I WISH YOU COULD smell this story. The scent of the evergreen-cloaked vestibule is holiday heavenly. Forest greens packed thick up the walls, overhead. Boughs lending shaggy limbs in a hearty and traditional welcome.
“It’s important to bring in the olfactory sense. It’s the strongest sense we have,” says Elizabeth Roberts of the entry hall that packs a real Christmas punch in this family home in Washington Park. “It’s a fun way to transport your friends from where they were to where they’re coming to.”
Inside, poinsettias take it from there, escorting guests through the entrance hall and to all points beyond. In piles and bunches and rows. From streetside to Lake Washington off the back terrace. Subtly huddled on credenzas, side tables, mantels, window sills, birch logs.
“While the décor is simple,” Roberts says, “it had to have an impact.”
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Roberts knows how to fill her home with holiday cheer — and then share it with 300 friends. On a slate-gray morning of heavy clouds and soggy chill, she sinks deep into the cushions of the living room sofa nursing a cup of tea and recalling the holiday party she and her husband, Jonathan, threw four days previous. Friends from childhood, college, boards and charities, the arts, “all our passions,” Roberts says. “Packed cheek to jowl, the way we like it.
“I stood at the door for at least an hour and 45 minutes,” she says. “Greeting my guests is one of the most important things I can do.” Behind her, Sadie, one of two family mastiffs, is flat on her back, napping atop a mound of sheepskin throws and holiday pillows from Target.
“And I got a D.J. My girlfriends really love to dance. Well, for them and myself.”
The Famous Northwest Catering Co. is Roberts’ go-to for food. But there’s a rule about the appetizers she serves. “It’s all about forming relationships,” she says of their parties. “You have to be able to pop the appetizer in your mouth and keep talking. They’ve got to be small. We had quinoa, kale, seafood, mini-Reubens.” Also, of course, bowls of M&M’s and cashews.
Yes, Christmas is fun here. But it’s more than that at the Roberts’ home, a place they found in 1998 and made their own; their “forever house.”
“We’re not a super big present-giftie family,” says Roberts, a fashion designer of women’s outerwear and ready-to-wear by day and mother of three all the time, the kids, ages 12, 13 and 15. “It’s about the gift of what we’ve been given and sharing our blessings.”
Each year the holiday is forever recorded on the walls of the mud room: the family-photo holiday cards framed and hung there.
“The kids, I hope they take away that this is the most fun holiday . . . next to Halloween, and know that Christmas is a very profound and deep holiday.”
Roberts is so adamant about making the holiday personal that she insisted on helping the guy put up the greenery the morning of the party. Even though she’d been out of town on business and worked almost right up until the event.
“This is my life,” she says. “I don’t want to be a passive participant.”
For Christmas Day it’s over the river and through the woods to Sun Valley. The minivan packed with kids, dogs, Mom and Dad.
“It’s all about being together.”
Rebecca Teagarden writes about architecture and design for Pacific NW magazine. Benjamin Benschneider is a magazine staff photographer.