Photography by Sally Kolar
Seven themed trees make the season bright at this Kelarie home in Grovetown.
For Grovetown resident Sharon Hutko, Christmas always has been a magical time of year. Even though this area lacks the snow that she loved as a little girl in Indiana, she creates her own indoor winter wonderland for the holidays each season.
And she can’t wait to get started. She begins decorating her Kelarie home, where she has lived for 3 1/2 years, the first weekend in November. By the second weekend, every last decoration is in place.
“I have always just loved Christmas. I like to decorate early so I can enjoy it. Growing up we had a traditional tree with all the ornaments we made,” says Sharon, the youngest of four siblings.
She has a tradition of her own at her home, however. For the last 16 years, she has put up multiple trees – and currently, the total number stands at seven.
“I don’t know how intentional it was, but over the years, that’s what happened,” Sharon says of the seven trees.
Each tree – three downstairs and four upstairs – has a theme. For instance, the dining room tree is the natural tree.
A reindeer head tops the tree, which also includes flocked branches, oversized silver snowflakes and a star ornament made of twigs. A big red poinsettia stands by the tree, and brown paper packages tied up with red ribbon sit beneath the tree.
A red sleigh is parked in a corner of the dining room, and two reindeer, along with a strand of red balls, are on top of the chest. The dining room also features a coffered ceiling and a chair rail, and a frame full of white plates of various shapes and sizes hangs above the chest.
A red china cabinet is filled with greenery, red balls, green balls, pinecones and Williams-Sonoma Christmas plates. A pair of hurricane lanterns with a candle inside sit on the tabletop, which is set with more Christmas plates.
In the kitchen, the silver tinsel tree, featuring many ornaments that Sharon made as a little girl, brings back childhood memories. The handmade ornaments include a cross stitch ornament, beaded wreath ornaments and yarn balls. Her mother made the stained glass ornaments on the tree. Others include a Russian nesting doll, nutcrackers, a Santa hat-wearing frog, letters that spell our “Ho, Ho, Ho” and culinary-themed ornaments such as a sandwich, cupcake and mixer.
Black and white buffalo-checked ribbon adds a touch of whimsy to the tree, and a pink and a white poinsettia sit beneath it next to a black and white buffalo-checked tree skirt.
Sharon, who used to own Delightful Bites and taught cooking classes at Williams-Sonoma but now works at SRP, knows her way around the kitchen. She still caters on the side, specializing in cakes.
“I like to cook for other people, but I don’t cook much at home,” she says.
Her love of cooking began when she was a child. “I was in the kitchen long before I should ever have been in the kitchen,” says Sharon. “My brother used to send me to the grocery store. If he let me go to the store, I would get to make whatever he wanted for him.”
The kitchen features granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, a pot filler for the stove, two pendant lights above the island and a porcelain backsplash.
A MacKenzie-Childs teapot and other MacKenzie-Childs pieces accent the room. The kitchen table features a marble top, and small snowman plates and white plates are stacked on black and white buffalo-checked chargers. A pair of pie safes full of serving dishes normally occupies the kitchen. During the holidays, however, Sharon moves one of them to the living room to make space for the tinsel tree.
An arched entry leads from the kitchen into the living room, where Sharon’s “crazy” tree is tucked in a corner. The “crazy” Christmas tree also features ornaments from her childhood, lots of glittery red and green balls, curly red picks, candy canes, twinkling lights and elf legs. A big Christmas bow tops the tree.
“I have a friend who says she wants to be able to see the tree through the ornaments, but this is my crazy tree,” says Sharon. “I just want to see crazy.”
The living room and kitchen trees also feature several dragonfly ornaments – a green, an orange and a clear dragonfly on the tinsel tree and a red and a green dragonfly on the crazy tree.
Sharon started collecting dragonflies years ago after a difficult time in her life. “I was at a stoplight, praying to God for Him to protect me, and a dragonfly landed on my car antenna,” she says. “It stayed on the antenna after I started driving again. Whenever I see a dragonfly now, it’s a reminder that God is with me.”
She brings out her impish side with the many elves that are tucked in the trees downstairs. “The elves are kind of hidden, so you have to look for them,” says Sharon. “I always have them working somehow. I try to make them look a little mischievous.”
She often puts her elves, nestled back in the branches, to work by using them to hold other ornaments or strands of beads.
As a backdrop to the Christmas décor, the living room also features a whitewashed shiplap wall, which originally was raw cedar, behind the gas fireplace.
The fireplace mantel, which is whitewashed cedar as well, is decorated with more elves, red and white buffalo-checked ribbon, big red balls and a banner that says, “fa, la, la, la, la.” A giant nutcracker stands next to a red poinsettia on one side of the brick hearth, and a big red drawstring bag and lighted red- and green-wrapped presents are stationed on the other side. Two polka-dotted stockings are hung by the fireplace with care.
In the Pink
Four trees on the second story have their own personalities as well. The tree in the hallway at the top of the stairs is the Vera Bradley/Christopher Radko tree, and the storage boxes for the ornaments are arranged beneath it like presents.
One of the Christopher Radko Santas has a Vera Bradley bag in the sack on his back, and the original Vera Bradley ornaments are hand-painted from the inside. “No two ornaments are exactly alike, so they’re super special,” says Sharon. “They’re all hand-done.”
Because they are collectors’ items, Sharon left the tags on the Christopher Radko and Vera Bradley ornaments. “They’re the Minnie Pearl of ornaments,” she says.
In a guest room, which also includes a sleigh bed and a trey ceiling, the blue and white tree features ginger jars and other blue and white ornaments. “This is the littlest tree, but I love it just the same,” says Sharon. “I love ginger jars.”
In the second guest room, a tall, skinny snowman tree is decorated with Frosty heads, spools of red ribbon, thick plaid ribbon and white snowballs. “I wanted something with plaids that has a collage-y feel to it,” Sharon says.
The bedroom features a trey ceiling, an iron bed and a red serpentine dresser. Little elves dangle from a blanket ladder that leans against a wall. Stockings are tied to the end of the bed, and a green wreath hangs by a wide white ribbon from the curtain rod.
“It’s hard to say which tree is my favorite because there are things about all of them that I just love so much,” says Sharon.
If she’s really pressed to choose, however, she confesses that she’s partial to the flocked tree in the master bedroom. The tree is decorated with pink, brown and white balls and strands of glittery pink circles. Other ornaments include pink-clad dancing nutcrackers, a pink pig in a tutu and a pink cake.
“The tree feels sort of vintage-y, and pink is my color,” Sharon says.
The room also features a trey ceiling, a four-post canopy bed, and a sitting area with a sofa. A barn door opens to the master bath, which features two vanities, a tub and tile flooring.
The Right Fit
Sharon loves to pull out her Yuletide décor each season, reveling in memories of Christmases past. “One of the things I love so much about getting it all out every year is that I see things that I’ve forgotten about,” she says.
She varies the way she decorates every Christmas, moving ornaments from tree to tree. “I have favorites on the trees,” Sharon says, “but the one thing that is consistent in all the trees is a Santa and a snowman.”
Through the years, she also has gotten more selective about the Christmas décor that she adds to her collection.
“When I travel out of town, I pick up something here and there. But now I only get something new if it really speaks to me,” Sharon says. “It has to be special. It has to feel like it fits. Although it’s a little bit crazy in here, so you could probably put up anything and it would fit.”
So, how does Sharon, who as a self-described “control freak” does all of her own decorating, know when she is finished? “I just have to stop,” she says.
By Betsy Gilliland