For Lisa and Mark Hellman, there's no place like home for the holidays, especially when it's a bright and spacious 100-year-old farmhouse in rural Sullivan County, New York. Never mind that when they bought the house it was an abandoned wreck with peeling shingles and a falling-down porch. Or that it took five years of from-the-ground-up renovations to transform it into a destination for family and friends.
"I liked that the house was something we could put our mark on and make our own," says Lisa, a fashion executive and mom to Avery, 8, and Owen, 4. "We had a vision of everyone coming to celebrate Christmas and of creating memories with our kids." The couple's parents stay for several days in guest rooms carved out for them on the third floor. And neighbors are always dropping by for homemade granola, spicy nuts and salted caramels made by Lisa and Avery each year to give as gifts. "I never wanted a house where people felt like they had to call first."
To keep the decor relaxed, Lisa relies on a simple palette of red, green and gold. "At Christmastime, I especially want to bring the outdoors in," she says. You can often find the family canvassing the property for things like antlers—which Lisa displays with boughs, pomegranates and candles—or trekking through the snow in search of the perfect tree. "Every year we look until we find the just-right one to cut down," says Lisa. "Traditions are important to me."