Photography by Michael Patch
Stories and laughter echo good cheer among the nostalgic and homey arrangements and twinkling lights of Luck and Laura Sackett’s Mirror Lake home at Christmas. Built in 1988, Bill Addison designed the house and John Wingfield and Camp Burton of Wingfield-Burton built it—the team’s first of many collaborations. Though it was built new, the home has a feeling of history and permanence, of having been lived in over time. With around 5,000 square feet, the structure was constructed in the French manor style with hipped roofs; Laura is fond of a house in the Marqueyssac gardens of the Dordogne Valley in southwest France; that house is called Marqueyssac and her home references its architecture. The Sacketts’ property looks out over Mirror Lake; the calmness of the water adds to its immense appeal.
Finery and cheer deck every inch of the antique dining table.
Upon entry, the first of many eyecatching delights is a 10-foot tree holding court in the gracious living room; dripping with ornaments, the tree evokes all the childlike enchantment of the season. Antique dolls, Russian and Chinese decorations and handcrafted nut ornaments adorn its boughs. Numerous nutcracker ornaments grace the limbs, mementos from their daughter’s years studying ballet. Angels, birds and horns round out the French feel of the glorious tree. Its underside is hardly neglected; a beloved aunt who lived in St. Michael’s, Maryland, purchased many of the antiques nestled underneath—the beloved children’s book character Eloise eating macaroons, a whimsical metal carriage, vintage doll beds, an old tin train. The living room mantel is a sight to behold, spectacular in its simplicity. Fresh tulips and seasonal greens highlight the beauty of the fine, European porcelain in residence there year-round. Along the back wall of the house run three pair of French doors with Palladian transoms above; nestled in each are a swag and wreath decorated with birds’ nests and angels. Up the angled staircase, Laura adds grapevine wreaths and gold ribbon, continuing the French motif. Gold accents and angels are offset with pine cones and ivy to create a divine connection with nature.
Fresh tulips and seasonal greens deck the mantel. Palladian transoms are swagged and wreathed.
The living and formal dining rooms share space; Laura uses Elaeagnus instead of boxwood to highlight silver and gold décor on the sideboard and silver bottle-brush trees flank the nativity. Each year at holiday time Laura puts out cookies, pear tarts and old-fashioned ribbon candy for the family and champagne for the adults; finery and cheer deck every inch of the antique dining table.
Artwork, blue and white Canton porcelain pieces and yellow-striped walls frame the tree and lovely views.
Each room in the house is dressed up in some way for the season: in one of the bedrooms a small tree is decorated with sterling jewelry, charms and ornaments including Milagro angels from Santa Fe known as “miracle charms”—gifts from Laura’s sister. Wendt and Kuhn wooden figurines adorn a chest of drawers in their whimsical fashion. Even the dollhouse is dolled up for the season; Laura’s grandchildren take particular delight in decorating it each year. Another tree showcases small antique dolls, collected and played with through the years. An upstairs bedroom has a tree filled with sunflowers and lavender, with miniature French flower dolls standing by.
The Sacketts’ home is simultaneously tranquil and exciting, rustic and elegant.
Meanwhile, in the basement apartment, a fish-themed tree is trimmed with lures, bobbins and a garland of wooden fish alongside The Fisherman’s Night Before Christmas. The apartment features a carved wood nativity made in Africa, with rough-hewn fences and safari-inspired animals. Pinecones add to the outdoorsy feel of the setting; the grandchildren love to set it up and conjure stories and adventures around and about the vignette. At the bottom of the basement steps is a nativity scene with lovely Santon dolls standing sentry.The Sacketts manage to create a holiday home that is simultaneously tranquil and exciting; their casual elegance is courageous but not ostentatious, particularly in the den and kitchen. The rear portion of the house caters to the entire family with an open floor plan that connects adults and kids, whether they’re whipping up dinner in the kitchen or gathering for a casual, cozy meal. The den offers plenty of soft seating for conversations around the fire; its saturated color lends warmth to the room, a backdrop of red that unites kitchen and den—the perfect backdrop for a house decked with holiday cheer.
Holiday decorating is a family affair, the grandchildren love to pitch in.
At Christmastime, the kitchen has its very own centerpiece, a Santa tree atop a sideboard flanked with every imaginable version of Santa. At the end of the kitchen island, a gingerbread house made by a close family friend finds its place alongside gumdrop trees and a gorgeous coconut cake—a favorite of the granddaughters—at the ready to celebrate the nativity. Fresh greenery is abundant in the woods on the property and sets off festive Christopher Radko china, adding a spirited aura to the reds, blues and greens of the room. An Erzgebirge windmill from the Ore Mountain region of Germany anchors the table; three large windows overlooking the lake bring nature into the scene. Blue and white canton porcelain pieces from China hang on yellow striped walls with small oil paintings, framing the view to a tee. Outside, a child’s playhouse sports a wreath and colored lights. The grandchildren simply adore it.
“Everyone really chips in,” says Laura, “to make it, truly, the most wonderful time of the year!”
The den’s red chenille sofa and blue accents set the stage for tiny, British toy soldiers that Laura’s grandson helps decorate with nandina and apples. Her grandmother made the stockings that hang from the mantel; Laura loves that none of them match. Atop the mantel are more soldiers, apples and figurines. She displays French Santon miniatures, collected from the couple’s travels, in a market scene on the bookshelves—terra cotta dolls all dressed up with boxwood for the season.The Sacketts’ home is decidedly French in feel; the couple travels there often. Laura has worked as an interior designer since 1992 and imports antiques and decorative smalls regularly from France but has picked up decorations in England and Mexico as well. She loves to pick up Christmas decorations at local tag sales, online sales, Farmbasket and Silver Thistle online.
Laura offers great holiday decorating tips. First, make your decorations work for your house. A neon pink tree is not going to work in a traditional home. Don’t force decorations that are not ideal for your space. “Take your time decorating,” she says. “It is not a sprint or a timed event. Do a little at a time and don’t let yourself get overwhelmed.” She finds it helpful to update a decorating timeline from year to year—when she ordered a cake or had wreaths made. “Change things up from year to year. It keeps things fresh and challenges your creativity.” A final thought: “Involve all of your family in decorating. Make it truly multigenerational.” Grown children help with the food and the wrapping of gifts and grandchildren delight in setting the scene.
Laura knows she is creating memories that will last a lifetime: “Everyone really chips in,” she says, “to make it, truly, the most wonderful time of the year!” ✦