House Tour Offers Holiday Cheer, Design Inspiration

An estimated 20,000 visitors will pass through five distinctive Geneva homes decorated by five local interior and exterior designers.

For many people, the Christmas House Tour that takes place during Christmas Walk is a cherished tradition for residents of Geneva and its neighbors. Founded in the 1960s by the Geneva Garden Club, the annual event showcases five local designers' holiday visions for five distinctive Geneva homes.

These days, though, that tradition has spread throughout the Chicago area and even across North America. "I got a call from a woman in Arizona who's flying in today to go on the house walk," said Laura Rush, communications coordinator for the Geneva Chamber of Commerce, which now organizes the event.

"I wouldn't miss this for anything," asserted Carol Stream resident Ellen Duke. "It's a great way to start the season and get your Christmas spirit going."

While tour participants could start the self-guided adventure at any of the five homes, many chose to see them in order of their listings in the tour booklet. A line had formed outside the Barber house at 325 N. Pine St. well before the 11 a.m. opening time.

Inside, volunteers took their own quick tour of the house, which had been decorated by Kay Ertmanis, before scurrying to their places. A blown fuse five minutes before the tour opened barely slowed them down, as Rush and Ertmanis efficiently fixed the problem.

Once they finally got to enter the home, visitors oohed and aahed over the silver entryway decorations and the five Christmas trees that filled the home. "I love a lot of Christmas trees," Ertmanis said. "They make everything more festive. In a house with this much space, you need to put up several trees."

Fresh pine swags dominated the décor at the Olson house on Maple Lane. Decorated by The Pure Gardener, the home seemed to revolve around the central blue and silver-themed Christmas tree. "I like the use of natural materials here," commented Warrenville resident Sharon Clevenger. "It wasn't overdone. Everything was elegant but simple."

Different types of Christmas trees accented the Humbert house at 1569 Fargo Blvd. In Eaglebrook subdivision, including a bedroom tabletop tree crafted of white feathers mixed with peacock plumes. The great room emanated Christmas spirit, with a tall tree, pine bough-decked fireplace and a deer-themed pine arrangement covering the coffee table. "This is nice and homey," said Ro Heller of Warrenville. "I could see myself living here."

Possibly the most architecturally impressive home on the tour is the Dangles house at 1010 Hawthorne Lane. Built in 1921, the large Italianate home boasts such elegant amenities as a solarium with a built-in wall fountain and a wall of Romanesque arched windows. The décor, done by Floral Wonders, reflected the home's character by using classic silver and mauve trimmings in Edwardian motifs.

"I just love the house. It's so historic and romantic," said Christine Aschbacher of Spring Grove, just south of the Wisconsin border. "Spring Grove is mostly new development, so we don't often get to see gems like this. That's what makes it worth driving down for the house tour."

The oldest house on the tour, the Birkett home at 221 S. Second St., is also the smallest. The 1896 shotgun-style bungalow has just 1½ bedrooms and a kitchen that's smaller than most homes' entryways. But its period furnishings and traditional holiday trimmings, designed by Scentimental Gardens, made it feel warm and charming.  "I wouldn't be able to live here because it's so small, but I don't want to leave because it feels so comfortable," one visitor remarked.

After touring all five homes, most visitors returned to the First Congregational Church of Geneva, where they picked up their tickets, to sip tea, eat homemade cookies and browse the tables of handmade Christmas decorations and holiday snacks. The tables filled quickly with cheerful people discussing what they'd seen on the tour.

"This really gets you into the holiday spirit," asserted Barb Brauer of Aurora. "I'm always on the lookout for design ideas, and the decorations are so unique that I can't help but be inspired by them."

The Christmas House Tour will continue from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Tickets cost $30 apiece and are available at the First Congregational Church, Fourth and Hamilton streets.



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