Tour This Chesapeake Bay Christmas Cottage

Photography by Robert Radifera

Text and Styling by Charlotte Safavi

Christmas was the furthest thing from the minds of homeowners Sharon O’Connell and Tracy Gammell when they relocated from the Washington, D.C., area and built a 2,500-square-foot cottage in Easton, Maryland, near the Chesapeake Bay. Their first priority was furnishings—and then, it was time for Christmas. “We’d always lived in condos before and had never fully decorated for Christmas,” says Sharon. “This was the first time we could go all out and deck our home for the season.”

Red front door with nautical wreath
Photography by Robert Radifera

The other motivator was that the couple’s interior designers—Jamie Merida of Easton’s Bountiful Interiors and his colleague Carol Wheeler—had called them to share that the Talbot Hospice was looking for houses to feature on its annual Christmas home tour, which raises funds for the local charity. “It was a great way to give back while enjoying one of our favorite holidays,” adds Sharon, who turned over their cottage to the holiday wizardry of Jamie and his team.

The only stipulation they charged the design team with was to have the Christmas decorations be reflective of the home’s interiors. In Sharon’s words: “We wanted it to have that Tidewater style, that coastal feel, with nautical elements, but not too cutesy or beach-y.” Given that Bountiful Interiors had done the interior design, this was easy to achieve.

red and blue front porch
Photography by Robert Radifera

As former condo dwellers, the couple loved their new home’s instant curb appeal. Their coastal cottage is two stories high, with both front and side porches and dozens of cozy nooks awaiting holiday charm. “The door is even red! It really lends itself to a coastal Christmas,” says Sharon.

Jamie and his team started outdoors, establishing the palette: blue and white with pops of red. They wrapped the stair and porch railings in evergreen garlands adorned with traditional elements, like pinecones and berries, and with coastal touches, like netting, seashells, and starfish ornaments.

Inside, the main open floor plan was perfect for the flow of decorating goodness. In addition to decked holiday mantels, more garlanded staircases, and a dining room table centerpiece, there was a beautiful Christmas tree.

Photography by Robert Radifera

“We usually have a small tree, so a 10- to 12-foot tree was really special for us,” says Sharon, pausing before adding, “It’s just not your typical red-and-green traditional décor. There are buoy, shell and crab ornaments, oyster shell holiday trees, and glass balls wrapped in netting. We’re very proud of how it all looked. There’re usually big mansions on the home tour, but our little cottage, well, people just loved it because it was so beautiful and also attainable.”

Coastal Christmas dining room
Photography by Robert Radifera

Oyster shell mini Christmas trees and bleached starfish add a coastal vibe to the dining room’s holiday centerpiece. The dining room itself has a dramatic oyster shell chandelier defining the space. Blue-and-white china and beaded glasses pick up the blue and white colors of the dining room’s curtains and carpet, while feeling seasonal by virtue of the surrounding greenery, berries, and pinecones.

Christmas garland on staircase
Photography by Robert Radifera

The best part about participating in the holiday home tour meant having decorations up from Thanksgiving to the new year, plus Sharon and Tracy hosted a family open house on Christmas Day.

“We made oysters, believe it or not, and crab cakes and, of course, served lots of chilled Champagne,” adds Sharon, describing what is certain to become another holiday tradition.

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