This year’s Legacy League Christmas Home Tour will feature five homes in Vestavia Hills, all decked out for the holidays and offering plenty of holiday decorating inspiration for guests.
The Legacy League, an auxiliary of Samford University, will present its fourth annual Christmas Home Tour on Dec. 11 as a fundraiser to help establish a new scholarship for a deserving student in need.
The homes on the 2014 tour will include one owned by a Legacy League member, one that was completed gutted and renovated, and the home of Samford President Andy Westmoreland and his wife, Dr. Jeanna Westmoreland.
The Westmoreland house at 1994 Shades Crest Road was owned for many years by Dr. Dan Merck, a Samford trustee, and his wife, Barbara. The house was acquired by the university in 2007.
Renovations were completed before the Westmorelands moved in and included the addition of a downstairs ballroom with a view of the Samford University campus.
The tour will also feature the home of Alisa and David Belcher at 3632 Altadena Drive. The house was built in 2010.
Nestled on more than two wooded acres, the home will be decked out for the holidays with several themed trees, a whimsical collection of holiday fairies and a nativity scene made by Alisa’s grandmother.
Alisa said she matches each tree in each room with the existing decor to create a seamless look that is still festive and fun.
“For example, in the master suite, the colors are taupes and soft blues and creams, so the tree in that room will be a white flocked tree with a lot of pewter and antique glass ornaments,” she said. “And I love working with ribbons in different textures, so I’ll use brown and taupe ribbons, some with patterns, some with beads.”
This will be the Belchers’ fourth Christmas in their home and the first time the home will be featured on the Legacy League Christmas Home Tour.
While she takes the advice of her friend, designer Becky Umphries, on home decor during the rest of the year, Alisa said she takes the reins for the Christmas decorating.
“I usually follow Becky’s advice that less is more, but during the holidays, less is never more and more is never enough,” Alisa said. “I deck out just about every room in my house and then go to her house and start putting more ribbons on her Christmas tree.”
Less than half a mile away from the Belcher house is the home of Dixie and Tom Brannon at 2104 Hickory Ridge Circle. Visitors might guess that Dixie and Alisa Belcher share holiday decorating tips with each other.
“Yes, I’m responsible for Alisa’s fairy obsession,” Dixie said. “I have several pieces from the Mark Roberts Fairies collection, including a nearly life-sized doll. They add a fun touch that really captures the joy of the season.”
Another whimsical touch in the Brannons’ holiday decor is a white flocked tree trimmed with chili pepper ornaments. The chili pepper tree is a nod to Tom’s native New Mexico and became a family tradition when the couple’s two sons, Patrick, 33, and Ben, 35, were young boys.
Dixie’s Mark Roberts collection also includes several nativity sets, including an elaborate vignette in the foyer of the home the family has lived in since 1994.
“I love the fairies–and we’ll have two trees featuring the fairies–but my favorites are the nativity scenes,” Dixie said. “I always like to be very aware of the reason for the season, and that’s why you’ll see nativity scenes of different kinds in just about every room.”
About four miles from the Brannon house, the Legacy League Christmas Home Tour will pick up at the home of Laura and Larry Merrill at 1647 Panorama Lane.
The couple and their three sons–14-year-old Lawrence, 12-year-old Chandler and 7-year-old Brent–have lived in the French country-style home since 2007, when they completed a major renovation.
“We completely gutted the house and did major renovations,” Larry said. “It had eight-foot ceilings and closed-off rooms. We did a lot of work before we even moved in.”
The house now boasts soaring vaulted ceilings that feature hand-hewn wooden beams, three spacious bedrooms, a home office, arched doorways and open living spaces.
The Merrill home has an eclectic decor with French and Italian touches that blend the rustic and the refined and tell the story of the family’s travels to Europe.
For the holidays, Laura, owner of Laura Merrill Interiors, said she uses lots of fresh greenery and natural elements and one large tree decorated with the ornaments her children have made through the years.
“I make all the wreaths for the doors and dormers and windows, and I always put the things my boys made on the tree, because out of all of our Christmas decorations, those are the most important to me,” she said.
Those on the tour won’t have to travel far from the Merrill home to get more inspiration for the holidays, because Denise Upton’s house at 1638 Panorama Lane is just next door.
Upton has lived in the 7,500-square-foot house for 17 years and raised her two sons, 28-year-old Kenny and 23-year-old Grant, there.
“The house was built in 1970 or 1971, and I still find it amazing that we were lucky enough to find a house built during that time frame that has so much storage,” she said.
The house boasts four bedrooms, a whopping eight bathrooms, a pantry the size of most bedrooms and a laundry room large enough to wash the lederhosen of the entire Von Trapp family.
When it comes to decking the halls for the holidays, Upton said simplicity is the name of the game.
“I like to keep things simple, and I don’t go overboard with a lot of decorations,” she said. “That’s because number one, it’s just easier and it saves a lot of stress and hassle, and number two, sometimes when there’s too much going on in a room, your eye can’t really focus. I’d rather have a few key, interesting elements that you can really enjoy.”
Those elements always include fresh greenery, Upton said, including magnolia leaves and pinecones from her yard and centerpieces that incorporate deer antlers and other natural pieces.
Upton, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2001 and is now in a wheelchair, said she’s had to change her holiday decorating routine a bit over the past few years.
“I used to always put the ornaments that my sons made when they were little on the big tree in the living room, but it’s hard for me to decorate the tree these days,” she said. “It’s important to me that those ornaments are still a part of the decorations, so I put them out in an ornamental bowl now.”
And pretty soon, Upton’s going to need a few more decorative bowls for her handmade Christmas ornaments.
“I’m looking forward to collecting the ornaments my grandsons, Tripp and Kade, will make as they get older,” she said. “That decorating tradition will just keep growing.”
During the Legacy League Christmas Home Tour, holiday hors d’oeuvres will be served at the Westmorelands’ home. Tickets are $25 in advance and can be purchased online through Dec. 9 at www.samford.edu/legacyleague. Tickets are $30 at the door and can be purchased at any of the homes on the tour.
For more information, visit the website or call 726-2247. –Keysha Drexel