A new take on tradition
By Stacee Sledge
Whatcom Magazine, Holiday Bonus Edition 200

Lynden décor mixes old and new as family grows

Start with one close-knit family and add a dash of upscale yet comfortable décor. Mix liberally with tradition, then throw in a smidge of expert advice. Give it a snow globe shake and you have the DeHaan holiday home.

Married for 26 years, Brad and Sheryl moved into their home on 80 acres just outside of Lynden 14 years ago. Brad has been a partner and general manager for Ferndale Ready Mix & Gravel, Inc. for 30 years and is also a partner in DeHaan Dairy with his brother, Curt. Sheryl does volunteer work and has stayed home for the past 15 years to raise daughters Lisa, 23, Kristin, 19, and Michelle, 15.

Both Brad and Sheryl are grandchildren of Dutch immigrants and nearly all of their extended family lives in the area. Holiday gatherings keeping growing in size.

When it comes to decorating, Sheryl balances the family’s traditional trimmings with new ideas. “Every year looks a little different,” she says. “I always like to add something.”

After oldest daughter Lisa was married in 2005, the DeHaan brood welcomed the new addition, but it also meant tweaking their traditions.

“We usually open gifts and stockings on Christmas morning and then we have traditional Belgian waffles with strawberries and fresh whipped cream, bacon and sausage,” says Sheryl. “Everybody has their own role, from setting the table to pouring the sparkling cider.”

But last year Lisa spent Christmas morning with her new husband’s  family. “We have to share them on the holidays a little bit,” Sheryl says with a laugh. “When your kids get married, I think that’s when keeping traditions going is most important.” 

Whimsical welcome
Different touches start right at the front door. The 4,500-square-foot home sits back off the road, down a long fence-lined driveway that opens into a wide circular drive. White lights, also visible from the road, sparkle on the home’s eaves and surrounding bushes. Framed with multi-colored, oversized Christmas tree ornaments, the exterior of their double-door entry creates a whimsical welcome.

The unexpected decorating idea came from Lois Thompson, interior decorator and owner, with Sharyn Bornstein, of Fairhaven’s In Home Design.

“She had seen that idea a few years ago and I put it in my memory bank,” says Sheryl. “It took me a couple seasons to accumulate the balls, and then Lois helped me put them up.”

“Sheryl is such a welcoming person,” says Thompson, a designer for 30 years. “So I felt her house deserved a wonderfully decorated entry at the holidays.”

Sheryl first worked with Thompson five years ago, shortly after the family’s summer home in Birch Bay was remodeled. “I needed somebody to help me pull a few things together,” Sheryl says. She has since called on Lois for ideas in several different rooms.

For starters, Thompson suggested moving the Christmas tree. It used to welcome guests in the entry, hugged by a grand curving staircase.

“My kids are very traditional and they had a really hard time when the tree moved,” says Sheryl. “They walked in the front door and immediately said, ‘The tree! Where’s the tree?’ We have a lot of traditions, so when we start changing things that throws them off a little bit.”

The girls have more say in how their bedrooms are decorated for the season, with frosted icicles and snowflakes, and headboards lit up with lanterns. Kristin and Michelle each have a little Christmas tree in their room as well.

Elegant yet cozy
The railing of the show-stopper entry staircase is now ringed with greenery and gorgeous groupings of ornaments, ribbon and stars in bright reds and greens. The 7-foot artificial tree stands near the fireplace in the elegant yet cozy family room.

The tree is one more piece in an array of holiday spirit tastefully placed throughout many rooms. Each area has a different mood, from traditional to contemporary.

“They all have their own color schemes,” says Sheryl. “I like so many different things, so it’s fun — and everything isn’t totally the same.”

So the entry offers vibrant reds and greens, while the living and dining rooms feature burgundy, gold, and cream accessories.

The family room and kitchen are more monochromatic with crisp white, gold and silver trimmings layered amid deep brown furnishings and rich taupe walls. Lois suggested turquoise touches for the tree, each a refreshing zap of color against the verdant limbs, white snowflakes and cream-colored poinsettia leaves.

Thompson also sprinkled holiday items throughout the main floor of the home.

“We went through all of Sheryl’s Christmas ornaments and rather than put them all on one big tree, I made vignettes throughout the home,” says Thompson. “So she has her sentimental stuff as she walks through the home, not just on the tree.”

A striking group of decorations spans the length of the fireplace mantel in the family room, where silver and gold ornaments entwine with greenery, lights and sparkling stocking hooks. “I use real greenery and mix it with artificial, so you can’t tell,” says Thompson. “And I love using ribbon.”

 “I salvage everybody’s loose ends,” she adds. “I go through all these bags of things people think are junk and find beautiful things we can use.”

The treasure-hunt approach works for Sheryl. “The dining room table [vignette] was all stuff I had, but Lois helped me put it together in a different way,” she says.

Yet some decorating decisions in the DeHaan home can only come from within.

Cut fresh each year and layered with ornaments full of family history, a traditional tree goes up in the basement, where the family opens gifts on Christmas morning.

“That’s where the ornaments go that have been collected from trips or the kids have made that are really special,” says Sheryl. “Sometimes the tree is really pretty and sometimes it’s really ugly; just whatever ornaments they like that year. But it’s so important — it’s who we are.”

Stacee Sledge is a Bellingham freelance writer.


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