An ambitious couple deck the halls in grand style with more than 20 elaborately decorated Christmas trees sprinkled throughout their Highland Ridge home that brims with meaningful heirlooms, beloved treasures, and opulent formal flourishes.
Story by Jeanne de Lathouder | Photos by Matt Kocourek
A Kansas City couple with contrasting styles immediately saw eye to eye when they both fell in love with the same floorplan of a home they purchased in 2016. Situated within a new Highland Ridge neighborhood in Western Shawnee, close to the Mill Creek trails and just a mile from the Kansas River near the Western bluffs, their home contained two essential features that Randall Schneck and his husband, Justin, just couldn’t pass up.
“We both love the floorplan, as it includes many formal spaces — mainly a dining room and a butler’s pantry — that most newly built homes don’t have,” says Randall, a real estate professional, a six-year DIFFA (Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS) board member, and owner of his own interior design business called Hickory Home KC.
As eclectic in style as it is in design, the home’s exterior takes on a decidedly transitional Tudor aesthetic accented with Craftsman influences. The interiors are more transitional traditional, and since Randall and Justin have inherited many Early American and turn-of-the-century antiques, it was important for them to have a home that was flexible with their varied design interests.
“I prefer traditional design elements, and my husband, Justin, prefers more contemporary finishes,” says Randall. “Of course, I generally triumph,” he jokes, “but certainly have had an increasing interest in mid-century modern interiors and Neoclassical-inspired designs. The overall color scheme of our home is quite neutral with grays, blacks, whites, and ivories, and as we decorate seasonally, I appreciate that neutral aesthetic, so the conception of color as influenced by season can be most impactful,” he adds.
Fortunate to have had family members who traveled and were also collectors, Randall and Justin have inherited many treasured heirlooms over the years that they incorporate into their every-day décor as well as their holiday designs. A gorgeous collection of Herend China that once belonged to Randall’s parents was given to them as an early inheritance — a gift that turned out to be highly useful as the couple both love to entertain formally. Justin’s great aunt, who traveled frequently to China, purchased a Chinoiserie-style cabinet that was left to him when she passed away.
“These formal, yet personally paramount pieces have influenced the way in which we decorate,” says Randall. “It has been key to incorporate them into our home in a way that feels updated and current, and though our style is traditional, it has been important to both of us to ensure that it doesn’t feel too antiquated, but rather that these pieces are highlighted in their surroundings,” he adds.
With a holiday style he describes as “antithetic” year by year, Randall believes it is essential to mix things up annually. Several years ago, after a trip to Williamsburg, he was admittedly obsessed with decorating the exterior with fruits and live greenery. Other years, he preferred to accent live greenery with black ribbon. One of his most effectual holiday décor tips is to not put away beloved treasures, such as decorative orbs, framed photos, and other decorative accessories, and instead utilize them in the trees themselves.
“These items can actually help encourage a tree theme overall,” he says. “One of my other great conclusions — considering we put up more than 20 trees — is to mix the decorations each year. So, one year, a purple and gold tree and a burgundy and rose tree might become a rose and gold tree and a purple and burgundy tree the following year. It grows tiresome putting up the same tree year after year,” Randall notes. “I also enjoy the idea of buying wreaths and replacing art with them for the season.”
As the couple entertain heavily during the holiday season, decorating starts promptly in the middle of October. Randall always tries to start in inconspicuous spaces, such as guest bedrooms or guest baths, in hopes that he won’t have to look at the décor for two and a half months and grow bored with it. One year, he recalls putting a tree in the living room prematurely and then ended up having to ask Justin to help him move it across the room.
“Justin quickly told me this was the only time we were moving a tree without redecorating it,” Randall says, “to which I replied, ‘but I still need to put up the other three trees and I want another one to go there,” he laughs. “Sadly, I hadn’t mentioned that I had acquired the additional three trees the Christmas before.”
By far the couple’s favorite and most eye-catching space in the house is their grand two-story foyer that opens onto a small gathering hall with stairs leading to the lower and upper levels. The second-floor hall on three sides of the staircase always makes for a stunning garland display. The formal dining room runs a close second, as Randall and Justin proclaim to be one of the only couples in their social circle to entertain with china, crystal, and sterling silver. Their elaborate tablescapes welcome guests with warm hospitality and provide a richly layered and opulent holiday ambiance. Infused throughout with individuality and personal style, their entire home never fails to astound visitors with visual surprises including an inherited Chickering baby grand piano they decided to place in their breakfast niche — part of an open concept space that incorporates the kitchen and the living room.
“I feel that a home is a place to collaborate your conflicting tastes to create an intriguing solution,” says Randall. “Justin always comes home and has been known to say, ‘I’m not sure if you’re spending more money on redecorating or pulling things out that you’ve been hiding for years,’” he laughs. “He is the yen to my yang when it comes to décor, and always appreciates the compliments about our home when we host dinners and parties with family and friends.”