This festive Florida home showcases easy ways to make your space a holiday haven.

By Abigail B. Millwood
November 11, 2008
Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn; styling by Stephanie Davis

This time every year, the Graham family gets packing. They bid good-bye to their home―and the snow―in the freezing Northeast and head south to their Florida retreat. “Up north, you’re all bundled up and layered,” says mom Lila. “But down here, it’s a completely different kind of Christmas.” One with a tree and presents by the pool, swimsuits instead of snow boots, and sea star displays on the dining room table.

Lila and her husband, Will, both grew up in Florida, so they were excited to find a place where they could share their love of the Southern coast with their children. The Grahams make as many trips as possible to their shoreside home, but the most magical time of year is the holidays, when every room―inside and out―contains inspiring, seasonal touches. Take a few cues from their stylish house.

Heat up your palette with punches of red. Lila and designer Rod Mickley chose fresh, beachy whites, blues, and soft grays as the color scheme for the home. In the living room, the walls are painted Decorator White and the ceiling Blue Veil, both by Benjamin Moore. With the base colors set, Lila then perked up the space with red accents, adding pillows in various patterns and throws. This year, she brought even more red to the room by wrapping packages in striped paper and hanging wreaths with generous lengths of ribbon.

Let sea stars guide your holiday style. Whether your home is pretty and polished or playfully underdone, put your shell collection in the spotlight. Handmade ornaments are a family tradition for the Grahams. “This year the kids made one out of seashells and Popsicle sticks,” Lila says. But the ornament of choice in this household is the sea star―nestled into wreaths, standing in centerpieces, hanging from the Christmas tree branches, and even crowning the top.

Keep it fresh and simple outside. One of the main reasons the Grahams head to their vacation home for the holidays is to spend time outdoors. “We always take advantage of the warm weather and pretty scenery,” Lila says. Architect Peter Moor connected the waterfront yard and pool area with an outdoor living room, which is shaded by the home’s second story.

Lila decorates these open-air spaces with a light touch, keeping the look festive but not fussy or overwhelming. In the outdoor living room, she tossed red-and-white outdoor pillows from Hable Construction onto the sofas, hung a wreath over the fireplace, and displayed poinsettias and cut berries.

Add sparkle in unexpected places. The family’s second Christmas tree shimmers next to the pool with blue and white ornaments and gifts wrapped in metallic paper. Another great outdoor idea: Instead of hanging yards and yards of white twinkle lights, scatter lanterns around your space and let them provide more holiday glow.

Have fun in a formal space. Lila reinvented the dining room’s chandelier by trimming it with evergreen sprigs and silver balls, which she hung with red ribbons of varying lengths. Tied with playful gingham, a single floral wreath looks cheerful in the window. Red scarves draped over the chairs add another pop of color to the otherwise neutral room, while a centerpiece of pine needles and sea stars standing in clay pots bridges the gap between the season and the shore.