Text by Charlotte Safavi
Christmas cheer appears to reside year-round in the vibrant red, green, and gold palette of Julia and Bruce Overton’s three-bedroom, 2,100-square-foot cottage located in the heart of Arlington, Virginia. “For the holidays, I simply take advantage of all that red and green,” muses Julia, who is a senior interior designer at Kathryn Ivey Interiors.
Architecturally speaking, the Sears, Roebuck & Co. 1918 house is in the Arts-and-Crafts style, but Julia, who has lived there with her family for 20 years, had different ideas when it came to décor. “I’m not fond of Arts-and-Crafts furniture,” she says. “The house has a wonderful garden, so I decided to go for the garden cottage-feel when it came to decorating. For the living room curtains, I picked this lovely large-scale botanical print in red, ochre, and green. That became my color palette and also set the design tone for the home.”
The Overtons begin decorating for Christmas right after Thanksgiving. Though Julia and Bruce are empty-nesters, their daughter, Page, and granddaughter, Avery, always pitch in: trimming the tree, putting up garlands, hanging wreaths, and generally decking out the house and porch.
“The tree always goes in the same place in the living room, where it’s visible from the porch outside as well as from the dining room,” says Julia of the cottage’s main Christmas tree. “I like to use oversized Christmas balls on it and wide ribbons in reds, greens, and golds. The wired golden butterfly ornaments are our family’s idea of a symbol of fresh beginnings in the new year,” she adds.
Julia regularly brings in fresh greens to spruce up the mantel and tabletops. There is an old holly tree in her garden as well as several Nandina bushes, so red berries and greenery are never in seasonal shortage.
“Another huge tradition for us is celebrating Advent. We always host an open house on each of the four Sundays before Christmas,” says Julia of their holiday-must. Neighbors and friends are invited for kaffee und kuchen (coffee and cake), a meal akin to English teatime and a direct nod to Bruce’s German heritage.
The family lights a fire in the living room and puts out lit votives everywhere. “Bruce bakes five different [types of] German cookies for the kaffee und kuchen, and we love sharing our cozy home and holiday décor with our friends,” adds Julia. “The house has a nice flow for such gatherings, from the porch out front, with its garlanded columns, to the kitchen and family room in the back.”
The kitchen (and family room) was added in 1988 and includes tongue-in-groove maple cabinets in keeping with the Arts-and-Crafts architecture. Julia kept the rear windows clear of window treatments, creating an indoor-outdoor connection. Potted poinsettias, nativity scenes, and an English topiary tree are nods to the holiday.
Christmas Eve and Day are intimate family affairs at the Overtons’. They go to church on Christmas Eve and later enjoy reading Christmas poems around the fireplace at home. Not surprisingly, the Christmas Day meal involves a festive dining table set for four with plaid runners and fine china. German mulled wine is served along with Julia’s signature pumpkin Frangelico cheesecake with a gingersnap crust and, of course, a delicious turkey stuffed with apricots, herbs, and sausage.