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House tour: Simple and chic holiday cottage

House tour: Simple and chic holiday cottage

Soft neutrals and natural accents cozy up this holiday cottage Author: Janis Nicolay

House Tours

House tour: Simple and chic holiday cottage

Nestled in the woods of Langley, B.C., this family home conjures up party-ready Christmas cheer with soft neutrals, natural accents and twinkling lights.


Ice cream cake in December? You bet – especially if you’re at the Carlaw residence. As anyone born in December knows, birthdays can be overshadowed by Christmas, but not here. Designer Sydney Carlaw, her husband, Vance, and older daughter, Jessica-Rae, 11, pull out all the stops to ensure that the youngest family member, Jolene, who turns nine on December 11, celebrates both occasions with gusto. “We have a special tradition, thanks to Jolene,” says Sydney. “We invite friends over for a birthday-Christmas celebration, complete with her favourite ice cream cake.” The venue, the family’s 1,660-square-foot 1970s-built house in Langley, B.C., is less than half the size of their previous home, but they were happy to trade interior square footage for five secluded acres. “When we moved in last year, we wondered how we’d fit everyone in at our annual bash,” says Sydney. “But the intimacy makes the party even more fun.”

The intimacy and that welcoming, cozy vibe weren’t something this house always offered. Its dark cedar walls, laminate floors, stucco ceilings and cramped kitchen didn’t fulfill Sydney’s desire for a relaxed space with a clean-lined country feel. So the designer embarked on a two-year renovation, which netted a fresh kitchen, as well as a backdrop of smooth ceilings, light-coloured cedar walls and wide-plank oak floors that make the small space feel expansive.

 

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House tour: Simple and chic holiday cottage

Start the party early

"We have so much cedar and pine on the property that I went a bit nuts and even decorated the gate and fence,” says homeowner and designer Sydney Carlaw. “It looks pretty and puts guests in a party mood before they enter the house.”

Image by: Style at Home By: Christy Wright Source: Janis Nicolay

House tour: Simple and chic holiday cottage

Outdoor inspiration

A wreath made from faux antlers complements the living room’s serene colour scheme while parlaying subtle holiday charm.

Image by: Style at Home By: Christy Wright Source: Janis Nicolay

House tour: Simple and chic holiday cottage

Festive corner bar

One corner of the kitchen serves as a bar area when the family entertains. Sydney likes to arrange glasses of wine here so guests can help themselves. A bowl of shiny Christmas baubles and star decorations on the wall introduce a festive feel to the spot.

Image by: Style at Home By: Christy Wright Source: Janis Nicolay

House tour: Simple and chic holiday cottage

Small accents

Sydney let the new interior dictate its holiday embellishment. “I have a rule of thumb for Christmas decor: It should match the house,” she says. “Red and green and lots of glitz wouldn’t work in our home, which has a pared-back, rough-hewn look.” The ornaments, a mix of rough-hewn burlap baubles, glass balls and glittery stars, reflect the home’s neutral palette and let the greenery pop in the pale space.

Image by: Style at Home By: Christy Wright Source: Janis Nicolay

House tour: Simple and chic holiday cottage

Spruce up the wrapping

Sydney holds a present wrapped in paper she customized. “I love kraft paper and often use it as gift wrap. This year, I decided to stencil it for a change, but I also like it plain,” she says.

Image by: Style at Home By: Christy Wright Source: Janis Nicolay

House tour: Simple and chic holiday cottage

Go with real and fresh

A noble fir Christmas tree has pride of place in the living room. “I can’t emphasize enough how much I love the smell of a real tree in the house,” says Sydney. “We serve eggnog, put on our favourite Harry Connick Jr. holiday album and begin the decorating.”

Image by: Style at Home By: Christy Wright Source: Janis Nicolay

House tour: Simple and chic holiday cottage

Light and bright

Layers of soft colours and textures create a quiet energy in the dining room. For the holidays, Sydney softened the chairs with sheepskin throws and repurposed a white faux pine wreath as a centrepiece. The chandelier is crafted from whitewashed wooden spindles and plays on the home’s rustic vibe.

Image by: Style at Home By: Christy Wright Source: Janis Nicolay

House tour: Simple and chic holiday cottage

If it's perfect don't fix it

The original stone fireplace cozies up a corner of the kitchen. “This is such a lovely spot, it doesn’t need very much embellishment,” says Sydney, “just some twinkle lights and evergreen boughs.” The built-in bench is a popular perch when the family entertains during the winter.

Image by: Style at Home By: Christy Wright Source: Janis Nicolay

House tour: Simple and chic holiday cottage

Family traditions

“There’s something so special about decorating with heirloom ornaments,” says Sydney. And that’s not the family’s only ritual. “We also have a Christmas morning tradition where, before opening gifts, we prepare a tray of warm croissants and orange juice to take to enjoy by the tree.” It’s something they all look forward to in the weeks leading up to the holiday. In the meantime, December is all about family, friends and the birthday girl’s ice cream cake.

Image by: Style at Home By: Christy Wright Source: Janis Nicolay

House tour: Simple and chic holiday cottage

Every detail counts

Even pastries out on display match the white rustic theme throughout the cottage. Displayed on a small tray these cookies will be a must-eat at the next party.

Image by: Style at Home By: Christy Wright Source: Janis Nicolay

House tour: Simple and chic holiday cottage

A welcoming host

Sydney welcomes guests to her intimate country home.

Image by: Style at Home By: Christy Wright Source: Janis Nicolay

 

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House Tours

House tour: Simple and chic holiday cottage