'A bit of
By Stacee Sledge
Whatcom Magazine, December 2007
Art, Disney and
antiques mingle in an Eldridge 'mini museum'
its history-laden location, Jeff and Penny Hinkel’s
Eldridge home easily conjures up holiday scenes of the
past. One can imagine a horse and buggy clattering past
the house and snow blanketing the rustic bridges over
winding water channels in nearby Walnut Street Park (now
in 1901, the 4,000 square foot Stick Victorian home is a
stunner with its traditional multi-color paint scheme,
decorative wooden planks (called "stick work"), and
symmetrical front porch and second-floor balcony.
Seemingly every inch of interior surface holds some
treasure with sentimental significance, and the walls
are hung with colorful art. "I do all the decorating,"
explains Penny, "but Jeff does all the artwork."
Twelve Days of Christmas play out in the entry with
carved ornaments entangled among the greenery wrapping
the banister. A rich purple wall is the backdrop to a
stunning staircase made of bird's eye maple — the same
woodwork seen throughout the home's deep crown moldings
and baseboards. Penny's childhood stocking, made by her
mother, rests on a trunk below the staircase, next to a
store-bought stocking for Jeff.
since 1969, the couple has lived in the historic home
since 1987. Jeff, 68, works in the acquisitions
library, while Penny, 60, who now calls herself a
"professional volunteer," provided day care for many
couple moved to Bellingham in 1980 when their three
children Clark, Jason and Hannah ranged in age from 3 to
10. Jason and Hannah now work in the film industry, on
movies such as "Ocean's Eleven" and "Pirates of the
Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest." Clark has worked as an
"imagineer" for Disney and now is a model builder and
father was a lithographer who worked with Walt Disney,
so Disney touches sparkle throughout the home.
whole family is artistic," says Penny. "Jeff and I don't
make our living with art, but they do. It skipped a
the kids are often spread across the globe on various
film projects, Christmas these days is generally a quiet
affair for Penny and Jeff. "I'm ready for a break at
Christmas," says Penny, who keeps busy with work in
politics and with her church. "This year the kids are
going to have us come out sometime after the holidays."
doors open from the foyer onto a whirlwind of holiday
décor in the front sitting room. Fetched every year from
Bakerview Nursery, the tall, narrow tree rests between
the front living room and the smaller sitting area
behind, where five stockings hang from the massive
Chuckanut sandstone fireplace.
past, we’ve had trees that are twice as wide and you
could hardly get around them,” says Jeff. “We had it in
the front window one year, but then it was so dark in
realized if we brought it back this far [into the room],
you can see the whole tree,” says Penny.
Decorating the tree takes several sessions. “We hang a
couple things up, take some pictures, and then go away
and come back another day,” says Jeff. Ribbons and
strings of beads wend through the tree's branches.
Purple and gold ribbons, among several other
colors, play off the home's wall colors.
couple receives ornaments as gifts from friends and also
find them while traveling. "Everything has a story,"
says Penny. "I like the history of things."
Ornaments also hang from ornate bird cages in different
rooms: One is topped with a myriad of tiny fairy statues
that look ready to take flight; another is covered in
glass cases in both rooms are filled with intricate
dolls and stuffed toys, adding to the Christmas feel.
Small Santa statuettes and other holiday baubles rest
among the folds of the dolls' dresses.
space in the home goes unadorned. "We like texture and
color and unusual things," says Penny. A hutch in the
dining room holds glassware, a silver tea set and other
collections. The top rim props up charming Snow White
and the Seven Dwarfs dolls.
ornaments and the nativity stay on display all year
long. Penny and Jeff say it's because there's no room
for them elsewhere, but it's obvious that the couple
also enjoys having there treasures available year-round.
"We don't like to hide them away," Jeff admits.
grand dining room table is home every year to a large
Santa perched in his reindeer-led sleigh. Miniature snow
shoes and skis tumble out of his pack. The delightful
oversize piece lives atop an armoire in the master
bedroom during the rest of the year.
Christmas items mingle easily with family keepsakes. "I
call this a mini-museum or a folk museum," says Penny,
"because there's a little bit of everything."
extensive collecting began when Penny's grandmother gave
the couple 12 place settings of her Bavarian china and
an antique cabinet as a wedding gift. "That's how we got
into antiques in the first place — because we needed a
place to put the china. From the day we were married,
it's never stopped."
taken this big house and turned it into a cottage,"
Penny say, looking around at her cherished objects. "My
dad always said anything that comes into my house never
leaves because I always find a place for it somewhere."
Stacee Sledge is a
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