Photo by Chris Thelen
Sometimes home for the holidays means more than unwrapping presents on Christmas morning. Influences of different regions, reflections of time spent with family members and a culmination of Christmas memories made in cities across the country create a state of mind that embodies Christmas for the Whitney family. For Lisa and Bryan Whitney and their three sons, home is their newly built custom home in River Island. The Whitneys were able to take some of their favorite features of homes they shared and incorporate them into their home in Evans. As busy retail executives with careers working for Saks Fifth Avenue in Phoenix, Los Angeles, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Scottsdale and Albuquerque, memories of Christmas past are intertwined into their new home. With long careers in the retail industry, decorating their home for the holidays was a simple task. While many items made the move across the country, they were also able to find some new pieces in Augusta. Today, husband Bryan runs the Urban Outfitters call center and opened the wildly successful Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie outlet, Final Cut a few years ago. Lucky enough to get first dibs on catalog style Christmas décor at Final Cut, Lisa scored big on unique finds to add the perfect blend of whimsical and traditional to her Christmas style. Their large open concept home built by local builder Jamie Reynierson features a neutral color palette with warm earthy accents. Pops of color draw the eye to details like pillows, artwork and simple Christmas decorations.
For Lisa, who spent her childhood growing up in Florida, some of her fondest Christmas memories consist of decorating with her mom. “My mom is my inspiration for Christmas,” says Lisa. “The house felt so good to come home to,” she says while adding that she wants to create that same inviting atmosphere for her family. “She’s why we are who we are. My mom took us outside and we foraged for clippings for decorating. Fruit was a big part of Christmas too.” Today Whitney continues to use the decorating tips passed on by her mother. Whitney’s mother taught her the art of adorning citrus fruit with scented cloves by making grooves in oranges and other citrus fruit with a zester and then inserting the cloves into the grooves making a pattern on the fruit. She remembers how her fingers would feel raw from working on them as a child in Florida. On the kitchen island an antique dough bowl from Scott’s Antique Market in Atlanta is filled with lime green poinsettias, fresh greenery clippings, clove decorated citrus fruit and miniature pinecones. Careful not to overdo it, Whitney kept the kitchen Christmas décor simple. Natural pine wreaths hang from the windows and in the windowsills below potted rosemary trees add a nice aroma to the kitchen, the main gathering place for this family of five.
Christmas traditions include worship service at Steven’s Creek Church and delicious meals together. “I have three boys. They love to eat,” says Lisa. Prime Rib, cheese casserole, and delicious salads are just a few of the dishes the family enjoys over the holidays along with lots of good wine. In the dining room, Lisa decorates with hand carved, fruitwood cherubs, a find from her days on the West Coast. Flocked greenery and votives surround the cherubs on the table. Miniature burlap-wrapped Christmas trees flank each side of the buffet and a basket holds small gift-wrapped packages. Whitney is careful not to overwhelm the eye by keeping Christmas ribbon simple, less patterned and neutral in color.
There’s no shortage of Christmas trees in the Whitney home. In the family room, the tree consists of hand blown glass and reflective balls and ornaments in the same color scheme as well as ribbons and other decorations that blend. If she finds she has ornaments that don’t match the tree, she easily creates another tree to house those ornaments, like the handmade children’s items that were once front and center on her tree or the whimsical wool animal ornaments that hang from the wool wrapped tree in a guest room. The family enjoys sitting around the fire in the family room. Above the fireplace miniature lights and greenery ground a painting of a European mount deer skull from Huff Harrington Fine Art in Atlanta. Fur trimmed white stockings hang above the fireplace and cannonball replicas act as gas logs creating a unique substitution for wood in the fireplace. Lots of natural light floods the house, inviting you to enjoy the outdoor areas of the home. In addition, it’s a constant reminder of the natural setting here at River Island. “It feels like we are on vacation when we walk the trails here and I walk everyday,” says Lisa of the many miles of trails within River Island. Perhaps time spent outdoors in Florida and out west drew them back to nature here in River Island where they are now home for the holidays.
Article appears in the November/December 2017 issue of Augusta Magazine.