Tara Hurst starts her holiday decorating on December 1, regardless of what day of the week it happens to fall on. Her husband, Michael Zary, carries a fragrant, fresh-cut spruce home and sets it up in a corner of the dining room. Then, the heavy lifting done, he relaxes with a rum and eggnog while Tara carefully hangs her treasured wooden ornaments while classic choral Christmas music plays softly in the background.
Tara, a creative director, and Michael, a contract specialist, moved into their 1,500-square-foot Arts and Crafts bungalow in Victoria five years ago, following an extensive renovation. Every year, the couple decks the halls in elegant style. “This is the Christmas house; it just has that energy,” says Tara. “I love a traditional approach and Michael is a good sport because I’m way more into it than he is.”
Click through to tour this festive century home!
Tara and Michael sit in the inviting corner window seat, which is original to the home. “As a designer, the joy of decorating for me is in the process,” says Tara. “I’d rather wait for something I really love rather than rush to fill the space. At no point am I decorating a room just to get it done.”
“I like to have an element of Christmas in every room, even if it’s just a small arrangement on a table,” says Tara. She designs her own Christmas cards and keeps them at the ready to present to friends and neighbors when they drop by.
Candles in vintage brass holders provide a warm glow atop the original wood-burning fireplace that anchors the living room. Tara recently painted it white, highlighting the graphic pattern of the bricks. Restored beams add depth and symmetry to the room’s stately nine-foot-high ceilings.
Floor-to-ceiling bookcases house Michael’s eclectic library, while Tara’s art books are displayed on the coffee table — you won’t find a TV here. An original stained glass window over a neutral modern sofa serves as an artistic focal point while overlapping woolen kilims from Morocco add a layer of texture and keep the West Coast winter chill at bay.
Glass-fronted upper cabinets showcase Tara’s collection of British mixing bowls and a soup tureen she brought home from France. She installed the biggest farmhouse sink she could find and paired it with a brass faucet ordered from deVOL Kitchens in England. At Christmas, she prepares a traditional English dinner. “The only nerve-wracking part is cooking the turkey,” she says. “But once the bird is out of the oven, I can relax.”
In the dining room, a brass chandelier suspended over the traditional farmhouse-style harvest table and antique French bistro chairs add a moment of modernity. “I love hosting and plating food,” says Tara. “I’ve always wanted a formal dining room, and the table can seat 10 comfortably.”
The dining room’s built-in hutch, with its ornate leaded glass doors, was originally yellow but Tara had it painted white to match the trim throughout the house. “It’s my martini corner, with gin from Victoria and my nana’s glasses. I’m very close to my nana, who is the other artist in the family.”
Tara’s favorite piece of furniture is the antique, Canadian-made bergère chair she had re-covered in grey linen to complement the deep, earthy tone of the walls. It’s her ideal spot to sit with a cup of tea — unless the couple’s chocolate lab, Zadie, gets there first.
Once the tree is up, Tara sets to work wrapping gifts with natural paper and ribbon carefully preserved from Christmases past. “I wrap things early because, for me, wrapping is part of decorating,” she says. “One year, I made my own gift wrap using stamps to create patterns on brown paper.” Lush green laurels in the garden outside the dining room window provide the perfect backdrop.
Natural elements are preferred for holiday decorating, like the simple wooden baubles hanging from the tree.
Tara ordered the principal bathroom’s sink and tub from an artisan in Tennessee who restores old clawfoot tubs. White subway tile, a window ledge, Shaker-style hooks and warm brass accents reinforce the historical vibe. “I wanted the room to feel like it might have in the early 1900s,” says Tara.
A classic sleigh bed in the principal bedroom makes a traditional yet minimalist statement when paired with neutral walls and natural linens.
Author: Sydney Loney
House & Home November 2019