A Winter Wonderland
By Stacee Sledge
Whatcom Magazine, December 2008

Life on Wiser Lake (with some unusual guests) adds tranquility to a family's holiday celebrations

Hectic holidays are a thing of the past for Lynden businesswoman Denise Lones. Usually on the go running a marketing business, she unplugs from the over-scheduled Christmas season and enjoys her most relaxed pace all year.

Every year, she closes The Lones Group from Dec. 20 to Jan. 3. “The whole office is shut down so everyone can have some peace time,” she explains. “Over the holidays I just hang out with my family. I have a huge family; a brother and lots of sisters. They’re all in Canada, just right across the border.”

On top of closing shop, Denise and husband Dino Macris’ stunning home on Wiser Lake in Lynden also helps quiet the year-round go-go-go. “Being near the water at Christmas is unbelievable and so relaxing,” Denise says. “When it snows you’re in a winter wonderland and all you see is snow and ice. It’s beautiful out there.”

Overlooking the languid lake, the house in and of itself would be enough to inspire relaxation at the holidays. Who wouldn’t want to sip a cup of hot cocoa by the roaring fire, kept warm while watching the howling wind form small waves upon the water.

But Denise’s secret to holiday serenity comes in the form of a gaggle of pets that have joined the family’s happy zoo of three much-loved dogs. A cavalcade of ducks — and one goose that towers above them — have won her heart. As they waddle from the lake’s edge to her waiting bowl of corn and wheat feed, she admits it’s become a favorite daily ritual.

“Just to sit and watch the wildlife is perfect,” she says. “These animals are so friendly. They all have little names. I could play with my ducks all day long.”

Swans join the mix around the holidays and early into the year. “You might see 30 of them on the lake,” says Lones. “And when it’s misty in the morning it’s like something out of a fairy tale. The first time I saw it I had to take a second look because I thought I was still sleeping and it was a dream.”

‘More Christmas-y’
Nestled right on the lakeshore, the contemporary home boasts soaring ceilings, muted earth-tone finishes, and plush yet comfy furnishings. A wrought iron-clad balcony overlooks the great room from the second floor, evoking an Italian design sensibility.

What makes the home truly Denise’s is the décor. “I’m Greek,” Lones says, “but the Greek style is too white and column-y, for me. The Italian style is more Tuscany and the colors are warmer. That talks to me.”

A large dining room welcomes guests as they enter the home. Touches of scarlet finery pop out, as the table is laid out with two spires constructed of red Christmas balls atop a pinstripe and tasseled table runner. A mottled faux finish of warm cinnamon on the walls envelopes the room.

Past the dining room, the space opens up into the two-story-tall great room. Its wall of ascending windows fills the room with sunlight and calm water views. A rich latte hue warms the room, adding a cozy feel.

A massive fireplace is the great room’s towering centerpiece for most of the year, but at Christmas the nearby flocked tree standing more than 10 feet tall holds visitors’ attention.

“We love flocked trees because they’re more Christmas-y,” says Denise.

The tree is awash in ornaments, many of them colorful Christopher Radko Designs made of European glass and all of them meaningful. Children Matthew, 16, and Alannah, 11, each have their own specific baubles. “We get new ones every year,” says Denise. “That’s one of our traditions.”

When the kids move out, Lones will send them away with their respective ornaments. “And believe me, they know exactly which ones are theirs,” she says with a laugh. “At Christmas they’ll say, ‘That’s mine! I get to put it out.’”

While some of the ornaments in the family’s collection are serious — such as the tribute to 9/11 or those sold for charities supporting cancer research or adoption — many of them are simply fun. Elton John is portrayed in all his over-the-top finery alongside Harry Potter, a multitude of Disney characters, and all of Dorothy’s pals from “The Wizard of Oz.” The kids’ ornaments often reflect their personalities or favorite hobbies: a snowboarder for Matthew or an angel for Alannah. They all have a story.

Family tradition
Seven stockings line the fireplace mantel — one for each family member and one for each of their three dogs, Leoni, Latte, and George. “They have to have their own presents because they’re spoiled,” admits Denise. She jokes that next year some of the ducks might also get stockings.

The stockings and most presents are opened on Christmas morning, but family tradition dictates that one gift is opened by each person on Christmas Eve. “We all open new, matching pajamas and then wear them when we wake up the next morning, like twins,” says Denise. “We do silly things like that.”

“Honestly, at my house it’s a big, fat Greek Christmas,” she says. “We’re big food people. We have turkey, prime rib and ham on Christmas Day. On New Year’s Day we always do prime rib.”

Denise, Dino and the kids celebrated their first holiday season in the home last year, where they hosted Christmas Eve, Christmas dinner and New Year’s Eve. “My Mom and Dad and a couple of my sisters stayed from Christmas right through New Year’s,” Denise says. “The nice thing about living here is that guests want to stay even longer. And I love that.”

Stacee Sledge is an Olympia freelance writer.

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