This Charming Charleston Home Is Filled With Holiday Cheer
Jordan Kruse remembers the bottom of the punch bowl. Last Christmas—the first he and husband James Hewlette spent in their newly renovated Charleston, South Carolina, home—they hosted an open house that floated on well past its scheduled end time. Dozens of guests remained cozied up to the outdoor fireplace, nibbling ham sandwiches and homemade confetti-cake balls—and draining the citrusy bourbon punch served on the terrace.
"It was so much fun," Kruse says. Hewlette agrees, noting that during the redo (helmed by residential designer James B. Laughlin), they kept a count of how many people they could fit in each room. As a test run, the party was a smash success.
"They're great hosts," says their interior designer and longtime friend, Elly Poston Cooper. "Their door is always open; the bar is always stocked." She came on board to help them realize this entertaining mecca in 2018, just after the couple bought the foursquare. After a slight renovation to capitalize on the home's great flow and beef up the architectural detail, the trio talked decoration.
"Masculine Southern" style was their goal. Hewlette elaborates: "Formal spaces, exciting wallpapers, fun patterns, and black and lacquered elements because we are two men." Every decision went through the filter of entertaining: Can we fit a settee in the living room to bump up the seating? (Yes, just inside the entry.) Will this stair runner stand up to lots of foot traffic? (It will if it's indoor/outdoor.) What's the largest possible table we can fit in our dining room? (The answer was 63 inches, and they bought it online from an English antiques store.)
In the past, their holiday season has kicked off in mid-November with Friendsgiving. To decorate, the couple amplifies the existing jewel tones with amethyst and amber, fills the tree with meaningful ornaments, and hangs mixed greenery throughout for a relaxed English country house vibe. Out back, a tree holds court near the table where Hewlette and Kruse plan to serve Christmas dinner to their families this year.
Quieter nights at home are special too. Bing Crosby croons from the record player as they sip old-fashioneds. Hewlette says, "The house feels as good with just the two of us as it does with 100."
Lean On What Lasts
Ribbons, not cut flowers, are the duo's big Christmas splurge. They're reusable, unfussy, and an easy way to add color to greenery in pass-through spaces like the entry. The front door is painted Charleston green, which is befitting for these natives of the city. Cooper also carried that shade onto the interior doors and banister. "It's a neutral I use in place of black because it's just a little warmer," she says. Black grosgrain ribbon, held in place with nailheads, outlines the entry's grass cloth-covered walls to tie in the dark elements found elsewhere in the house.
Put Out the Good Stuff
Their winning table formula of family silver + a hit of color + inexpensive grocery store flowers is just as effective now as at any other time of year. Yves Klein-blue tapers nod to the seasonal palette without stealing attention from the room's showiest moment: the Schumacher Miles Redd Brighton Pavilion paper. "This was the starting point for the house's color story," Cooper says. She balanced it with a hard valance tailored in ribbon. "White and black make it more modern," she says. "It's whimsical yet still very Southern and traditional." Sterling silver elevates plain tulips to centerpiece status. Monogrammed napkins from Courtland & Co. and persimmon-rimmed china pull in the wallpaper's bold color palette.
Don't Sweat the Sweets
A signature dessert makes entertaining that much easier. The homeowners serve ice cream year-round, a custom that's passed down from Kruse's family, who own a creamery. "We get a little fancier about the way we serve it around the holidays," he says. A toppings bar is a reliable crowd-pleaser for every generation. It's set up casually on the kitchen counter so guests can just head outside with their scoops.
Raise the Bar
"For the way we live, a mudroom just wasn't for us," says Hewlette, who works in the spirits industry. "We knew a bar would be a much better fit." The cool sophistication of the bottle green lacquer and gilded mirror belie the room's utility. The slate floor and sealed-wood countertops have easy-clean finishes, which came in especially handy during last year's Christmas open house, when about 100 guests roamed in and out to make their own cocktails.
Pump Up What's There
In their bottle green, aquamarine, and persimmon palette, the couple found the basis for a jewel-tone holiday scheme. Every bit of seasonal decor they brought in boosted it. Amethyst and amber arrived in the form of their burgeoning collection of forcing vases, which are nestled into the mantel garland (a mix of Fraser fir, cedar, and Leyland cypress branches from nearby King's Farm Market on Edisto Island). Sapphire and tourmaline no-break balls brought their sentimental ornaments in step. A crown of DIY spray-painted pheasant feathers makes a playful topper for the tree.
Vintage sconces flank the Barbary ram's head, passed down from Kruse's late father. Dubbed Wally ("because it's on the wall," Hewlette cracks), he's had pride of place in each of their homes. "He gets a paper crown every year," says Kruse.
Bring Comfort and Joy
Luxurious details embody the pair's thoughtful approach to hospitality: king-size pillows for plush sleeping, a desk to hold the ubiquitous laptop, a faux-red-fox fur throw for extra coziness, and—at the holidays—one of the poppers they order in bulk to give away during the season. Bottle trees and a bit of greenery zip-tied to the bamboo headboard shift the guest room into festive mode without much upkeep.
Cooper extended Farrow & Ball's Calke Green (No. 34) from the walls to the trim and window muntins to get the most out of the color.
Shoot For a Mix
After filling the front of the living room with classics like an antique settee and slipper chair, Cooper and the guys tapped another friend, Anne Rhett, to capture an image of Drayton Hall, located outside Charleston. "We wanted modern photography to balance some of the more serious traditional things," Cooper says.
Spread Cheer Outdoors
Low-care (or no-care) plants set the scene on the couple's Charleston brick terrace. A wreath crowns the new outdoor fireplace, painted to match the home's brickwork. To make a garden-friendly centerpiece, they dropped pots of paperwhites into a pine needle basket and disguised the pots with spray-painted pinecones gathered from the yard. For their party, they placed a second tree outside and tied ribbons to it. "That's going to become a tradition of ours," Hewlette says.