The holiday forecast is always warm and welcoming at Holley Jaakkola's Savannah home.
By Kim Fusaro
The sun-washed rooms of Holley Jaakkola's home in balmy Savannah, Georgia, lend themselves to holiday entertaining. Though it's a world away from the icy landscape of her husband Juha's native Finland, Holley creates her own version of a winter wonderland with greens from her garden and starfish standing in for snowmen. As a pro floral designer, she believes in decorating with what's familiar. Throughout her 1864 Federal-style house, she adds personal touches, dressing up an antique dining table with an unfussy arrangement of camellias, pine sprigs and ferns tucked into mix-and-match glass vessels. Over the fireplace she displays a wreath crafted of backyard boxwood, berries and seashells. The annual highlight for the couple's daughters, Ava, 9, and Sophie, 6, is a two-day baking marathon during which the family makes dozens of festively embellished sugar cookies to hang on the tree and give as gifts. "I love to mix the old with the new, the elegant and simple, the refined and rustic," says Holley. "It's all part of my recipe for Christmas magic."
Pictured: Holley, Ava and Sophie on the back porch with Elsie, the family's Alaskan malamute. A local artist designed the oyster shell chandelier.
A locally grown Leyland cypress tree with vintage glass ornaments, handmade cookies and twinkling white lights sets a merry scene in the sunroom. The vintage farm table boasts an inviting buffet.
Holley serves a tempting selection of fruit, bread and local cheeses on a barnacle-studded plank she found nearby.
Small bouquets mingled with vintage etched glass balls create a charming centerpiece.
Candy canes and madeleines beckon from a sideboard. "My grandmother always had a gumdrop tree," says Holley. "Ours is pear branches."
A handmade stocking laid at each place setting holds silverware and a sprig of winterberries.
"I'm inspired by the seashore and the garden," says Holley, who fashioned the candleholders from cockle shells.
Pictured: Ava and Sophie perch on furry poufs with their Maltese dogs, Petunia and Sparkle. A neat stack of birch logs, another nod to Finland, fills the fireplace.
The girls take turns choosing a theme for the Christmas cookies. This year it's puppies.
A parade of pups livens up the gold- and silver-decked tree.
For more Low Country style see Holley's book, A Savannah Christmas (Pelican), co-authored with Kimberly Ergul.
Originally published in the December 2012 issue of Family Circle magazine.