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The Twelve Days of Christmas

Mark and Mari Moss with their boys, Parker, Cooper and Colby. “Six Geese Are Laying” becomes the centerpiece for the outdoor dining table.

For 20 years, Child Advocates of Fort Bend (CASA) has been showcasing homes lavishly decorated for the holidays in the area’s most beautiful neighborhoods as a way of raising money to support their programs, and as a way to offer holiday inspiration to visitors who then take the great ideas back home into their own decor. The 2011 tour included homes in Sienna Plantation, Riverstone, Sweetwater, Sugar Creek and Greatwood. The funds raised by the Christmas Home Tour provide support for foster children living in Fort Bend County and the Children’s Advocacy Center, where abused and neglected children receive the services they need free of charge.

It took more than 800 volunteers to run the 2011 tour, which hosted around 6,000 visitors and raised approximately $200,000. Some say the decorating ideas visitors gleaned at these amazing homes, however, are priceless. This year’s cover story, the Moss abode — home to Mark and Mari, sons Parker, Cooper and Colby, five dogs, six cats and a plethora of wildlife — proved to mesmerize visitors in more ways than one!

The home’s design is fantastic and like most luxury homes, reflects the lifestyle of the folks who built it. “We needed more space,” Mari says. Their former home (two neighborhoods over in Sienna) was too small for three growing boys, all three of whom the couple adopted from Russia — Parker when he was 13 months old and the next year twins Colby and Cooper, who were also 13 months old at the time. “We lived in our old house for 12 years; it took us 11 months to build our new home, and when we moved, it wasn’t a moment too soon!”

Mari continues, “We are not fancy, glamorous, elegant people. We have boys and we live a rather rustic, outdoorsy kind of life, so everything in our home was designed for ease of cleaning and organizing. I literally open the doors and use a leaf blower down here.” She points out wainscoting, which she says she can squirt down and wipe clean; then the frames around all the doorways, “because boys leave handprints everywhere.” Even the stair risers were designed to reflect the raucous nature of boys — they are stone “because fast-moving feet make dents in risers!”

In fact, this Aspen-inspired rustic design can be seen in every room, from the fence picket stair rails and banister; the desk which was formerly a garden table; the fireplace mantels which were formerly fallen trees on the property; and the copper backsplash in the kitchen which was cast from an oak branch and acorns from the backyard. It all meshes beautifully with the items Mari has bought from Round Top, on eBay, gadget.com and from a favorite store called “Something Else” where her friend Tracy sells reclaimed, recycled and repurposed merchandise.

The passion for things pastoral is also evident in the outdoor spaces of the home. The dwelling itself sits on two acres of land that additionally houses a couple of interesting out buildings and doubles as a rehabilitation facility for wildlife, including opossums, raccoons, skunks and squirrels. Mari, formerly a banking portfolio manager in corporate America, started volunteering at SPCA. Through her work there, she learned of the need for assistance with area wildlife rehabilitation, so she earned certification. Now, though Mark works for WPI – Houston and the boys are in school, the whole family is involved. Mari shares, “Everybody helps bottle-feed and clean cages. We all really enjoy the work.”

When animals are orphaned, Texas Wildlife Rehabilitation Center contacts the Mosses, who bring the wildlife home for rehab until they can be released. For the orphans, the home’s utility room  accommodates several cages and has plugs for multiple incubators. Once the animals are bigger they transition to the outdoor quarters, where they can winter comfortably until spring. Mari explains, “We do what is called a ‘soft release,’ which simply means we feed them weekly until they go off on their own.”

Finding all of this wonderfully rustic décor (for both in- and outdoors) as well as great gadgets for cleaning and organizing is not merely coincidental. Mari happens to be the queen of research when it comes to both the design and decorating elements of this home. She discloses, “I kept a notebook for years before we began building our new home. I took pictures of details from home tours, from magazines and from websites of all of the ideas I wanted to eventually incorporate into our home.” The result of her research paid off tremendously.

Much of the Moss home décor was found through research online and religiously visiting estate sales, which Mari researches first on estatesales.net. She admits that she has made more than 600 purchases for their home on eBay, including most of the lighting and plumbing fixtures, as well as many of the more dramatic pieces throughout the house.

“I’m not a cook, so when it came to the kitchen, I worked with a designer,” says Mari. “She broke it down and we started with one wall at a time. It took us maybe two hours to design.” And just as Mari wanted it, there is only one wall of cabinets. Everything is in a drawer: trash, microwave, bread keeper and dishes — all within easy reach and out of sight. “We got our pantry from gadgets.com, and everything accommodates bulk. There is even a counter in the pantry.”

The home incorporates interesting and functional European vents in the floor, which suck away swept-up dirt piles. Mari found this system for cleaning on the Web. “Our builder had never installed one before, so I even had him doing research on installing this unique system of pipes, which is different than plumbing or electrical design.”

Beyond the day-to-day function and design of this lovely home, this time of year has it all dressed up extra special. When Mari learned that the folks at CASA wanted to include the Moss home on the 2011 Christmas Home Tour, she and her holiday designer Angie Prejean decided that the well-loved Christmas carol, “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” should be the theme.

When CASA Christmas Home tourists visited the house, they found delightful scenes depicting the dozen days of the holiday season, each in a unique and entertaining way, in almost every room.  Strolling through the home became almost a game as guests viewed each scene and guessed which of the 12 days was presented:

The 12 drummers drumming and 11 pipers piping were appropriately situated in one of the boys’ bedrooms, where the everyday décor already consisted of a musical theme. Little drummer boy ornaments were hung from the light fixture and small horns were hung from a larger bugle. The chandelier in the breakfast room was enhanced with 10 lords-a-leaping ornaments and in the computer room/study, guests found nine — ahem — “ladies” depicted as stunningly dressed reindeer dancing happily on the bookshelves.

The kitchen island depicted eight “cookie-pops” maids-a-milking perched atop milk jugs. In the master bath, guests discovered an elaborate display where seven swans were swimming. The outdoor dining table beautifully incorporated decoys and ceramic eggs as a centerpiece illustrating the six geese-a-laying theme, while the centerpiece for the formal indoor dining room portrayed the five golden rings as gilded wreaths. The four calling birds in the laundry room were fabric hens cackling away on tin can and string phones, and in the butler’s pantry, three ceramic hens sat sentinel over loaves of French bread. Two turtle doves nested comfortably beneath the beautiful teal-colored Christmas trees in the master bedroom, and one large birdcage was home to the partridge in a pear tree.

The annual CASA Christmas Home Tour is more than a charity occasion; it’s also a wonderful social and networking opportunity. This year more than 1,500 volunteers will assist with the tour, doing everything from hosting for a two-hour shift at one of the houses, serving on the event committee or decorating, to managing ticket sales and recruiting other volunteers. Whether you are working the event or touring the amazing homes, you will no doubt have a lot of fun and meet new people while helping to provide a voice for abused and neglected children in Fort Bend County.

For more information or to volunteer, call 281-344-5108 or contact Lisa at lmoore@cafb.org.


Text by Cheryl Alexander  |  Photography by J. Pamela Photography  |
Architectural design by Don Purser Builder: Shawn Regan Custom Homes  |
Flowers by Keisha Kreations  |  Holiday décor by Angie Prejean

The beautiful centerpiece presented the “Five Golden Rings” theme as gilded wreaths surrounded by turqouise and white ornaments suspended from the oil-rubbed bronze chandelier.

The stone risers, custom barb-wire rails and wrought iron side table in the foyer present the rustic Aspen theme which flows throughout the home’s decor. Fresh greenery on the banister and the large bronze bow with its embellished gourd provide a nice backdrop for the seasonal flower arrangement.

The kitchen comes alive with the “Eight Maids-a-Milking” theme atop the island where cookie maids sit in jugs of milk. Peppermints and fresh green garland adorn the light fixture.

The peppermint theme spills over into the breakfast room where the table is set for Christmas morning. Small roses and garland provide the floral appeal and a unique Christmas cookie awaits each guest.

he soaring rustic stone fireplace is enhanced with personal touches: Mark made the mantel from a fallen tree on the property, and the framed mirror was formerly a skylight in an armory building in New York. Mari found the piece at Round Top. Fresh greenery, pine cones and bronzy bows bring the holiday feel to the room while allowing the homeowners to live within it comfortably.

The “Nine Ladies Dancing” theme was surprisingly presented as nine stunningly dressed reindeer dancing happily on the bookshelves.

he master bathroom provided the perfect spot for “Seven Swans A Swimming.”

A red, white and blue nautical theme is perfect for this boy’s room and the bright Christmas lights strewn across the valance and the colorful tree in the corner add just the right holiday touch

The game room is decorated for the season using billiard balls and oversized game pieces. Fresh greenery, gauzy red ribbon and suspended beads embellish the lighting.

The natural style
swimming pool blends nicely on the large wooded lot.


One of the orphaned raccoons hangs out in one of the hammocks Mari made from old blue jeans.


Another curious, tame raccoon greets Linda Anderson, Fort Bend Lifestyles & Homes editor during photo shoot.


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