxurious gold. “This staircase is visible from the dining room, so we wanted to tie in the gold palette that’s happening there,” says Erin. “It’s also an unexpected departure from the more casual tartans and reds in the other rooms.” “We love to mix luxe, satiny ribbons with the natural texture of greenery,” says Erin. “It’s also easy to change the ribbons and the greens to transform your look from year to year.”

This artful juxtaposition of old and new provided their aesthetic starting point. “We used classic, traditional elements — reds, golds, natural materials — but kept things simple, edited and streamlined,” says Erin. Inspired by the space’s previous incarnation as a private girls’ school in the early 1900s, they also adopted what they call an “Ivy League homestead” style. “We liked the idea of dressing up the place with tartans, natural greens and warm fires,” says Cindy.

Runner, Elte. Greenery (throughout), Hofland.

feasby-bleeks-staircase-christmas-bough-garlandPhoto, Angus Fergusson.

Channel tradition with classic tartan

“The family room is where our idea of Ivy League style came into play,” says Erin. “Rather than introduce another stripe or solid, we used plaid here because it’s both preppy and casual.” The stockings, as well as the ribbons used throughout the garland and tree, integrate the look, while flattering the rosy tones of the furniture and carpet. 

Tip: This rug is actually two Roger Oates runners sewn together and banded.

Position the tree for maximum viewing pleasure

Placed in the corner, this Fraser fir tree is a delightful focal point in the family room yet can also be viewed from the kitchen. Susan says, “We always have a real tree in the family room. It’s a tradition, and as this is Santa’s drop-off, he’s come to expect it.”

Update existing decorations with bell jars

A classic nativity scene makes a statement when showcased under glass. “Everyone has holiday decor they use year after year,” says Cindy. “But it can be hard to highlight it without being too cliché. Erin and I liked the idea of placing these symbolic figurines under bell jars because it gave them more presence on the coffee table.”

President’s choice Stockings, Real Canadian Superstore. Ribbon (throughout), Master Stroke Canada. Tree, Sweetpea's. Bell jars, West Elm. Nativity scene, Holland Park.

feasby-bleeks-living-room-fireplace-christmasPhoto, Angus Fergusson.

Turn ornaments into works of art

“We’ve all seen ornaments filling vases and hurricane lamps, so we thought using a terrarium would be an interesting change,” says Cindy. The mix of shapes, textures and sparkles is beautifully offset by the colourful backdrop of an abstract painting.

Tip: Erin and Cindy papered the walls in grasscloth to add visual interest, texture and an air of dressed-up formality.

Ornaments, garland, HomeSense. Painting, Michael Adamson.

feasby-bleeks-christmas-ornaments-lanternPhoto, Angus Fergusson.

Choose tabletop accessories that function year-round

This year, however, it all adds up to an enchanting backdrop to Susan’s holiday traditions, from cookie-baking parties and building gingerbread houses with Lily and Alex to turkey dinner for up to 20. “Cindy and Erin created a traditional feel, but they kept it really fun,” says Susan. A perfect mix for a family Christmas.

An assortment of bowls in pale seafoam-green and burnished gold make a simple statement decorating the centre of the dining room table. Placemats, cutlery and dinnerware continue the golden theme and add festive sparkle without screaming “Christmas!”

Martha Stewart table, Elte.

feasby-bleeks-dining-table-setting-christmasPhoto, Angus Fergusson.

Place Christmas accents strategically

“You never want a prominent area like the kitchen to look forgotten during the holidays,” says Erin. By placing greenery and bows in out-of-reach places, they achieve a look that’s both festive and functional.

Tip: These chair seats are covered in laminated fabric for easy cleanup.

Repeat a Single Design Element

In the eating area off the kitchen, multiple grapevine wreaths offer a uniform look. “We dressed up the wreaths with simple lengths of tartan ribbon and warm LED lights,” says Cindy. “By hanging one on each door, we were able to keep the embellishment minimal and still create impact.”

Cabinetry, Bella Kitchens. Cabinetry paint, Ivory, Benjamin Moore. Reclaimed elm floors, Nostalgic Wood.

feasby-bleeks-kitchen-island-interior-designPhoto, Angus Fergusson.


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