The lyrics to one Christmas song say, "There's no place like home for the holidays," especially when it's decked out in holiday style for the annual Westport Historical Society's house tour.
Five owners in three towns -- Westport, Fairfield and Easton -- opened their doors to visitors Sunday as they have for more than two decades in one of the historical society's largest fundraisers. Each house was different in its architectural style and interior design, and each was resplendent in its holiday decor.
Claudia Steinglass of Westport said she appreciated the selection of houses that were on this year's 27th tour from the lower square footage of a townhouse-style structure to a 6,400-square-foot log cabin lodge. Her daughter Emily Steinglass, also of Westport, was impressed that the interior designers and/or homeowners "took the historical piece of a house and used material from the property or the original house" in the renovation, updating or decorating.
Local award-winning artist Miggs Burroughs said each was tasteful in their own way. "It's fun to see how people create a living environment, how many different ways there are to be comfortable in a home. I don't agree with all of them, but that's the fun of it. It's like art," he said, likening the tour to an art gallery.
This year's house tour was entitled, "The Mar Jennings Classic New England Christmas House Tour." Jennings, a best-selling author, interior designer and lifestyle expert, served as honorary chairman and selected four of the five houses for the tour including his own, which he calls Rosebrook Gardens. From his garage-turned potting shed/garden studio, Jennings signed copies of his recently published second book, "LIFE ON MAR'S: Creating Casual Luxury."
In the book, Jennings takes people inside his home to demonstrate his core design principles "that are the cure to all design dilemmas no matter what your size or style or space may be."
On Sunday, Jennings took people inside his 2,000-square-foot residence to show them how to maximize space in an elegant and refined way. His personal design style in the house and in his manicured gardens, and the added touches from Terrain of Westport got rave reviews from the hundreds of visitors on the tour.
"Just darling. This is my favorite," one woman said as she wandered through Jennings' house.
"This is the best and we've been to them all," another woman said.
Visitors also gave high marks to Rebecca Ellsley's Moose Lodge in the Old Hill section of Westport. "You're very talented and this is a real treat," one woman told Ellsley of her rustically sophisticated residence.
Ellsley grew up in a log cabin so this house appealed to her when she was in the market to buy in 1999. It comprises three log cabins built between 1880 and 1890 in Maine and Canada, and moved to Westport in 1910 as part of the Stonybrook artist colony.
All the wood for the railings came from local trees, according to Ed Gerber, a member of the town's Historic District Commission, who served as a docent for the tour. "It's a very green house," he said, referring to its environmental friendliness.
"It gives me decorating ideas. It's so inspiring, serene and de-cluttered," said Taj Llopis of Newtown.
"I just love what she did here," said Anna Marie Brier of Staten Island, NY, who said she takes this tour every year. Read Full Article
"Absolutely quaint," added Fred Montoya of Westport.
At some houses the visitors were not just given a visual treat, but tasty treats as well. At Jennings' house and at Moose Lodge the owners had outdoor fires burning and all the making for S'mores including the sticks. As a bonus, Jennings' neighbor across the street opened her doors for an unofficial stop on the tour and a cup of hot chocolate or mulled apple cider.
In Fairfield, a neighbor's chickens greeted visitors to the Georgian Colonial house built in 1937 by Cameron Clarke, calling to night "The Twelve Days of Christmas" and its three French hens.
Inside, owner Angela Graham and her interior designer Cheryl Willhite, of Private Quarters, talked with visitors about the colors, fabrics and furnishings used to decorate for year-round living and for the holiday season.