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Residents open their homes to holiday enthusiasts

Hundreds of holiday enthusiasts browsed through homes fully adorned for the Opechee Garden Club’s Homes for the Holidays tour, including a dining room located on Broadview Terrace in Governor’s Island. Lauren Tiner. (click for larger version)
December 08, 2010
A Victorian Christmas, a picturesque life on the farm, and nature-inspired holiday décor were just some of the themes on display during Opechee Garden Club's third annual Homes for the Holidays House Tour.

While the tour started at the historical Belknap Mill in Laconia this year, several Gilford homes were on display throughout the two-day tour for holiday enthusiasts and aspiring interior decorators to observe.

A green sale boutique was also set up at the Mill, and members said they were almost cleaned out by the end of the day Saturday.

Owners, family members, and OGC members welcomed participants into these hand selected homes, filled with not only Christmas decorations but the personal touch of the homeowner. Members simply enter these homes and help to design the interior for the tour by working off of what the owner already has, their own unique style, although live greenery is always a must for OGC members.

Belknap Mill Director John Moriarty, said he was thrilled that the OGC had reached out to him for the first time this year to collaborate on holiday events.

"They said this was a charismatic building and that they wanted to accent it on the tour," said Moriarty. "This is one of seven private and public functions we have this week. It shows how central the Mill is."

During the Homes for the Holidays tour, members of the non-profit Lakes Region Opera Company, "Love to Sing," dressed as Dickens Carolers and sang Christmas songs for those taking a stroll through the building.

"Within the first hour of operations, we've had 100 people through the front door, and in the second hour, we had an additional 100 people," said Moriarty.

Ned and Cindy Beebe of Broadview Terrace, located on Governor's Island in Gilford, opened their home for the tour, displaying their "Natural Artist's Retreat," theme.

"I just wanted to keep the theme woodsy and natural and to reflect on my natural surroundings and the water out front," said Cindy Beebe, referring to her contemporary style home.

Beebe explained that much of her usual holiday decorations are stored away in Florida, and when she was asked to do the tour she had to be creative. She said she decided to bring the holidays out in nature, more so than in snowmen and Santa figurines.

"One example is that I used natural birch bark on the table settings and orange slices on the tree. These are things people can do that don't cost a lot of money," said Beebe. "I also have walnuts, cookies, natural branches and vines in the tree."

She said she hoped the tour through her home would show people that holiday décor is accessible and doesn't always have to break the bank.

Beebe also made ice candles and sets them outside of her house in the colder weather. She said the hulled out ice candles are the best ones to set LED lights or candles in at night time.

A Margaret Way house in Gilford, themed "Christmas all Over the House," showed a lot of character and personal touch by the owner Holly Raus. While the owner was not present during the tour, OGC member Jean Vaillancourt explained that the live greenery, swags, and wreathes with holly berries and red bows were created by members, although the owner had some special touches of her own.

"She has a love for Raggedy Ann dolls and always has a Victorian Christmas tree in her living room. In the family room there is a real tree as well," said Vaillancourt.

She also pointed out her loft in the living room adorned with roping, bows, and greens compliments of club members.

"We had three or four people assigned to each home and myself and Sandy Hickok worked on this one. We had a workshop earlier this week and decorated with the homeowner in mind," said Vaillancourt.

A Gilford home on Glidden Road was also on display throughout the tour and referred to as "Christmas at Stonybrook Farm."

The property is owned by Brenda Stowe an includes an apple orchard and pick-your-own blueberry patches. Her mother Miriam Smith stood in as the hostess for the day.

The home dates back to the 1950s and was expanded in 1992, and has a grand view of farm fields and the mountains.

"We wanted to keep the home warm with an authentic country style," said Smith. "Brenda is interested in plants, flowers, and having a comfortable home for her kids."

Smith said a lot of people had already taken the tour through the farm as of Saturday afternoon and said they made sure "to save the best for last."

Smith said the sun came out and the view of the Ossipee range cleared up just in time for the holiday tour.

A home on Pleasant Street in Laconia featuring the theme of "A Grand Victorian Christmas," as well as a home on Andover Place in Laconia featuring the theme of "Hearth and Hospitality," was also a part of the tour.

Proceeds from this year's OGC's Homes for the Holidays tour will go towards scholarships for students entering related programs of study, to club projects to beautify the Lakes Region, and to hosting special guest speakers during meetings.

According to OGC member Barbara Sargent, last year the club sold about 450 tickets for the event. This year they printed out 700 tickets in expectation of higher numbers for the tour. Sargeant said off the top of her head she estimated that the club raised $6,000 last year, and planned for the same target range again this year.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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