Image: Francesco Lagnese
How celebrated Manhattan-based designer Shawn Henderson channels Sweden in the stunning decor of his upstate New York country home all year long.
Instead of suspending the stockings from the fireplace mantel, Shawn Henderson, a designer and homeowner based in Manhattan, N.Y., hung his from the ceiling, drawing attention to the exquisite exposed-beam detail that plays to the home’s 19th-century provenance. “The stockings fill the wall, almost serving as a piece of art,” says Shawn.
Shawn cites rustic Swedish style as his holiday inspiration. He selects plenty of natural materials and fresh blooms, generally avoiding anything that screams “holidays!” “I don’t set out a lot of festive seasonal decor,” says the designer. “And what I do set out is basic, but it’s pretty.”
A lover of spare and clean minimalist decor, Shawn takes a pared-back approach to the holidays with several rooms receiving no festive flourishes. The entryway stays the same, save for a few presents set out on a bench to grab en route out the door; the master bedroom in the background is also free of any tinsel and bobbles.
Two stems of white amaryllis set in a simple white vessel add a dose of freshness to this living room vignette. Throughout the house, various winter white blooms in similar arrangements add subtle cheer.
“I love entertaining,” says Shawn, who honed his skills while working at his parents’ popular pub throughout his teens. Shawn’s two main tips? Have an assortment of cocktails and refreshments ready for guests the minute they walk in the door, and offer pre-dinner snacks.
This fabulous farmhouse kitchen is also super functional. A Dutch door lets as much light and air in as the homeowner (and weather) permits; open shelving stacked with dishes makes it easy for guests to help themselves; and a sculptural sconce above the sink shines the spotlight on cleanup.
A marble-topped bar-height table serves as the kitchen island. Set on casters, it’s a lesson in convenience: It rolls out of the way to accommodate large dinner parties (which is key, since Shawn often hosts his five siblings and their spouses and kids, as well as other family and friends for the holidays) and serves as a buffet area to keep feasts off to the side.
Danish designer Arne Jacobsen’s classic Drop chairs add a dose of Mid-Century Modern to the rustic elegant kitchen. The hits of black, echoed in the sconce, cabinetry pulls and perimeter countertops, ground the otherwise light and airy space, making it cozy and inviting despite its high ceiling.
Open to the kitchen, the family room becomes a holiday hub when Shawn hosts. In this great space, friends and family gather to cook, eat, chat and watch movies. And it’s not the standard holiday viewing fare: Instead of It’s a Wonderful Life, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and A Christmas Story, Shawn shows Oscar screeners (thanks to friends in the entertainment industry).
This cozy alcove off the living room serves as a perfect spot to store outdoor wear or to escape from the crowd and curl up with a good book. The style elements are simple and functional: Baskets under the bench offer organized storage while plush cushions make this a space in which one might want to linger.
Shawn’s fur babies, Gus the Yorkie-poo (on the left) and Alfie the schnoodle, love the rural Hillsdale, N.Y., vacation home just as much as he does.