If there’s one thing I learned living in our quiet patch of country, it’s that a house is so much more than rafters and beams, windows and doors, wallpaper and paint. We go to such great lengths, you and I, inspring ourselves and others to decorate our homes more beautifully that sometimes, we forget to stop and share them, graciously and openly, with the friends and family we love. The holidays are stressful enough, people say. Expensive, too. Why bother entertaining when you can just go out? Let someone else do the work. In my experience, the very best memories, the ones I replay in my mind time and again, tell to friends for years to come, are made at home.
Millerton was a Thanksgiving house. Those old wooden beams and crooked walls. That sizzling, spitting fire in the dining room and the smell of embers over my grandmother Dottie’s brown-sugar buttermilk pie. In the two years Jaithan and I lived in that quirky farmhouse in the woods, blogging furiously because it was new, I set more Thanskgiving tables than I ever had before. Of course, the one we did for Lonny’s anniversary issue, with gilded pumpkins and Imari porcelain, I loved the most. For our own Thanksgiving that year, I re-created the table just as it was, down to the last detail. And while the fire sputtered and hissed, our guests carrying on with one story after the other, I would tell one of my own one day.
If Millerton was Indian corn and herilooms gourds, Norfolk was all fraser fir. Now this was a Christmas house. White and grand with modlings and mantles, a wrap-around porch for wood. I loved that house even more than the first, especially now, when Jaithan and I would decorate not one, but five delightfully little trees, each trimmed to complement our decor. It seemed like every evening in December, when the snow fell in pristine flakes and lingered for a while, friends would drop by the house for drinks by the fire and a sampling of my holiday baked brie. Are you home, they’d ask? Can I stop by? No sooner had I hung up the phone than I’d plunder the buter’s pantry, mixing and matching new and old servingware for impromptu cocktail parties for 20. Sometimes, all I’d have on hand were pigs in a blanket, but served on a vintage brass tray with egg-and-dart detailing ($2 at the Goodwill) and polished to a shine, pigs in a blanket looked like Jean-Georges could have cooked them himself. In the country, and in this house for the holidays, my most cherished memories of decorating and entertaining—indeed of living well—were born. Welcome.