Interior: Modern Swiss holiday home
Since marrying her husband, Ryan McIntosh, and settling in Toronto with him 10 years ago, Alison has introduced the same customs to her own family, including the Christmas Eve raclette feast – a cold-weather meal somewhat like a fondue, except it involves melting cheese under a tabletop raclette grill and eating it with various accompaniments. “We’ve definitely made it part of our entertaining and holiday tradition,” she says. “It’s fun, and the kids love it because they’re part of it and actually get to cook their own meal themselves.”
Holiday dining room
Alison and husband Ryan McIntosh enjoy a Christmas Eve raclette meal with their three children, Jack, 7, Sam (not pictured), 4, and Sloan, 2.
Handmade Christmas crackers
Beautiful handmade felt crackers embellished with a Swiss flag motif pay homage to homeowner Alison Lovell’s native country. “They’re reusable, and you can put whatever you want inside,” she says. “I fill them with little toys for the kids. Or sometimes at dinner parties, I’ll put small Christmas ornaments in them for guests, who can either decorate our tree with them
or take them home to trim their own tree.”
In the entryway, Sam adds a small ornament to the linen-and-felted-wool Advent calendar, which suits Alison’s natural, simple aesthetic. “We don’t buy the calendars with the toys and chocolate in them,” says Alison. “We have this
beautiful handmade calendar and put little treats in it every day.”
Neutral living room
The living room’s neutral, modern aesthetic is warmed up with natural materials, such as silk and linen, and colourful accessories. Alison created an ultra-modern Christmas tree by cementing apple tree branches (from a friend’s farm in Hockley Valley, Ont.) in a pot and trimming them with a neutral mix of gold, silver and off-white ornaments. With its cozy, clean-lined fireplace, the living room offers a relaxing spot to enjoy a light dessert and after-dinner liqueur like Poire Williams. “Because raclette is so filling, I usually serve something small for dessert, such as chocolate truffles or meringue cookies, which remind me of Switzerland,” says Alison.
Unique gift wrapping
Presents wrapped in newspaper, which creates an intriguing, understated look, are playfully embellished with ribbon and ornaments and are corralled in a stunning Martha Sturdy bowl.
“Because we didn’t have to embark on a massive renovation when we purchased the house, we decided to invest in furniture,” says Alison. In the dining area, which is open to the kitchen, mid-century Arne Jacobsen Swan chairs complement the home’s modern aesthetic and provide a pop of colour. The marble fireplace, where Sloan enjoys a bit of a snack, creates a cozy setting to host Christmas get-togethers or craft Christmas projects (like strung popcorn garlands) with the family.
Modern kitchen design
In the modern kitchen, a few simple festive accessories make a big impact. Placing amaryllis in a vase creates an easy, elegant floral arrangement. A tall vase containing green dogwood branches adorned with teardrop-shaped ornaments takes the place of the usual greenery. “Just using branches offers a little bit of a different effect,” says Alison.
Traditional Swiss raclette meal
For the raclette holiday meal, raclette cheese is put on paddles and melted in a special grill. “With so many specialty gourmet cheese shops around, raclette is easy to find,” says Alison. “I also sometimes use Oka cheese, which melts nicely and is a bit milder than raclette cheese.”
Festive tabletop decor
In the airy, all-white dining area, the couple surrounded a solid oak table with classic Wegner Wishbone chairs. “The table is perfect,” says Alison. “The lines of it are so clean and modern, but it’s a rustic material. And you can sit five million kids around it or you can have a nice dinner party.” The inviting space offers the perfect spot to enjoy a casual raclette meal. Alison sets the holiday tabletop with a festive combo of red and white, including simple and pretty table runners and napkins from her home accessories company, Lovell Designs.
Host a raclette feast
When hosting a raclette feast, Alison offers an array of meats that includes Bündnerfleisch, prosciutto and Italian salami. Along with the essential mini potatoes, gherkins and pickled onions, she also serves more non-traditional items like sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, roasted garlic and olives. “You can add anything that suits your fancy,” she says. “Because it’s such a heavy meal, I also serve a plain green salad and plenty of white wine and hot tea.” Picking everything up at a European market allows for one-stop shopping.