Each Christmas, Jay and Heather Strommens' cozy Cape Cod-style home in Deephaven, Minnesota, swells with cheer, handmade Italian pasta and family. Lots of it. Seventeen members of Heather's far-flung Italian family join the Strommens and their four kids for four days of festivities and joyful meals. "It's like a big campout," Heather says.
To make her warm and welcoming home even merrier, she brings Yuletide elegance to every room, pairing natural materials with holiday decor in calming, muted tones. Click through our slides to share in the Strommens' treasured Christmas traditions and delightful decorating. A buying guide is on slide 18.
The home's ruby red exterior adds to its quintessential Christmas character.
Though Heather dresses the exterior with bright, old-fashioned colored lights, inside she favors a muted palette of rosy pinks mixed with natural greens. The refined hues suit her home's English cottage style. Here, clipped greens bring a wintry touch to roses.
Sprigs of pine and berries dress up framed photos in the home's entry.
Molly, a corgi, trots through the front hallway made seasonal with fresh green garlands and festive reindeer.
Throughout the house, Heather places fresh greens by the sleighful: on mantels, behind picture frames in a hallway and at place settings on the dinner table. "I get into Christmas and really go to town," says Heather, who used to own an antiques business.
White hand-knitted stockings suit Heather's festive but soft Christmas color choices. Boxwood trees and Hypericum berries tucked into garland dress up the mantel.
As in other rooms, natural materials take center stage against the calming colors for the holidays. Pomegranates and pinecones fill bowls, vases show off branches with berries, and burlap ribbons dance across the mantel. See the next slide for a close-up of the wreath.
Dried hydrangeas and pheasant feathers dress up a faux pine wreath encircling the wooden deer head in the living room.
A wreath made of antique ornaments hangs in front of the dining room's mirror, adding subtle glitz. See the next slide for a close-up photo of the wreath.
Snowball cookies tempt passersby and, combined with a wildlife plate, offer a pretty holiday tableau in front of the dining room's ornament wreath.
The newly remodeled kitchen gets its vintage style from counter-to-ceiling cabinets, soapstone countertops and subway tile.
Kitchen cabinets wear a mix of paints and stains for a done-over-decades look. Sprigs of pine add a seasonal touch.
Heather designed the glass-front pantry with sliding doors. "It looks like a little grocery store," she says.
The family room is where the family -- including Rosie, a St. Bernard -- congregates on cold nights. During renovations, the Strommens added beaded-board ceilings and covered the fireplace's dated 1970s red brick with stone. Fresh greens and holiday pillows add seasonal color.
Heather filled vintage lanterns with pinecones, candles, greens and a drawing of Santa, then gave them as gifts last year. She kept this one as a memento.
The S on the master bedroom's white pillow stands for Santa and Strommen. Grass-cloth wallpaper adds texture and a hint of color behind the built-in nightstand and headboard.
In the back entry, a mix of faux and real evergreens brings holiday spirit. Ice skates with red pom-poms make an easy entry table arrangement; an apothecary jar filled with twigs adds an unexpected accent.
Homeowners Jay and Heather Strommen, with Rosie, welcome family for the holidays.
Holiday traditions for the Strommens include a spirited ornament exchange party for neighbors. The family usually goes caroling in the neighborhood and ice-skating at a nearby park. When Heather and Jay's oldest son, Jack, 16, comes home from hockey boarding school in Canada, they set up a rink in the yard for family and neighbors to enjoy pickup games.
The celebration culminates with Christmas Eve dinner, a tradition that has its roots in Italy, where Heather's grandfather was born. "We are Italians, and we all get in the kitchen and cook and cook," she says.
Designer Lisa Lensegrav. Inside Out Design, Chanhassen, Minnesota (612/716-5592).
LIVING ROOM Chairs (Pair in front of fireplace) Bridgette's Chair. Calico Corners (800/213-6366; calicocorners.com). (Chair next to tree) Ethan Allen (888/324-3571; ethanallen.com). Coffee table Francis King, 275 Market St., Suite 465, Minneapolis (612/604-0033; francisking.com). Drapes RCC Interiors, 275 Market St., Suite 513, Minneapolis (612/375-7800; rccinteriors.com). Hutch Antique pine. EuroNest, 5700 W. 36th St., Minneapolis (952/929-2927; euro-nest.com).
KITCHEN Cabinetry Rg Home Improvement, Elko, Minnesota (952/461-6137). Countertops Soapstone. Rg Home Improvement (see Cabinetry). Faucet Rohl (800/777-9762; rohlhome.com). Light fixtures (Above sink) 2201 Pelham wall sconce in aged brass. Hudson Valley Lighting (hudsonvalleylighting.com). (Ceiling lights) Pelham Moon in hand-rubbed antique brass. Circa Lighting (877/762-2323; circalighting.com). Range Wolf (800/222-7820; subzero-wolf.com). Sink Zinc farmhouse sink. Handcrafted Metal (800/755-0310; handcraftedmetal.com).
KITCHEN EATING AREA Furniture Table and chairs. EuroNest (see Living room, Hutch).
MASTER BEDROOM Bedding Que Sera, 3580 Galleria, Edina, Minnesota (952/924-6390; shoplauerstores.com).