'Tis the season to check out snazzy houses -- all gussied up for the holidays. Two home tours take place this weekend -- Christmas at Our House, the 23rd annual holiday home tour put on by the Women's Club of Saint Francis High School, and Finishing Touches, the fourth annual fine-home tour sponsored by the Junior League of Palo Alto*Mid Peninsula.
Christmas at Our House offers a tour of three homes in Los Altos and Los Altos Hills. With a theme of "Winter Wonderland," the tour offers peeks at "a splendid Tuscan villa" with phenomenal views; a traditional family home with a strong New Orleans influence; and a Cliff May-inspired ranch-style home designed to see the garden from every room.
A few days before the tour, 35 bins of Christmas decorations lined the halls of that sprawling rancher while Jeanette Loretz, of JL Designs & Interiors, Los Altos, and current president of the California Peninsula chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), led a team of design students and ASID volunteers to complete the decorating job by Thursday. Usually the family took a week to dig into the boxes of nutcrackers, huge stockings and enough ornaments to deck out an 11-foot tree, homeowner Gary Wimmer said.
This year, he's providing the setting, but volunteers are doing the decorating. Both of Wimmer's daughters have attended St. Francis High School -- one graduated last year, one's a junior -- as did Loretz's children.
Most of the decorations were collected by Wimmer's late wife, Heather. When Wimmer was approached to offer his home for the tour, "I know she would have said yes!" he said.
Soon after the Wimmers purchased the home in 2005, they had to deal with major foundation issues and ended up gutting the home and rebuilding it. Bill Bocook, a Palo Alto architect, kept the Cliff May indoor/outdoor sensibility -- there's a view of the spacious backyard and pool from virtually every window -- and "made it more ranch-y," Wimmer said.
In the center of the new kitchen is an island topped by oak floorboards taken from a dismantled Pennsylvania barn. The wood complements the mantel, made from an old beam, in the adjoining great room. Both were created by John Crawford, a Santa Cruz woodworker, who also did the memorial angel sculpture made from wood scraps that graces the rose garden.
The light, bright kitchen, with its CaesarStone countertop, also has a breakfront to display his wife's flow-blue china and glassware.
"She was the quintessential collector," Wimmer said, as was her mother before her. Throughout the home are displays of various collections: 36 nutcrackers, antique wooden duck decoys (those are his), black-and-white family photos (many shot by Heather), and masses of flow-blue china.
But there's plenty of room in the multi-level home, which is just shy of 6,000 square feet, sitting on an acre.
When reconstructing the house, they discovered a funny space leading from one daughter's bedroom to the other. They made it into a loft, with LED lights strung along the sides and carpeting, with access from each bedroom. As the girls grew up, the play area became more of a storage area.
Other surprises include a red-velvet chair in the guest bathroom -- too big to get out the door and just plain fun, Wimmer said.
For the master suite, they added a see-through fireplace, visible from the bedroom and a small sitting room. The bedroom, of course, opens through large glass doors, directly to the backyard. And the walk-in closet can be entered from the bedroom or the bathroom, which features two separate sink/vanity areas, an oval tub and large shower.
Loretz said she is mainly using the family's traditional Christmas decorations, but is supplementing with fresh greens and flowers.
Building from the blue and white seen in many of the rooms, she added white magnolias to the greenery on the living-room mantel, playing off the dark walnut and brick surround. The flameless LED candles can be found at Costco, she said.
Given that she's an alumna of St. Francis -- as is her husband and three children -- she said that participating in Christmas at Our House "is a wonderful way to give back."
Proceeds from the tour, boutique and raffles benefit The Campaign for Saint Francis High School, including construction of a new library and student center at the Mountain View campus.
The Junior League plans a weekend of festivities, including a number of options for seeing the four homes in the Atherton area that have been decorated by homeowners and designers. In addition to touring the homes (either arriving by shuttle or self-driven), highlights of the weekend include a luncheon on Friday, Dec. 2, at noon, and the Mistletoe & Martinis event that includes hors d'oeuvres, martinis and shopping on Friday, beginning at 6:30 p.m., followed by the Saturday tour.
On Saturday, Dec. 3, at 8 a.m., participating designers will discuss "Dressing Up for the Holidays," offering holiday tips of the trade, followed by a designer-guided tour beginning at 10:30 a.m.
On both Friday and Saturday, a holiday-themed boutique will be set up at the Rosewood Sand Hill between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Proceeds from the event support the Junior League's projects, which include Project READ, Fostering Families, Shelter Network and Done in a Day.
What: Christmas at Our House Holiday Home Tour
When: Home Tour & Christmas Boutique, Friday and Saturday, Dec. 2-3, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Where: three homes in Los Altos and Los Altos Hills
Cost: Home Tour: $40; luncheon: $30; Twelfth Night Table Setting tickets: $25, or five for $100; Santa's Workshop drawing tickets: $5 of five for $20
Info: 650-968-1213, ext. 701, firstname.lastname@example.org or Christmas at Our House
What: Finishing Touches: A Holiday Tour of Fine Homes & Boutique
When: Friday and Saturday, Dec. 2 and 3, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Four homes in Atherton; check in at the Rosewood Sand Hill, 2825 Sand Hill Road, Menlo Park; last shuttle leaves at 3 p.m.
Cost: Shuttle-driven tour ticket: $40 in advance, $45 day of tour; self-driven tour ticket: $65 (limited quantities, Saturday only); luncheon (which includes a Friday self-driven tour ticket): $125; Mistletoe & Martinis (includes Saturday shuttle-driven tour ticket): $135; Designers' Breakfast (Saturday only, includes designer-guided tour): $125