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A CASA Christmas Fantasy Sweetwater home shines on Christmas home tour

Even the hunting den sports a tree in this family’s multi-dimensional home. Appropriately, the tree features reindeer and other wildlife as its adornment. The tree skirt is another Taylor bull hide rug.

Todd and Laura Taylor’s home in Sweetwater is stunning year-round, but especially during the holidays. Last year, though, was special as the residence was one of several homes featured in the 17th annual CASA Christmas Home Tour.

Visitors arrived to find the columns and porches of the façade wrapped in festive greenery and tiny lights accentuating the plantation-style features of the beautiful home. Throughout the home’s interior, the Christmas spirit became even more evident, with each area of the expansive abode transformed by the magic of the season.

Guests on the tour were welcomed into the grand foyer by Santa and his jester. Both rested at the bottom of the floating staircase, which exploded with fresh garland, dripping with green Christmas balls and ruby-red mistletoe.

Just beyond in the family room, visitors encountered the first of five fireplaces and one of the many Christmas trees twinkling throughout the home. This tree featured the Taylors’ Santa Claus ornament collection. In fact, this whole room was themed around the cherry-cheeked chubby guy: from the Santa ornaments from around the world, to the stacking dolls on the mantle, to the cypress knee Santa—even a watercolor painted by Todd’s sister and a handprint Santa, created by Reyann, the Taylors’ daughter.

Adjacent and open to the family room, the Candy Cane kitchen and breakfast room beckoned guests, with a fun and festive atmosphere, decked out in the familiar red and white stripes and accented with some distinctive collections. In addition to the whimsical “All I Want For Christmas” place settings, decorative accents included Depression-era sherbet dishes and malt glasses, a collection of mix-matched Polish pottery, and a reindeer candelabra, which was a gift from Laura’s mom.

Themed around the three Magi of Christmas, the formal dining room also displayed some of the Taylors’ favorite furniture and art. An original Mark Kohler watercolor, Argentinean Cowboy, was the predominant art in the room, and the armoire—a birthday present from Todd to Laura—was center stage as a beloved piece of furniture. “It stores my grandmother’s china,” Laura disclosed. The plates on the elegantly set table were adorned with golden crowns, regally underscoring the wise men theme. “These crowns were intended to be tree toppers,” says Laura, “but with the help of Nino and his legendary roses, I was able to transform them into beautiful centerpieces for each place setting.”

In the formal living area, the Renaissance tree was the focal point, “In honor,” Laura explains, “of Todd, who truly is a Renaissance man.” The ornaments were a collection of Christmas jester frogs and golden crowns, mingling magically with red and gold ornaments. Above the mantle hung another Reyann original. A bull hide rug warmed the floor—formerly a bull from the Taylors’ ranch.

Todd’s study, though decorated for the season like the other rooms, held onto its completely masculine aura. Remaining true to the room’s year-round décor, Laura cohesively added Christmas flair to complement Todd’s collection of elk horns and duck mounts from hunting trips. And like the other fireplaces throughout the home, this one was beautifully garlanded. Along with the required bows and balls, however, the mantle was decked out with an antique cigar box collection and sprinkled with quail feathers, animal prints and antlers.

The master bedroom evoked the serenity of a white Christmas. Angels, snow globes and snow flake embellishments completed the room’s feeling of tranquility. The tree was only dusted with snow—no ornaments to distract from the calm, quiet ambiance of this winter wonderland. Laura discloses, “Some of our most favorite Christmas memories involve walks in snow-covered woods. Snow is such a sound insulator; it almost induces peace of mind.” Much of the furniture in this room is sentimental. “The bedroom set was our first big furniture purchase together,” Todd says, “and the trunk was a gift from a great aunt.”

The master bathroom gives credence to Todd’s Renaissance man nickname. The master bath was completely gutted down to the concrete. Todd shared, “I did all the tile and granite work, including the tub and shower, and Laura did the Venetian plaster on the walls.” Though Todd is a lawyer by profession, one of his many passions is home renovation, and this home is not his first project.

Laura recounts, “Our first home was in the Meyerland area. It was a small one-story home, built in the ’60s. It had tiny closets and tiny bathrooms. The Meyerland home was Todd’s first remodeling job. We replaced shag carpeting, painted over wood paneling, etc. His love for working with his hands and being a true ‘DIY’ guy has continued with our current home—our biggest remodeling job yet!”

The Taylors also added several built-ins to the common living spaces, both up and down stairs, to display their distinctive collections and store other items. In the kitchen, they changed the floor from parquet to tile to further define the space from the family room. The result is gorgeous and, no doubt, the Taylors are proud of their collaborative handiwork.

The holiday tour flowed seamlessly upstairs, where guests were transported to what felt like a hunting cabin at Christmastime. The entertainment armoire showcased photos and relics from the Taylors’ hunts together as a family and, of course, some seasonal flair enhanced the spirit. Fittingly, the tree was decorated with reindeer ornaments and mistletoe. The tree skirt was another bull hide (formerly a Taylor bull) and antlers sat beneath the tree. The amazing harvest table here was actually a found piece of furniture that was covered in mud and stored in a barn. Beneath the table was a mountain lion hide rug from a hunt on the Taylors’ ranch in Fox Canyon in the Davis Mountains.

Reyann’s room was delightfully decorated with a mother/daughter-themed wreath and a holiday tree luxuriously ornamented with peacock feathers. The walls displayed her own original colorful art, elegantly framed, and even her private bath was dressed for the CASA tour. Reyann’s claw-foot bathtub was filled to the brim with clear iridescent Christmas balls that doubled as bubbles. The bright yellow rubber duckie “floating” on top delighted guests.

Each of the guest rooms was retro in its season’s adornment. The Vintage Christmas bedroom, warm in hue, displayed a collection of classic Christmas images as well as classic furniture. Every item in the room was suitable both to the season and era. The furniture belonged to Laura’s great aunt, circa 1960, and the accessories and decorations are all from that period as well. From the vintage Santa wall hanging to the popular electric candelabra, this room represented the Christmas of yonder year.

The Christmas in Paris bedroom paid tribute to Laura’s French roots. The tree, perfectly pink, was bedecked with ribbons of black and white print and soft pink hats that once belonged to Laura’s grandmother. A bistro table and chairs, set for Christmas tea, invited guests to sit and enjoy a chat. Two Barbie lithographs, numbered and signed, along with authentic Paris prints that formerly belonged to a friend’s grandmother completed this pretty, feminine space. Even Ms. Claus would’ve approved.

Things were so comfortable and settled in this 5,100-square-foot dwelling that one might think it had always been this way, Christmas décor and all, but according to the Taylors, things have evolved to this point. Todd and Laura’s home in Sweetwater is a testament to a union spanning half of their lives. When they met in 1987 at the University of Texas at Austin, Laura says, “I knew Todd was just the kind of guy I wanted to marry some day.” Her intuition was dead on, and together, they have built not only an inspirational life and family, but an amazing home, that in December becomes a Christmas fantasyland. The 2009 CASA home tour-goers got a taste of the Taylor holiday magic.

Each year, CASA Christmas Home Tour organizers believe that the tour can’t possibly get any better, but each year, more people get involved, more people attend and as a result, more children benefit.

Text by Cheryl Alexander    |    Photos by J. Pamela Photography    |    Florals by NINO

The Taylors—Todd, Laura and their daughter, Reyann.

The Santa Tree in the family room displays a variety of Santa Claus incarnations and interpretations, each as beautiful and interesting as the next.

The mascots of the downstairs décor, Santa and his jester, flank the floating staircase, whimsically inviting you to venture up the freshly garlanded stairs.

The seasonal beauty of the dining room table features Laura’s grandmother’s china with plate adornments that were actually intended to serve as tree toppers. With a little imagination and Flowers by Nino, the table setting is fit for royalty.

Arches, columns and fresh flowers in the foreground and the French doors and Christmas tree in the background define the family room as an open, fluid space central to the season’s events

central to the season’s events. u The Candy Cane kitchen is home to not only candy canes of every size imaginable, but also a breakfast area where an “All I Want For Christmas”-themed table setting and an enviable collection of depression era mercury glass in the shape of sherbet dishes and malt glasses define the collections.

The Candy Cane kitchen encompasses the cook and prep area as well as the bar of this fantastically decked out home. Swirls of red and white certainly stimulate the eye and the appetite.

The Candy Cane kitchen is home to not only candy canes of every size imaginable, but also a breakfast area where an “All I Want For Christmas”-themed table setting and an enviable collection of depression era mercury glass in the shape of sherbet dishes and malt glasses define the collections

In the study, the pine paneling and oak floor serve as a backdrop to all of Todd’s favorite things, with a Christmas spin this time of year. The hunting trophies now sport garland trim with antique cigar boxes added for flair. All the mounts in this room are from Todd’s hunts and many of the paintings are Todd’s originals. • Even Reyann’s bathroom gets the seasonal treatment. Iridescent clear Christmas balls double as bubbles in her bathtub. How ducky!

Vintage is the theme of this guest room where Laura’s grandmother’s heirloom furniture found a new home. The decorations are also vintage, from the Santa wall hanging to the snowmen to the candelabra (circa 1960).

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