From the December 2022/January 2023 Issue  

A Sentimental Feeling

Writer Marirose Krall  |  Photographer Tori Sikkema  |  Designer Corinne Villani-Kaas  |  Location Millstone, NJ

In a Millstone home, The holiday décor involves natural textures, beachy blues and flocking around the Christmas tree

The family’s Maltese Bichon, Tate (named after the cookie), wears a ribbon that coor­dinates with the family room furnishings and holiday décor. The painting on the fireplace shows the view from the Seastreak ferry, which runs between New Jersey and New York, among other destinations. “I love it,” homeowner Tori Sikkema says. “It’s a reminder of the incredible place we live.”

Snowy owl figures and flocked evergreen boughs trim the family room tree. The vintage silver ornaments belonged to Sikkema’s mother.

Photographer Tori Sikkema (whose work has appeared in Design NJ and who photographed her home for this story) had a vision for her holiday décor: “I call it my three Cs: calm, coastal and cozy.” The desire for a coastal theme is deep-seated; it came from Sikkema’s childhood. “I grew up in Freehold, and Squan was my beach. I just kind of gravitate to the Shore. It’s where I go to unwind. We wanted to transform our home into a place that would nourish that replenishment.”

That meant a change in aesthetic from previous holiday decorating efforts. “We had traditional reds, greens and golds for 20 years. This time, I wanted a sense of what grounded me, and that was the beach.” To bring her goals to fruition, Sikkema called on Corinne Villani-Kaas of Toms River-based Harmonizing Homes. “Tori was doing a home ‘refresh’ with a new holiday tradition,” the designer says. Sikkema also had a deadline, Villani-Kaas adds. “She asked us to help her create a Coastal Christmas vibe before her sons arrived home from college for the holiday break.”

The trees in the sitting room and the family room can be seen from the front entry, which features subtle holiday elements such as ceramic trees and a wreath-encircled candle.

Sikkema had already revamped her home’s interiors, replacing a more elaborate look with straightforward pieces, neutral tones and natural textures. “My focus was on using holiday accents that were harmonious with the aesthetics of the home,” she says. The starting point was a pine-cone cluster tied with hemp rope and silk ribbon. Sikkema found it at a local shop and purchased several. “These were inspirational pieces that guided what I wanted Corinne to do with the holiday décor,” Sikkema says. “They were organic textures that we wanted to weave in.”

The pine-cone cluster on the French door between the family room and the sitting room was the inspiration for the home’s holiday décor. It features a hemp rope and a silk ribbon. A contemporary nativity scene rests on a pedestal next to the chair.

A cluster of blue ornaments fills a mango-wood bowl on the family room coffee table.

In the family room, Villani-Kaas ran with the theme. “We used a lot of texture on the tree, including a garland of flocked evergreen boughs, snowy owl ornaments and ribbons.” The translucent ribbons feature shimmery threads that reflect the lights to add another layer of sparkle. Ornaments in solid blue and white round out the tree trim and pick up the colors in the room. Additional blue ornaments arranged in a mango-wood bowl sit beside a white reindeer statue, adding festive touches to the coffee table The mantel is topped with flocked pine swags. “The clean, crisp room with the dark ebony floors created a striking backdrop for the holiday accents,” the designer notes.

Stylized velvet Christmas trees rest on a tray atop an ottoman in the sitting room.

The sitting room tree is trimmed primarily in white. Textured ornaments, a wooden garland and pine cones, flocked and unflocked, keep the look interesting.

The ebony floors extend into the sitting room, which borders the home’s entry hall and which Sikkema uses as her studio. “I do a lot of staging there, so it’s a blank canvas. It’s versatile.” Here, the holiday accents are primarily neutral. The tree is trimmed mostly in white with textured ornaments, flocked pine cones, a wooden garland and berries. The packages beneath it — simple boxes in white or tan — are topped with rustic burlap and raffia. “This tree and the packages underneath were very much what Corinne and I wanted guests to see when they walk into my home. They’re greeted with those organics,” Sikkema says. The understated tones of the holiday décor get a pop of wintry color in the form of stylized velvet trees in various shades of blue sitting atop an ottoman. The trees were selected to coordinate with the room’s deep navy console.

These holiday-ready rooms — which were, indeed, ready for the sons’ homecoming — reflect the shore scenery of Sikkema’s childhood. “The coastal shades of blue represent the water and the sky. The sand-colored boxes in the sitting room represent the beach dunes and local marshes,” Villani-Kaas says. “It’s very uplifting,” Sikkema adds. “It’s really a con­nec­tion to my upbringing.”