Text by Charlotte Safavi
When designer Jamie Merida was called upon to deck the halls of an 1860s manor house in The Plains, Virginia, it felt like the perfect Christmas gift. Not only are the homeowners his longtime clients who he and lead designer Melanie Donahue helped to furnish the house from scratch, but they also share Jamie’s appreciation for classic historic architecture in a bucolic locale.
“An old house tells you how to decorate it for the holidays,” Jamie says. “This home is elegant without flash. Our approach was bespoke, like the house itself, with lots of greenery, nods to its equestrian setting in the heart of Virginia’s hunt country, and carefully selected ornaments that fit the home’s elegant yet understated style.”
Named Old Denton, the home sits on 58 acres of beautiful countryside, housing the site’s original 1820s farmhouse, period smokehouse, barns, horse stables, and tenant lodgings. Donna and Garon Stutzman purchased the property in 2019. “This was our Christmas dress rehearsal,” Donna says of their 2020 holiday home. “In the future, we hope to host larger Christmas parties and do holiday house tours to share our home with others.”
Jamie was tasked with a simple wish of the homeowners—to make the holiday décor be “old-timey and speak to the equestrian style and history of the home,” rather than be glitzy, sparkly, and shiny. “I came up with a subtle color palette, not unlike what we’d used to furnish the house,” Jamie says. “Of course, we had the timeless Christmas reds and greens, but the rest was patinaed metals (nothing shiny), coppery golds, and aged silvers.”
On the grand front porch, Jamie wrapped the fluted Doric columns in faux evergreen garlands entwined with fairy lights to twinkle at night. Then, he went foraging on the grounds amid centuries-old trees, harvesting fresh sprigs of magnolia, holly, boxwood, and nandina. “Outside really decks itself—the bones on that incredible front porch, adorned with whippet statues and those columns,” Jamie adds, filling antique urns and vintage French laundry baskets with fresh-cut evergreens.
Inside the house, the holiday décor continues with a swagged garland draped along the grand central staircase. On each side of the front hall are the parlor and dining room, which have been architecturally unchanged over the centuries. “The Christmas tree is in the front parlor. We layered in pheasant tree toppers, coppery ornaments, earthy pine cones, and more,” says Jamie, who adorned the parlor mantel to match the tree.
In the dining room, Jamie borrowed pieces from the homeowners’ collection of silver and pewter riding and hunting trophies, incorporating them into the mantel décor. This time, he embellished the scene with silvery pine cones and faux white berries to better match the slightly cooler palette in the room.
Jamie took an altogether different approach when adding seasonal accents to the kitchen. “The kitchen area becomes more casual and rustic,” he says. “We also integrated some fruit like pomegranates, pears, and clementines.”
From the garland-draped front entrance with twinkling lights to the wreathed back door with clucking chickens nearby, this historic home exudes holiday charm. “[The house] looks like it might have 150 years ago,” says Donna. “Jamie helped us once again and gave us a holiday home where we’ve enjoyed entertaining.”
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