Minus the softly falling snow and horse-drawn carriages, the classic Georgian-style home of Jennifer and Fred Heebe looks much like those pictured in the Courier and Ives lithographs of yesteryear. From the outside, the glittering white lights delicately strewn across the hedges and the half-dozen wreaths hanging from each first-story window bedazzle the passersby. Holiday guests and revelers arrive at the home and stroll up the brick walk through an enchanted forest of candy canes to the portico draped in a 40-foot garland of hardy greens, berry sprigs and scrolling red ribbon. The front door is safely guarded by larger-than-life wooden nutcrackers –– standing tall and looking as if they marched straight over from Santa’s workshop.
Upon entering the otherwise-formal residence — filled with original Louisiana art and grand antiques of all provenances — one gets a comfier, cozier feel this time of year and may bypass the stunning formal living room swathed in gold leaf and silks and head straight back to the blazing fire in the den. Although the den is dominated by warm hues of ivory and gold, rich shades of red, green and navy found in the sprawling Heriz rug offer additional warmth and dimension to the space. Each year Amanda Le Blanc, owner of The Amandas of Organized Affairs, adorns the stately marble mantel with a stretching garland that she builds on-site.
This year, Le Blanc hand-selected a combination of magnolia leaves, boxwood and fir and added red organza ribbon with threads of red sequins for extra sparkle and appeal. Floral design consultant Deanna Eckholdt of Urban Earth Design Studios created smaller clusters of color throughout the room with crystal bowls filled with sunset leucadendron and red hypericum berries.
From the den, there’s a magnificent view of the backyard, and despite the cold, one is tempted to head back outdoors. The crape myrtle trees no longer look sparse: White lights encase their trunks, and whimsical red-light ornaments of various sizes dangle from their branches. Additional lighting comes from the flames inside the wood-burning stove and rotisserie. Whether barbecuing burgers or roasting a pig, this truly unique feature is among the family’s favorites in the summer months. Even in winter, however, it’s put to good use –– cooking seasonal meats such as duck and serving as a chimnea of sorts to provide both heat and light when the party moves outdoors.
Also accessible from the backyard and den is a gracious dining space adjacent to the kitchen used primarily for more casual meals and entertaining. The existing red and gold colors found in the antique rug and upholstered French chairs naturally lend to a look of Christmas and are further complemented by wreaths with ribbons and a pair of antique French altar sticks.
Every inch of the Heebe family’s 5,600-square-foot home is steeped in the holiday tradition. In each room, an equal number of spiritual and secular adornments are thoughtfully displayed by Jennifer, a self-proclaimed “year-round Christmas collector,” whose vast collection is composed primarily of Nativities and nutcrackers. And despite having dozens of each, she is able to recall nearly all of the dates, places and occasions she acquired each precious gift.
When it comes to her most treasured holiday gift, however, the vast collection of handcrafted figurines has dropped in rank in recent years. As most mothers will admit, the most special holiday gift is the joy of seeing Christmas through the eyes of their children. For Jennifer and Fred, it’s double the pleasure as they experience the spirit of the season with their twin daughters, Sarah Louise and Anna Grace. If asked the highlight of their Christmas season, the 3-year-olds would undoubtedly cite the family’s Christmas Eve open house. Although it’s just one event on the family’s jampacked social calendar, it’s by far the girls’ favorite. The 50-plus guests gather for sweets, songs –– and most important, a visit from Santa Claus.