Text by Bethany Adams
René and Jim Day have had their fair share of adventures. During Jim’s time as an army officer, the couple spent three years in Europe, where René’s lifelong love of antiques was further fostered. “I have a love of history, but the history that I prefer is the history of people and how they have lived,” she says. “And I think that kind of goes hand in hand with my love of antiques, because it has history all over it.”
They brought that history home with them, filling every room of their Tudor-inspired house with both family pieces and antiques store finds. The home features a mixture of the European furnishings René came to love on their travels and the colonial-style items that were popular when the couple married, and most everything in sight has a story.
“The only new furniture that I’ve bought is probably upholstery pieces,” René says. “As far as our tables and case goods and things like that, I’ve always found antique pieces that I liked better than something new.” That preference led to the collection of décor like the stepback cupboard in the living room, which likely originated in Alabama, and the decorative European woodwork hanging at the top of the stairs, which René and Jim believe was once a church altar piece.
And it extends to the home’s Christmas décor as well. “My latest thing has been antique ornaments,” René says, noting that she has searched for handblown glass pieces from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. Currently, the Days decorate three trees with about 3,000 ornaments, including various family collections dating back to the 1930s. “I think my favorite part is unwrapping ornaments, reliving those good times, and seeing them,” René says. “They’re like friends. You pack them away, you don’t see them for a year, and then when you open them up, it’s a little like reacquainting yourself with friends.”
Another collection the couple loves to break out during the holidays consists of nativity sets they’ve picked up over the years. “We began our first real nativity set when we were married and living in Germany,” René says. “The little town of Oberammergau, Germany, is known for its woodcarving . . . so, we chose a nativity set that was hand-carved.”
From there, they collected sets everywhere, from Mexico to Israel to South America. “We have one my grandmother made that’s probably from the late 1960s, early 1970s, and it’s now one of my prized ones,” René says. “They just have to speak to us and have special meaning.”
She also enjoys pulling in the scent of the holidays, decorating with as much fresh greenery as the Southern climate allows. She covers everything from the mantel in the living room to the chandelier that hangs above the kitchen table—a family piece from Jim’s side. “It has square nails and it’s pegged, so we think it probably comes from the 1830s to 1850s,” she says.
As René and Jim raised their daughters, the collections and knowledge gathered from their adventures became traditions to be passed down. From baking beloved gingersnaps to lighting candles on the tree every Christmas—something picked up from their time in Germany—the home has collected more than a few family traditions.