From the December 2023/January 2024 Issue  

Time-Honored Tradition

Writer Marirose Krall  |  Photographer Greg Martz  |  Designer Danielle Palmadessa  |  Location Saddle River, NJ  |  Holiday Styling Diana Andriotis

A Saddle River family decks the halls on a deadline

“I love the house feeling festive and beautifully done,” owner Kristin Fox says The two cardinal figurines on the trimwork above the staircase are year-round fixtures. “The cardinal has always been a symbol of my father, who passed away in 2020,” Fox says. “This was a home his parents built and something that is incredibly meaningful to me. The cardinals are a reminder of his presence in our home.”

Kristin and Ryan Fox’s holiday party — the first in their recently purchased home in Saddle River, New Jersey — came with a lifetime of memories. The gathering is a longstanding tradition in Kristin’s family, and this event was particularly special because she had grown up in the home. “My grandparents built this house, and it’s the home where my brother and I were raised,” she says. “My kids are the fourth generation of the family to live here and, for years, this was the place to be for Christmas.”

In the family room, jewel tones add festive flair on the fireplace and Christmas tree. “We used a very rich navy velvet ribbon mixed with fuchsia silk dupioni ribbon,” says holiday stylist Diana Andriotis, whose floral designer, Debbie Caramico, worked tirelessly to wire the ribbon swags. Andriotis says decorating with ribbon offers flexibility. “It’s easy to swap out; and using different ribbon can change the whole look of your décor.”

Fox was eager to continue in her parents’ footsteps. “For sentimental reasons, it was really important to me to host Christmas Eve here.” There were, however, complicating factors; renovations — including expanding the first and second floors and redesigning the living spaces — would take months, bringing them very close to the December 24 target date. Fox was confident the schedule could be managed. “We told everybody a year in advance, ‘Get ready — we’re hosting Christmas Eve.’”

In the kitchen, a piece from the homeowners’ Santa collection acts as a centerpiece on the table. “In our house, the atmosphere has always been ‘the more the merrier,’” Fox says. “We wanted to create spaces that would be cozy and comfortable for us as a family and that would have great spaces for entertaining.”

For the design revamp, Fox sought the help of Danielle Palmadessa of Franklin Lakes-based DRP Interiors. Palmadessa describes the home’s aesthetic: “The style is transitional. The clients wanted their home to feel glamorous yet comfortable. They have elegant taste, but they’re not afraid to be bold with color and pattern. Our goal was to marry form and function while meeting the transitional ‘organic glam’ design aesthetic.”

The designer adds, “The lines of the furniture and fixtures are simple and sophisticated, which is representative of transitional furnishings. Boldly patterned wall covering — as seen in the family room and dining room — creates dramatic yet intimate spaces.”

The long dining room table features tapers in candleholders of varying heights. “We did a tablescape with glass ball ornaments that resemble the light fixture above the table,” holiday stylist Diana Andriotis says.

In the midst of Palmadessa’s work, Fox began making plans for holiday décor with the help of stylist Diana Andriotis of Theodora’s Gracious Gift & Design in Allendale. Andriotis describes the process of customizing each of her projects. “We always make sure the holiday décor works with the home design, so we do a home inspection before we begin a project. But in this case, we began the project before she moved in.”

Fir trees, reindeer and pinecone swags adorn the mantel in the dining room. “We decorate with a lot of woodland creatures to reflect our last name,” Kristin Fox says. Andriotis adds, “We layered the pinecone garlands. We love to layer and mix elements because it adds a lot of texture. We used a glittered mesh ribbon to complement the glitter pinecones.”

Even without a finished house, Fox knew she wanted holiday décor that was a departure from what she’d used during previous seasons. “We wanted to introduce some new colors because the style and feel of this home are different than our previous home.” Without a completed home to work in, Andriotis had to imagine what the rooms would look like. “We showed Diana the wallpaper and fabrics we were going to be working with,” Fox says, “and she did a beautiful job coordinating the holiday décor with what we had picked out.” In the entry, Andriotis trimmed the stair rail with frosted wispy pine accented with blue ribbon. “We wanted to complement the navy in the wallpaper,” she explains.

While incorporating new holiday décor, Fox left room for old favorites. “I have a large Santa collection,” she says. “Every Christmas for years, my parents have given me a custom-designed Santa figurine created by Kristen Bushman.” Each Santa was chosen to commemorate a special event in Fox’s life: Santa with a fox the year she got married to reflect her new last name; Santa with a wish list that includes “a beautiful baby” the year she was expecting her first child. “One was made from a beautiful silk robe that belonged to a great-great-aunt who had passed away. They all mean something to me. I always find a spot in my home for them.”

The holiday décor was completed at warp speed at the last minute. “We moved in on December 16; Diana came to decorate December 19. It was a mad dash,” Fox explains. “We decorated before we knew where all the furniture was going. The painters couldn’t finish the trim because I wanted to put the garland up.”

The deadline was met, if only by a hair. “I told all 45+ of our guests ‘no shoes’ on Christmas Eve because the floors had just been stained.” The sprint to the finish was worth it. “It’s so hard for families to get together nowadays,” Fox says. “We knew everyone would be able to come on Christmas Eve. I was able to continue the tradition of creating a beautiful place to celebrate.”