On a cold, wet day last winter, residents of Reservoir Hill dolled up their houses and opened them to the public for the Poinsettia Tour. Visitors got a chance not only to take in the seasonal decorations, but to sneak a peek at the interiors of the 17 houses on the tour. Some of the homes have been painstakingly renovated to their late-19th-century Victorian grandeur, and boast original mouldings and flooring, intricate mantels and period details. Others have been completely gutted to suit modern living, and feature club basements, skylights, spacious kitchens and open floor plans. Whatever the case, thanks to the holiday decorations, these homes were even more charming than usual.
In their beautifully restored 1870s home on Madison Avenue, Ruth Eve and Larry Lundberg re-create the feel of the holidays Eve spent in postwar England as a child. “We have a big, fresh tree in the parlor. I decorate it with ornaments that remind me of Christmases past and we have old-fashioned colored lights,” says Eve, chief financial officer for advertising firm Green & Associates. She decorates the mantels in the living room and dining room with lighted garland, and atop the dining room mantel she places fresh greenery in two tall red vases— which she glues to the mantel so they don’t fall off! “We decorate traditionally because it goes with the house,” says Eve. She and Lundberg, the owner of Squash Blossom Remodeling who has renovated several homes in Reservoir Hill, have lived in their home, along with their corgis, for four years, and each year they look forward to celebrating the holidays with family and friends there.
When Andrea Tanner was a teenager, she used to walk on Eutaw Place and admire the homes. “Now, God willing, I’m living in one of them,” she says.
Walking into the home Tanner shares with Verlia Williams, you can tell right away that not only have they lovingly transformed what had been an abandoned six-unit apartment building into a spacious home filled with art and artifacts, they’re also veteran hosts who have created the perfect holiday entertaining space.
Each year the pair decorates the large live tree that stands at the center of their open-plan first floor according to a different theme. Last year, it was white and silver ornaments, including peace signs, along with several sentimental picks: an ornament Tanner bought in Kuwait while on an overseas Army tour, a framed photo of a beloved dog and a knitted bear from Tanner’s childhood.
In the living room, illuminated stars hang in the bay window overlooking the street, and festive seasonal arrangements add color and cheer. (The living room, along with a few other spaces in the home, made an appearance in the last season of “The Wire.”) “I love the house. Just the sheer fact of gearing up for Christmas and decorating is really fun,” says Tanner, who, along with Williams, works for the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority. Each year, the pair hosts between 20 and 40 guests for the holiday. Luckily, the spacious kitchen has plenty of room to accommodate family, friends and tasty treats.
In the nine years the women have lived in the home, they’ve added skylights, exposed brickwork and created a basement entertaining area that looks and feels like a swank nightclub. With flickering candles throughout and the voices of visitors filling the rooms, the house is at its best during the holiday season.
Art Deco holiday
“On the outside, I like it simple,” says Spiros Johnson, who lives with his partner, Cary Moore, and their eight pets in a 1920 Jazz Age duplex on Eutaw Place. “Just wreaths on the windows and two white feather Christmas trees at the entrance.”
But inside, it’s a different story, compliments of Johnson’s stunning collection of Art Deco furnishings— think mohair couches, leather armchairs and skyscraper lighting fixtures— and charming seasonal decorations. In the foyer, there’s a live tree decorated with antique ornaments as well as those brought by friends to the couple’s annual tree-trimming party. In the living room is an aluminum Christmas tree illuminated by a color wheel on the floor. “These trees were all the rage in the 1950s,” says Johnson, who has lived in the home for four years.
On the living room mantel, under a screen print of a famous Tamar de Lempicka painting, hang stockings for the animals. (The pug, Principessa Pugina, is clearly ready to get at the treats that fill her stocking.) In the sunroom, there’s a small white Christmas tree lit with green lights. “We thought it connected the rooms to have three trees throughout the first floor,” says Johnson, a district manager for The Children’s Place stores in the D.C. area.
In the dining room, an Art Deco light that’s a miniature diner sits atop a late 1920s English Art Deco side buffet, along with PEACE and JOY signs made by a friend and a late 1920s silver coffee maker.
The table is set for friends, family— and, of course, the animals of the house, including Lucy Lulu the cat. The tableware is from the 1940s and made of Bakelite and silver, and the glasses are 1930s Art Deco, with a Christmas tree painted on each. “After Thanksgiving, all this stuff comes out,” says Johnson. “We really live with it.”