Real Estate

Holiday inspirations

Christmas At Our House tour offers a look at beautifully decorated exceptional homes

Burlap, moss, driftwood: Expect the unexpected at this year's Christmas At Our House home tour, the 25th annual fundraiser put on by the Women's Club of Saint Francis High School in Mountain View.

Among the four homes in Los Altos and Los Altos Hills that are featured this year is the brand-new Tuscan Villa, which owner Julie Panaccione has decorated using mostly natural materials, from garlands made of bay-leaf and olive branches or grapevines to large ornaments created from burlap-covered striped balls.

Carlo Panaccione calls the home more of an Italian farmhouse, and the decorations reflect the more rustic aesthetic. He calls it "a comfortable house," clearly designed for family living, complete with a doggy door.

The family moved in last February, after a close to two-year planning and construction process. At first they thought they'd remodel the 1963-built rancher, sitting on 1.4 acres.

But, the house was built backwards, with the best views mostly obscured by overgrown trees and overlooking a blacktopped backyard.

"It was going to be a remodel, but we got carried away," Carlo Panaccione admitted.

Today the 5,000-square-foot home boasts high ceilings, views of both the hills to the west and the Bay to the east. Panaccione, who grew up on the East Coast and spent time in Italy every year, wanted his new home to reflect his Italian roots.

The Panacciones started the project by having the old house deconstructed, with various materials offered to recycling companies. That proved to be a win-win, because the cost of the deconstruction was balanced against tax savings.

Then they sought recycled materials to incorporate in their new home: Beams found on Craigslist came from a 150-year-old barn in Tennessee; hickory beams were used as mantels over fireplaces and incorporated into the kitchen island base; 200-year-old reclaimed tiles became part of the new roof.

"We wanted to seem like it had been here forever," Panaccione said, adding, "We tried to keep it as authentic as possible and use real, natural textures." That included the wide, character-grade hickory floor planks in the living room, limestone flooring in the kitchen/family room and 200-year-old cherry wood turned into a powder-room vanity.

"It's not a real Tuscan home, but at least most of it's real," he added.

When decorating for the holidays, that passion for using natural materials comes through over and over. The large Christmas tree in the living room, for example, is adorned with balls made from natural and dyed burlap, as well as moss, with pyracanthus sprigs for dashes of red. Above the living-room fireplace is a plaque spelling out "Peace," made of driftwood. The garland is really grapevines, reminiscent of the recent planting of 100 Sirrah grape plants in their front yard.

Julie Panaccione created much of the holiday decor herself, along with a design assistant and of course, her three children. They pitched in by spray painting gold the bare trees that run down the center of the dining table.

The color scheme is quiet, with many shades of beige and brown, contrasted with shiny gold and red balls, or red sprigs.

Much is done with whimsy, from the owls sitting on a shelf in the kitchen, to the snowman on a trunk in the family room. Another plaque, spelling out "Noel" and also made of driftwood, rests on a row of soup cans, cloaked by a garland.

Fairy lights are encased in "cloche" globes.

In addition to the home tour, the Christmas At Our House fundraiser offers a series of events, from luncheons to shopping experiences and raffles. Entertainment will be provided by St. Francis family musicians and vocalists.

Associate Editor Carol Blitzer can be emailed at

What: Christmas At Our House home tour

When: Friday and Saturday, Dec. 6 and 7, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Where: Four homes in the Los Altos Hills area

Cost: $45

Info: Christmas At Our House

What: Christmas At Our House other events

When: Twilight Tour & Gala Preview Party: Thursday, Dec. 5, 4-10 p.m. (includes home tour on Thursday from 4-7 p.m. or on Friday or Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.); Elegant Luncheon Buffet: Friday, Dec. 6, and Saturday, Dec. 7, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; Wine, Women and Shopping: Friday, Dec. 6, 4-7 p.m.; Christmas Boutique, Friday, Dec. 6, and Saturday, Dec. 7, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

Where: The Holiday Boutique, Gala Preview Party, Luncheon, and Wine, Women and Shopping Night will be held at Fremont Hills Country Club, 12889 Viscaino Place, Los Altos Hills.

Cost: Christmas Party and Tour, $125; Elegant Luncheon Buffet, $30; Wine, Women and Shopping, free with home-tour ticket, or $10 at the door

Info: Christmas At Our House


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