This Southern Designer's House is a Winter Wonderland
It's no wonder Birmingham designer Dana Wolter puts a place to sit down wherever she can in her home—be it a built-in banquette or single occasional chair. The home plays host to a rotating cast of visitors daily—friends of her three daughters, her clients, and members of her extensive family. (Wolter is one of five kids; her husband, one of eight.) And while her style radiates elegance, it's far from stuffy. "There's truly not a space in my house that's off-limits—to my children, to anyone who stops by, to my dog," she says. "I want people to feel they can sit awhile." So when the holidays roll around, every seat counts. On Christmas Eve, they host a formal evening with her side of the family, often 20 to 25 people. The next night, they do it all over again with her husband's side—another crowd of at least 20 people. Out of necessity, her Christmas decor must marry function with form. It's pretty yet practical, clean but comfortable—just like her design philosophy. "Everything in my house has a place so I can pull together a party for 50," says Wolter. "But my home is also comfortable for anyone to celebrate, whether they're 3 months old or 81 years old."
Create a Loungelike Foyer
Wolter warms up her entryway with a spacious seating arrangement. "Truly, anywhere I can include a place to sit, I do," she says. "It's an easy way to add dimension and fabric into a transitional spot." Here, the velvet love seat and two linen upholstered chairs glam up the iron accent tables and rustic cowhide rugs.
Double the Usage
When a room is large enough to hold two seating areas, "you should go for it," says Wolter. "I wanted my living and dining areas in the same room to make sure every inch would get used," she says. Running a banquette 16 feet along the back wall (above left) created a tucked-away dining "room" within the living area. "I just imagined us having dinner at the table and then moving over to the living room to visit," she says.
Combine Elegance and Livability
The family room is where Wolter's kids nap; the family watches TV; and their dog, Bitsy, stands guard from atop the sofa. Because the sofa is a lighter color, she went ahead and had it treated with a nanotech hydrophobic coating. (Try vectra spray.com for a similar treatment.) The TV is hidden in the 10-foot-tall antique cabinet, which is thin enough to be unobtrusive but tall enough to balance the 9-foot-tall French doors directly across the room.
Plan for Practicality
Wolter says efficiency is key in the kitchen. A warming drawer ensures everyone gets to eat dinner when they're ready—whether they're coming or going. The trough sink in the island simplifies entertaining. (Filled with ice, it's an instant drink holder.) The island also makes unpacking groceries easier.
Make Room for Activities
Between family meals (a priority in the Wolter house), school projects, and guests just hanging out, the extralong banquette (upholstered in a durable faux-cork fabric) is the place to be. Two Parsons-style end chairs sport deep-purple slipcovers with pleating and a slight train on the chairbacks.
Define Your Space
A custom screen placed behind the love seat and ottoman gives this second-story stair landing a clear purpose. Now it is an inviting destination to hang out. Wolter had the sisal rug custom cut to fit with the curved iron banister. The extra-large matting around the painting gives a small piece of art more impact.
Spare Color, Layer Sumptuously
"You don't always need busy patterns or bold colors to create an interesting look; you can do that with a tonal palette and tactile elements," says Wolter. Here, a linen headboard, tailored bedspread, and slightly puddling window treatments create a relaxing space built around texture play.
Build Your Own Winter Wonderland
A plastic-foam tree form gets a makeover with magnolia leaves and white spray paint. Pin on the leaves, and spray the finished shape.
Show Off Those Holiday Cards
A birch-bark card holder displays the Christmas photo-card bonanza. To make it, Wolter glued strips of bark to a piece of plywood.
Weave Gifts Into Your Decor
She mimics her home's layered decorating with gold and faux-bois papers finished off with handmade magnolia-leaf gift tags.
Give an Angel Wings
Wolter found this wooden angel years ago at an Atlanta antiques market and hangs it in her family room with fishing wire hidden by garland.