My Christmas Home Tour

Welcome, welcome friends! I’m so excited to be apart of the Jennifer Rizzo Design Company Holiday Housewalk again this year and bring you some Christmas home decorating ideas and inspiration!

Winter vintage tabletop decor

You won’t want to miss out on all of the beautiful homes so be sure to head over to Jen’s to begin at the beginning.

Jennifer Rizzo housewalk buttn

If you are coming here after paying a visit to Jen at City Farmhouse I know you’ve already seen some truly beautiful eye candy and I’m so glad that you continued the housewalk and have found your way here.

City Farmhouse Housewalk button blank

As I began to hang the garland on my banister this year, memories of a Christmas long ago came flooding back.

In 1983, my grandmother, a long-time widow, found love again. And when she and her soon-to-be-husband, Chet, settled on a Christmas Day wedding, my parents decided that we would make the journey from Southern California to Michigan to be there. The wedding was to be held at the home of my Aunt and Uncle and this would be a chance for my mom to spend time with her family whom she dearly missed.

At 7  years old, I have to admit that I wasn’t too thrilled to be stuck in a station wagon for days on end right before Christmas. In her wisdom, my mom allowed me to open my ‘big’ gift from them prior to our departure and I have to admit that clutching my brand new Molly doll from The Pleasant Company (which was soon taken over by American Girl) definitely made me feel a bit less apprehensive about our trek across the country.

Christmas foyer decorations

But, even a brand new doll can’t help when you run into horrible blizzards and encounter treacherous driving conditions. I will never forget the tense moments as the station wagon inched it’s way through the storm. Snuggled into the very back (this was before seat belt laws!), I was quite certain that we should have just stayed home.

Christmas entry table decor ideas

When we finally pulled up to my Aunt Christine and Uncle Bob’s home I could barely make out the outline of the huge, white historic house against the dark sky.

Tired, cold and hungry, we were just so relieved to be out of the car that we didn’t waste any time hurrying up to the door.

French country style Christmas living room

We trudged up the front steps just as the door was being opened for us and we were quickly enveloped in hugs and greetings. As we entered the house, the first thing I noticed was the enormous wood staircase and banister. I had never seen anything like it in my life. But, what really caught my eye was that the entire banister was covered in red stockings. There must have been 20 of them!

Music sheet banners on Christmas tree

And to a little 7 year old girl, away from home on Christmas, the sight of those stockings filled me with the hope that maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all.

My mom and dad disappeared with the other grown-ups and a cousin was given the job of showing us to our rooms. I walked up that giant staircase with a kind of awe and reverence. I had never been in a home quite like this before and I felt as though I had stepped back in time.

Boxwood wreath hanging on a chalkboard

The long hallway at the top of the stairs revealed more doors than I could have imagined in one house. And while the hallway was very cold, the warmth that greeted me when I entered my room took the chill off right away. My suitcase was brought in and then suddenly I was alone. And I didn’t like it.

I hurried back down the stairs and found my way into the living room where a huge Christmas tree stood in the front window with presents piled underneath. One glance revealed that my name was actually on some of them!

Presents on a sled and burlap ruffle tree skirt

(Jute Tree Skirt from Wayfair)

Following the sound of talking and laughter, I made it into the kitchen and was greeted by the most amazing aromas. Warm soup, bread, and something I had never seen before. Little oyster crackers covered in some kind of topping. It was that moment when my love affair with ranch crackers began. A love affair I have now passed onto my own children.

All throughout that evening, my eyes kept wandering over to the banister covered in stockings. Was it possible that one of those was mine? My aunt and uncle had a lot of kids and a lot of extended family plus they hosted foreign exchange students so I figured it was probably a long shot. Out of self-preservation, I determined that it didn’t really matter because it wouldn’t be my stocking. My familiar stocking that hung on the fireplace each year and was stuck back in Southern California.

Reindeer pine cone and greenery centerpiece arrangement

The next day dawned bright and clear and we kids were encouraged to head outside to get some fresh air. Now that I’m a wife and mother myself I realize this had nothing to do with us but everything to do with giving the grown-ups a chance to get things done before the Christmas Day wedding.

Stuffed into snow-clothes, we made our way to the front porch where we gleefully discovered that there was so much snow it was touching the bottom of the porch swing. This made for some very fun times as we took turns pushing each other on the swing and sending snow flying through the air.

Kitchen plate rack decorated for Christmas

It was during this time that I finally had a chance to take in the beauty of my aunt and uncle’s home. The sight of it against the bright, white snow is something I have never forgotten. And I realized that it was beginning to seem less intimidating.

Uncle Bob and Aunt Christine's home

(Uncle Bob and Aunt Christine’s home circa 1980-something)

It was beginning to feel more like home.

Gingerbread men cookie cutters tied to canisters in Christmas kitchen

Later that day, after we had thawed out over hot cocoa, I mustered up the courage to ask my aunt if one of those red stockings hanging from the banister was mine. She took my hand and led me over to them and pointed up at the place where the banister began to turn. “See that one right there? That one is yours!”

I couldn’t hide my joy and marveled that I would have a place there among the others. That someone had thought about how much it would mean to two little girls, away from home at Christmas, to have stockings.

Advent candle arrangement with glass jars and white candles

Uncle Bob and Aunt Christine have always understood that hospitality is simply love in action. It’s the tangible form that love takes as we extend it to others. They have been opening their homes and their hearts to people from all around the world and from all walks of life for as long as I can remember and this Christmas was no exception.

Hot cocoa station on a buffet table

Christmas morning brought with it a fresh snowstorm and concerns about getting my grandmother and her fiance from their respective homes some distance away.

Not to be dissuaded, my uncle and an older cousin braved the roads and delivered the bride and groom safely to the house.

Spode winter coffee mugs

Later that morning, I slowly walked down the stairs in front of my grandmother, thrilled to finally get to be a flower girl in a wedding. Everyone in the family had a role. My sister lit the candles, my dad performed the ceremony and my mom and aunt did the decorating and the food. It was to always be known as the most lovely Christmas wedding we had ever attended.

Winter woodland themed Christmas mantel decor

But as wonderful as it was, it’s not the wedding that has stood out to me all of these years.

Flocked tabletop pine trees from

(Frosted Trees)

That Christmas of 1983 taught me that home was so much more than a place.

Christmas Trees for sale pillow from Wayfair

(Christmas pillow)

I learned that I didn’t have to be in my home to feel at home. And perhaps it was then that the seed was planted in my own heart to want to make others feel at home, no matter where we are.

Christmas buffet table decorations

At Christmas, more than any other time of the year, people seem to be longing for a sense of home.

Cinnamon sticks in vintage silver creamer

And I believe that each one of us has the ability to create that for others. It doesn’t have to be complicated, or over the top.

It can be as simple as smiling and making eye contact.

Or seeing a need and meeting it.

Or inviting a neighbor to church with you.

Or adding one more stocking.

Christmas tree with white wood barrel tree stand

My Aunt and Uncle continue to provide a sense of home for so many people. And they have always been so incredibly supportive of Heather and me through all of our At the Picket Fence adventures. I’m pretty sure my aunt was one of the first, if not THE first, people to buy our book.  We’re so grateful that even though we live so many miles apart, when we are together there is always a sense of being right at home.

Christmas tree with wood signs as ornaments

And, speaking of homes, it’s time for us to say goodbye for now and for you to move on to the next stop on the Holiday Housewalk. You’ll be visiting the home of the incredibly talented and lovely (inside and out) Bre of Rooms for Rent and I know you will love it as much as I do.

Rooms for rent Housewalk button blank


As you enter this season, may your own homes be filled with joy and may you be watching for ways to bring that joy to others.

Much love to you sweet friends,

Vanessa signature

And don’t forget, our book ‘Life in Season’ makes such a lovely gift!

Find out how to buy it here

Life in Season resized


  1. Dorothy Terwilliger says

    What an enjoyable story to start my day with. Your home is beautiful and the story of your early Christmas with your family surely epitomizes Christmas and the love a family should share. Thank you for sharing.

  2. says

    Your home is so beautiful all decked out for Christmas! Love every nook and cranny! And, your book is an amazing Christmas gift idea – I’ve purchased a few for gifting this year! I shared it with my daughter-in-law and she loved it!

  3. says

    Hospitality is really just about showing love. Best definition ever. Following my mom’s example we honor that in our home wherever we are across the globe. Loved being taken back to some sweet Christmas days in my heart. And by the way, totally loving your holiday house! Linda

  4. Christine Simmons says

    Thank You Vanessa for the beautiful posting of a time in the life of our family that has left a wonderful memory to share. Even knowing the story it brought tears once again. The setting of your beautiful home is a perfect match for the story. Now that we are older and life has changed we relive these memories often. Am so enjoying the book and it adorns our coffee table for quick reads as we bake the cookies and make the oyster crackers again this year. Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and also wishes to your many followers on The Picket Fence.

  5. Bonnie says

    I loved reading your story Vanessa. Thank you so much for sharing about your wonderful aunt and uncle and how they made you and your family feel so welcome when you were small and away from your own home.

  6. Carol Reddin says

    Ahhh, love this so much, Vanessa! It brings back many wonderful memories. Your aunt and uncle really are very special people and have always treated Heather and you with much kindness. Thank you for letting me re-live that time in our lives. Love, Mom PS Your home is beautiful all dressed up for Christmas

  7. Lisa Mothersead says

    Beautiful story and beautiful holiday home. Love your hot chocolate bar and olive bucket with greenery, especially.

  8. says

    Thank you for the beautiful thoughts. My Aunt Ida had a house like that in Ashton, Ill. We always went there for Christmas and we always received some hand knit mittens.

    I have given several of the books and I am reordering because it’s the perfect gift.

    May you have a blessed Christmas Season.

    • says

      Oh I love that you always received mittens!! And we can’t thank you enough Carol for purchasing so many books!! We appreciate it more than we can possibly express. Many blessings to you and yours this season!

  9. Amanda Marie says

    I don’t typically comment on blog posts, but I had to on this one. This was such a sweet story! I had to read it all first, then go back through the pictures. What you said about hospitality being love in action is so true! We live in a college town, and each year there are young couples who can’t make the trip home for Christmas. We always keep Christmas Eve for family and Christmas morning for each other (just my husband and myself; no kids yet), but Christmas afternoon and evening, our home belongs to those couples who are missing theirs. It started as a way to stretch out the festivities, but it has turned into the biggest blessing for the two of us! We can’t imagine Christmas without it now. Thank you so much for the lovely story!

    • says

      Oh that means so much to me that you left a comment on my blog post Amanda! What an absolutely amazing example of love in action you and your family are displaying by opening your home to those who needing a place to belong during a season that can be very lonely. I just think that is such an amazing gift you are giving them. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. Blessing to you this Christmas!

  10. says

    What a heart-warming story, Vanessa! It immediately brought back memories of my own childhood – traveling in a station wagon in the dead of winter to visit relatives. Clutching a new doll during the holidays. Running outside to play in the snow with cousins. Your home is beautiful, too! Thanks for sharing your memory with us. :)

  11. says

    Vanessa, I’m in love. That story! You are so blessed with an amazing family. I was imagining every detail and following along in all those gorgeous images and vignettes… and I love that you showed a picture of their house! IT was beautiful! and then your message at the end… I just love your heart. This post was everything.
    Rachel recently posted..A Holiday Home Tour 2016My Profile

  12. says

    Oh my goodness, all the tears over that sweet story. What a wonderful thing to share with us all and your home? simply stunning. I have to go now, because I need to buy your books. Merry Christmas and thank you for the wonderful lessons!

  13. says

    Your Christmas story is just the story I needed today.
    Our daughter has a special relationship with my sister – her aunt.
    My sister is just like your aunt always wanting to make others feel so at home.
    When my daughter was just a little girl her aunt made special cookies and Kristin helped her make them – Kristin continues to make these cookies every year.
    Right now there is a distance between them – a political distance. To see the distance is killing me.
    As I read your story it brought back so many wonderful memories of Kristin and her aunt.
    My prayer this Christmas is that she will remember those special memories and their lives will be filled with joy for each other again.
    Thank you for sharing your story
    Have a wonderful Christmas.
    Much love,
    Rose recently posted..Sunday Reflection 11/27/16My Profile

  14. Suzy says

    I came here from Thistlekeeping at Thistlewood Farms.. I enjoyed the story so much that I had to go back and see the pictures of your home. So beautiful! Thanks for the story and Christmas decorating ideas.

  15. says

    oh my goodness your home is a beauty and your photos divine, but as a children’s writer i was so engrossed in your charming christmas tale, i had to go back and re-visit all the pics just to make sure i didn’t miss anything! you have a way with words in addition to your obvious talents for making a house a warm and inviting christmas home. well done you!

  16. Leslie says

    Lovely. And such a beautiful memory of home, hospitality and family. May you have the merriest of Christmas seasons!

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