Mike and Christy Palmer bought their home with Christmas in mind.
The 3,400-square-foot San Luis Obispo Country Club residence had more space than the empty-nesters needed. But they envisioned dayslong holiday gatherings with three generations of their family coming together under one roof.
Built in the 1990s, the Cape Cod-style home appealed to the Palmers’ traditional style sensibilities.
Updates were mainly cosmetic, including replacing carpet with hardwood and removing an awkwardly located family room fireplace. Most improvements centered on the kitchen, the hub of family gatherings.
“We plan our days around our meals,” Christy Palmer said.
Workers gutted the kitchen, ripping out polished black granite that was a “pain in the neck to keep clean,” she said. In its place went leathered, matte-finish granite that is black, yet “shows nothing,” Palmer said.
The new cabinets are white in a simple, Shaker style. For interest and contrast, the island has its own color scheme with black cabinetry and a metal countertop.
Palmer calls her decorating style “farmhouse with a touch of industrial.”
In the family room, for example, a distressed wood coffee table sports industrial metal legs. Cozy traditional fabrics like plaids and stripes coexist with metal lamps.
Palmer likes to insert an element of surprise in each space for “a little bit of an edgy look,” she said. In the dining room, with its very traditional furniture, she accomplishes this with a large 1940s metal restaurant sign that she found on eBay.
Comforting accents add a final layer to Palmer’s warm, farmhouse style.
She likes plush throws, warm area rugs underfoot, throw pillows in coordinating hues – and lots of quilts.
Palmer has been a quilter for 40 years and also collects vintage quilts. They serve as art on walls and add a pop of color when draped over sofas and stair banisters.
Classic farmhouse red, Palmer’s favorite hue, appears in nearly every room of the house. Sometimes, it makes a grand statement, as with the large, red Persian-style rug in the family room. There, it is balanced with neutral furniture in gray and black.
In other rooms, Palmer breaks up a mostly neutral palette with a few strategic hits of red, creating a look that is polished rather than overpowering.
The warm, welcoming decorating style of the Palmer home becomes a fine backdrop for the many collectibles that make an appearance during the holiday season.
The couple collects snowmen in numerous materials including ceramic, mercury glass and fabric. Clusters of them sprout up each December, along with an equally diverse collection of Santas.
“It looks like a Christmas bomb exploded,” Christy Palmer joked.
Most of the Palmers’ collectibles have deep sentimental value.
Halcyon Days hand-enameled Christmas boxes from England sit on the entryway table. Palmer received one each year from her late mother.
Her mother’s needlepoint work is also on display – on the tree skirt, a table topper and wall hangings.
The family has been collecting ornaments for decades. At one point, Palmer culled the collection, keeping only red and white ornaments and gifting the rest to her adult children.
“It keeps the tree from looking wild and crazy,” she explained.
This year will be the first that all 12 of the Palmers’ children and grandchildren will gather for four days over Christmas. There is plenty of room for everyone to sleep – and to play.
“We have traditions and games that we can now bring the grandkids into,” Christy Palmer said. “I’m very excited to be building memories with them of coming to grandma’s house for Christmas.”
Holiday decorating tips
Style your tree. For a tailored look, choose a limited color palette for your Christmas tree. Stick with ornaments in the same color family and add coordinating ribbon and neutral lights.
Rein in displays. If you have seasonal collectibles, try to display them together, rather than spreading them throughout the house. They will have more impact and lessen the appearance of clutter.
Add the unexpected. Find balance between “matchy” and eclectic by inserting one or two elements of surprise in each room. If you have a farmhouse-style family room, add in a couple of industrial elements. Hang a bold light fixture or striking piece of art in a staid dining room.