Holiday magic comes to life in this Johnson County home as old-fashioned charm brings another layer of warmth to the season.
Story by Ann Butenas | Photos by Matthew Anderson
Judy Sturman is no stranger to beauty. Her passion is to indulge her creative prowess and “make life more beautiful and pleasing to the eye.” As owner of Stitches by Sturman, Sturman knows a thing or two about decorating, as her professional works lean towards soft treatments for people’s homes, such as drapery fabrications, pillows, bedding, window treatments and light upholstery. It’s no surprise, then, that her talents easily transition to decorating her own home for the holidays.
In keeping with her usual tradition, Sturman displays four Christmas trees throughout her home, each of which bring the spaces in which they stand a delightful layer of holiday joy. A tall, narrow one presents by the main staircase in the foyer. Another is displayed in the dining room and sits in an antique sleigh. A third stands in the living room and the fourth tree resides in the family room.
With all of her kids out of the nest, Sturman assigns herself the task of setting up all the holiday décor and typically begins this endeavor in mid-November, with aspirations to take it all down on New Year’s Day.
“I don’t turn the lights on my trees or anything until the day after Thanksgiving, though,” she explained. “But by the first of the year, I am ready to put everything away.”
Sturman has taken her decorating savvy to a personal level by outfitting her home with some inspiring and engaging holiday décor items, many of which carry personal stories that seem to bring them to life.
The sleigh in which one of the trees is presented by the dining room window is undoubtedly one of the oldest treasures in Sturman’s holiday décor collection.
“That belonged to my great grandma, who grew up in Minnesota,” commented Sturman. “It was actually the stroller for her kids and was used in the snow. My grandma was in it as a baby. I still have the fur pelt that was used to cover the babies who rode in it. My mom found this in my dad’s cousin’s barn and had it restored and it eventually was given to me.”
Despite the years the sleigh has seen, it has proven to be quite sturdy.
“My grandkids play in it and I also use it to display items at other holidays, such as pumpkins at Halloween,” noted Sturman, who determined the sleigh had to be in existence since 1905, the year her grandmother was born. “My grandma did get to see it restored. It was displayed at my parent’s lake home in Minnesota after it was restored before it came to me.”
In the kitchen, history reveals itself once again in delightful fashion. Sturman repurposed an old metal toolbox that belonged to her dad years ago and now uses it to display holiday décor. She also uses another old wooden box for the same purpose. Besides some greenery, each box contains old Christmas light bulbs that originally belonged to her grandfather in the 1950s.
“They still light up and are very bright, but for safety reasons, we don’t use them that way,” explained Sturman, who prefers to simply let each bright and cheery bulb stand as festive decorations. “I just leave them in the box. I guess that’s my holiday hoarding coming out!”
Interestingly enough, these old bulbs were painted on the inside as opposed to the outside, and when they are lit up, they provide a bright and shiny display not typically found in today’s Christmas bulbs.
Another example of Sturman’s dedication to the stories behind her decorations are the stockings, all of which truly are hung by the fireplace with care in the family room.
“I make the stockings,” she indicated. “I made the first pair when my son and his wife got married. I patterned them after my kids’ stockings that were made by a friend years ago. Each of my kids got a pair of stockings I made when they got married.”
As Sturman’s family grows, she indicated she has made more than 50 stockings for extended family members. She has three children, five grandkids and another due around the holidays.
“At each wedding, the bride and groom get a pair as a gift,” she smiled.
Not everything in her seasonal décor comes with an intriguing story, however. For example, the garland gracing the fireplace mantle was a craft store find.
“Ninety percent off!” quipped Sturman, who appreciates a good holiday find just as much as those items with immeasurable value.
And some of Sturman’s décor pieces have grand purpose. Next to one of the trees that sits atop an upside down basket near the kitchen is a rolling cart where Christmas mugs stand ready to be filled.
“I set this up for a hot chocolate bar, complete with bowls full of sprinkles and marshmallows,” she said. “I put my holiday cookie jars on the bottom shelf.”
Other intriguing items include the distressed door in the living room that was used in her daughter’s wedding. Next to it is a narrow tree decorated in gold, silver and white. A comfy chair perfect for sipping hot chocolate and reading a book can be found in the hearth room near the kitchen. The accompanying Pendleton blanket belonged to Sturman’s parents. The dining room is not left out of the fun, either, as Sturman has artfully outfitted her wine cabinet with bottle brush trees and candles.
When contemplating each holiday season, Sturman tries to avoid purchasing additional items to display, as she feels her collection is complete.
“I make myself wait until I have everything out, and if there is something else I want, I may buy it. After all, Christmas is my favorite holiday,” she expressed.