In this spectacular Parkville dwelling, a mother and daughter work side by side to create cherished family memories, Christmas cheer, and a warm, welcoming ambience.
Story by Jeanne de Lathouder | Photography by Matt Kocourek
Interior Design and Holiday Interior Designer: Surface to Surface Interior Design and Construction
Everyone has fond remembrances when it comes to Christmas, but for this mother and daughter team, making new memories in a new home as their family grew took on a special meaning all its own.
“I grew up in a house where Christmas was a big deal, and decorating for the holidays always evokes the strong feeling of my childhood as I relive the magic of it all,” says Kansas City native Holly-Starr Thomson, a former L.A. model and Emmy-award winner who now lives in Parkville with her husband, John, and their daughter, Brinklee. “I remember my grandfather winding garland that sparkled with colorful lights around the large columns in their home and stretching it across the mantle and down the staircase. Our home was smaller but when it came to holiday decorating, no stone was left unturned,” she laughs. “My family worked together to make our home just as magical and exciting. My sister and I got to help decorate both places, which made it double the fun.”
Before moving into their magnificent new home in Parkville, Holly, John, and Brinklee primarily decorated for the holidays themselves. But this year, she knew she had to enlist her mom — Jen Surface, owner of Surface to Surface Interior Design and Construction — because this job was just too large for her.
“I don’t have the imagination and eye to create the unique things that she does,” says Holly. “Her creativity is unlimited, and I also knew she would not make it about flash and grandeur. We wanted our home to be about celebrating with family and friends while embracing a simple, yet sophisticated design scheme that she could carry out,” she adds.
“Honestly, from the second I entered their new home I envisioned the endless potential to create the warm sparkle of Christmas cheer — and it was only June,” laughs Jen. “The day following Thanksgiving always marks the beginning of holiday decorating for me. But I have to tell you that this year, Holly and I could not get their Thanksgiving decorations packed and put away fast enough. Our excitement to decorate their new home had been delayed long enough,” she adds.
Like every design project she leads, Jen made sure the holiday selections were timeless. She might toss in a trend or two that can easily be omitted the following year, but the main thing she considers is the color palette. She never wants her holiday décor to clash with existing hues — it must always complement the year-round color of each room. With this focus in mind, the search was on for non-obligatory traditional colors of Christmas — for the main level that is. Throughout their shopping trips, Holly and Jen cultivated a collection they could use and add to each year. They focused on purchasing things that said holiday but with simplicity and sophistication — fun, festive things that were not too fancy or intimidating. With every selection, they were also mindful of all the children who would come over for a play date and slumber parties during the holidays.
Jen pulled most of the colors from the custom artwork she created for this home. Using a calming scheme of creams, whites, and blues mixed with subtle hints of warm and cool colors, she wove them into the holiday design. She added lots of gold and silver to create an elegant look with an appealing chic style.
“The downstairs area was a different story,” she laughs. “The sight of traditional colors pulled at my heartstrings — you know, Santa’s red suit and other bold colors that are classic and timeless. The family’s holiday decor from the past worked very well with the neutral palette of their basement. We tucked a large traditional tree in the corner glowing with white lights, cherished ornaments, and other treasures—collected, made, and inherited — from the past. It was kind of like a scrapbook of their life brought out at Christmas. Brinklee dubbed it the kids’ tree because, according to her, it had ornaments on it that kids like,” she adds.
Throughout the space, Jen added gold and silver ribbon, layered in some black and white, added whimsical decorative figures, holiday pillows and throws, and one of her custom art pieces. She also added festive touches to the bar. She and Holly found several different holiday items with the word Holly on them and gleefully snagged them. In both areas—upstairs and down — she added an abundance of lights. Well-lit gigantic wreaths and fresh-cut garland and trees both inside and out made this home extra festive and magical with their sparkle. Brinklee helped to embellish the décor by gathering fresh pinecones and berries from their backyard.
“In some areas of the house, smaller festive touches were more appropriate for my design plan,” says Jen. “My intention is always to make an impact that generates a wow factor with distinctive details, but not to drench every single inch of the home. I used ribbon and bows for a wonderful embellishment and placed both plain and novelty pine-scented candles on mantles, tables, and in guest bathrooms. I wanted to create the ambience of Christmas by using a mix of materials that are traditional, non-traditional, rustic, sleek, and everything in between—except gaudy,” she laughs.
“It was so incredibly fun working alongside my mom again on this project,” says Holly. “My memory took me back to the days growing up and decorating with her for Christmas. Thinking back on that now, I’m betting she just tolerated where my sister and I placed things. I’m sure she probably praised us then moved them when we weren’t looking,” she laughs. “As for shopping alongside my mom, most every selection I made got to remain in the cart. Her eye for detail kept me on my toes. She says that having a discerning eye is both a blessing and a curse—and she definitely convinced me of that,” she jokes.
“I was most excited to enhance the beauty of Holly’s piano room,” says Jen. “It it the first thing you see upon entering, and my goal was for guests to be awestruck by its splendor. I added subtle décor choices with a tinge of luxury and festivity and created a fantasy of eye-catching selections everywhere you look. The grandiose chandelier was something I just had to make even more spectacular — so I staggered it with a variety of perfectly scaled ornaments that dangle with sparkle and shimmer. The shiny baby grand piano was laced with hundreds of fairy lights that reflected on the opened top and lit up the inside of this beautiful instrument,” she adds.
“It was heartwarming to watch mom pour a lot of love into this project with her magic touch,” says Holly. “I watched as she fashioned ribbons into bows and placed every ornament precisely on the trees. It seemed effortless for her to turn our home into a one-of-a-kind holiday wonderland. More than anything, John and I wanted tradition and family to make an appearance in our holiday theme with cherished items to share with our friends,” she adds. “We were so excited to bring everyone together to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year. And we are forever grateful for my mom’s efforts in making it beautiful.”