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At Home for the Holidays

Photography by Jennie Guido


In the South, Christmas is normally spent at home with family and friends surrounding each other in our own version of a winter wonderland. For the Seal family, their new St. Francisville, Louisiana, home provides the perfect backdrop for a fresh, farmhouse Christmas. Kate Seal explained to me the details of her Christmas decor that she, her family, and friends Caroline Alberstadt, Lea Baber, and Amy Louvier masterfully crafted inside the home and along the front porch just in time for St. Francisville’s Christmas tour of homes.


Bluffs & Bayous: Tell us about your beautiful home.


Seal: The twelve acres that our home was built on are the real treasure with the pond and rolling lawn. When trying to decide on a design, I had a hard time getting the home that my mother built on Lake Bruin in St. Joseph, Louisiana, out of my mind.

      We took Mom’s house plans to a draftsman and redesigned it to fit the needs of our family. Charles, my husband, had two requests: a real wood-burning fireplace and office space since he works some from home. We both wanted big front and back porches; and at the last minute, we decided to screen in the back porch. We changed things here and there during the building process. For instance, we widened the front porch to fit a porch swing that we received as a gift. We are “porch” people, so we wanted our outdoor space to accommodate our love of the outdoors.

      We finally moved in during February of 2015.


Bluffs & Bayous: Would you say the decor had a certain theme?


Seal: Overwhelmingly, the theme was a Southern Christmas with natural, lush, elegant, unfussy, simple, and colorful accents. The amaryllis plants throughout the house were found in Baton Rouge, and the kumquat branches from a friend’s yard added natural reds and oranges to the decor. Magnolia boughs over the front door alongside the Williamsburg style fruit topiaries in the urns gave a classic appeal.

      The home’s classic style and architecture didn’t require a lot of sparkly ornaments. We kept things simple and natural with native plants, such as holly, found in area yards. Adorned with wide satin and plaid ribbons casually woven through the stairs’ balusters and fireplace stockings, the fresh pieces from the outdoors were tied together inside for a classic look.

      Family heirlooms on the table such as the monogrammed linens, china, crystal, and family silver added to the “at home” feel we were trying to create. The table’s arrangement by Amy Louviere, a local talent in floral arts, only helped to enhance the simple decor with fresh roses, evergreen, and artichokes. The wreaths featured on all of the doors and windows along the front of the house were purchased during an annual local fundraiser to help benefit local philanthropies.


Bluffs & Bayous: As far as the actual natural greenery and foliage used, what did you pick?


Seal: Glossy green magnolia, wild smilax vine, variegated pittosporum, boxwood wreath, and holly leaves and berries kept things crisp and bright. Seasonal fruit such as oranges and kumquats filled McCarty pottery bowls on the expansive kitchen island. Everywhere were touches of family treasures, which made it all the more valuable and nostalgic.


Bluffs & Bayous: What pieces were family treasures?


Seal: For example, the wooden nativity scene in the kitchen was my mother’s. She had picked it up while in Mexico years ago on a trip and traveled with it in her lap all the way back home. She let me borrow it for the tour this year, and she may have a hard time getting it back now!


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