by Laura Lucas and John Phillips
On Dec. 5, five Chestnut Hill homeowners will open their doors for the 2015 Christmas Holiday House Tour. Leading up to the tour, we’ll share some information about these homes and traditions used by these families to celebrate the season.
Our third featured home takes visitors back to the site of a grand 19th century estate in north Chestnut Hill. Over time, many of the grand estates from this period were demolished or converted to institutional use and subdivided. Our homeowner is a talented interior decorator who is actively involved with the Chestnut Hill Historical Society and Chestnut Hill Community Association. Combining 18th century charm with 21st century convenience, her home’s warm, inviting space is perfect for holiday entertaining.
HHT: A big part of the holidays are decorations. What is your holiday decorating style?
Homeowner: Although my design style ranges from historic to ultra-modern, my own home is truly traditional. The interior reflects architectural styles ranging from early Colonial to Federal, and furniture pieces that are a mix of 18th Century antiques mixed with cherished inherited pieces.
HHT: Is there a special ornament or decoration that HHT visitors might expect to see?
Homeowner: Since I purchased my home in 1995, each room has been transformed to reflect a particular period in history. My most treasured space is the Kitchen Keeping Room that will reflect the warmth of the season, done in deep reds and greens, with a tree decorated in pine cones, pheasant feathers and cardinals. It will also honor in a special way, a beloved English Springer Spaniel named Dickens whom I lost a few years ago, and my current Springer, a very lively and inquisitive spaniel named Oliver.
HHT: What traditions do you try to celebrate around the holidays?
Homeowner: Holiday traditions revolve around family and friends, listening to seasonal classical music. I am a huge John Rutter fan!
HHT: What’s one decorating tip that you would share?
Homeowner: Don’t buy one entire “look” from a home furnishings store. Mix up your decor using cherished items from your past mixed with beautiful things from the present. If you are traditional, stick to natural evergreens, holly and pine cones with gold accents. If you are modern, change up the typical red and forest scheme to shades of pink and lime green with accents of silver. Do something unexpected, while keeping it simple and understated!
HHT: What’s your favorite holiday song?
Homeowner: My two favorite holiday songs are “Donkey Carol” and “The Holly and the Ivy” — both composed by John Rutter and performed by the Cambridge Singers and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. A close third runner up is “Sleigh Ride” by the Philadelphia Orchestra.
HHT: Complete this sentence: I love the holidays because …
Homeowner: It gives everyone the opportunity to experience a joyous time, catching up with family and friends, enjoying special treats, and of course, decorating!!
HHT: How do you celebrate the holidays with your pet?
Homeowner: My Springer, Oliver, (a distant cousin to Dickens!) gets special treatment at the holidays with a bright red sweater, his photo on Christmas cards, and special acknowledgements on my Christmas tree!
HHT: My favorite Christmas or holiday dessert is …
Homeowner: I have a couple of favorite holiday treats! Christmas Eve, warm mulled wine, a hearty stew, and home baked chocolate chip cookies, all while watching “It’s a Wonderful Life”! Christmas Day, a good cup of coffee (often spiked with Baileys) while opening presents, and a traditional stuffed turkey with all the fixins shared with family late in the afternoon.
HHT: Our research on your home revealed a wonderful evolution story, do you mind if we share?
Once the access road for a significant 1880’s estate, this “Lane” is now a fascinating cross-section of Chestnut Hill’s complex architectural evolution. The main house was partially destroyed by fire and rebuilt as a modern house in 1969. The carriage house and other ancillary buildings were repurposed as single-family homes, and “in-fill” lots sold off for new development throughout the 20th century.
Our homeowner’s house shows the flexibility of the Colonial Revival style to great effect. Built as a simple center-hall stone house in 1949, the home received a carefully designed addition and has settled comfortably into the rich and diverse architectural fabric of this unique street.
Inside, the house reveals a jewel-like interior. In 1995, the current owner began an exhaustive renovation, with every detail redesigned using historically correct forms including windows, doors, trim, and decorative treatments. Completed in 2010, and inspired by the 1714 Barns-Brinton House of Chadds Ford, these rooms are resplendent with recovered antique wood flooring, beams and oak paneling.
To get your ticket for this year’s Chestnut Hill Christmas-Holiday Tour, visit chestnuthill.org or go directly to Ticketleap.com. Tickets are $45 online and for CHCA members; $50 for non-members, and $195 for Preview Party the night before. All tickets include access to Woodmere Museum and a welcome reception with drinks and goodies. Registration and convenient starting tour trolley stops takes place at Woodmere and the Hill Company. Many area businesses and restaurants offer special discounts to tour attendees that make it a fun day on the Hill with friends, family and loved ones. Share your past tour memories on our CHCA Facebook page or #chestnuthillpa.