I’m excited and thankful that my friends Melanie and Jeff Mansfield were gracious enough to share pictures of their 2014 Christmas decor in their Olde Towne Portsmouth home. They decorated their house for the Olde Towne Christmas Tour and her photos of their decor will certainly inspire you! Melanie was kind enough to send me the photos of their home and write about all that inspired her decor that year:
My family and I relocated to Virginia for my husband’s work. In looking for a home, we were immediately drawn to Old Towne Portsmouth. It’s bricked sidewalks, quaint shops, amazing eateries, historical sites, proximity to the water, and giant Naval ships docked for maintenance were a huge perk for a homeschool family. It took all of two days to find the most perfect home for our history loving crew of six, and the year we were able to spend there has been the best to-date!
The 1825 four story structure had served as the rectory for the very first church established when Portsmouth was founded, Trinity Episcopal. During the 1930’s, at the height of the Depression, Rockefeller came through the historic town to plunder authentic materials from the earliest buildings to use for his new project, Colonial Williamsburg. The church was able to sell the high end wood paneling from the rectory’s wine cellar in order to continue making ends meet and serve the community. They were smart, though; they sold it one sheet at a time and stretched out the money for years!
Not long after moving in, we were asked by the women’s league if we would allow our home to be on the Olde Towne Christmas tour. The benefit to us was that they would pay for all of the decorations that needed to be purchased. How can you say no to a deal like that?! And as a homeschooling family, we thought it would be an awesome experience for our kids. We jumped in with both feet and loved every minute of it!
When decided how to decorate, we knew we wanted to mirror the age of the house as much as possible. The one thing we kept in place was our family tree. We didn’t attempt to use period ornaments or even make it something fancy. It was a real tree, with real family ornaments that were special to our brood. Ironically, most of the people who came through on the tour said that our tree was their favorite!
Everything else we did, was done with the intent of decorating with what would have been available to Colonials, but with a modern, 21st Century twist. I was lucky enough to get paired with a women’s league member who appreciated my style and was happy to encourage it. We started with my dining room, since the tree, a spray of Magnolia leaves and the stocking clad mantel in our living room was enough decorating for that size room.
I actually own a beautiful set of Cuthbertson Christmas china and figured that would be what they opted for as a table setting, but when she saw the color scheme of my dining room mantel, and the orange pottery I had in my built-in cabinets, she thought we should run with what was most “us” and play up the blue and orange that I already enjoyed showcasing.
The coup de gras was the centerpiece that we cut from a bush in her backyard. The twisted branches made a perfect bare wood tree, and just screamed for burlap to be utilized as the table covering. I bought gold chargers to really make the orange plates pop. We used miniature glass ornaments to decorate the branches and larger glass balls to scatter around the table top. Add in the pine branches on the mantel and a few more colored balls and it was a perfect set up!
Our home had a massive entry hall. We toyed with putting up a second, more narrow tree, but felt the proximity to the living room would make it redundant. Instead, we took a walk and gathered sticks in varying lengths and made a natural wood tree to hang on the staircase wall. That, coupled with Magnolia leaves and a beautiful arrangement of orange flowers, and the entryway was good to go!
As a final added touch, we decided to hand paint a miniature “Olde Towne” to set by the front door. It was a fun family project that we were able to keep with us even after moving. A wonderful reminder of that beautiful home and the weekend we spent celebrating its heritage with the people of Portsmouth.
Special thanks to Melanie and her family for sharing their lovely home with us. All photos are Melanie’s as are the descriptions.
Melanie Mansfield is a wife of 20 years and homeschooling mother of four who actually hates arts and crafts, but suffers from the need to go all-in for the Christmas season and birthday parties. It’s a sickness. And it needs to stop. She enjoys spending time with family, long naps, Saints football, and cooking with nutmeg.
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