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Go Tell It on the Mountain




Soaring cathedral ceilings allow plenty of room for majestic Christmas trees, glittering with LED lights. (LED, or light-emitting diode, lights prevent the trees from drying out too quickly, Miller says.

Soaring cathedral ceilings allow plenty of room for majestic Christmas trees, glittering with LED lights. (LED, or light-emitting diode, lights prevent the trees from drying out too quickly, Miller says. And to boost the moisture in the air, Miller tucks humidifiers under each tree.)

Stockings adorned with gold trim and jingle bells line the mantle, waiting to be filled with festive treats.

Some of us use the holiday season as an excuse to experiment, to try over-the-top glitz and glitter or string lights from the rooftops. Others, like Connie Miller, take a softer, more thoughtful approach.

Miller, owner of a Vail Valley-based property management company, thinks of holiday decorating as an extension of a home's year-round style. And in this grand mountain retreat, which she helps the homeowners decorate each year, Miller seamlessly integrates big doses of Christmas cheer into the home's existing design scheme—so seamlessly that you would
not be surprised if the owners celebrated Christmas all year.

“We choose colors that would be part of the decorating that we've already done,” such as deep reds, muted golds and warm white tones, Miller says. She and her team take into account textures, finishes and scale, just as they would when selecting the home's more permanent furnishings. And the elegantly cozy results perfectly match the home's rustic setting and refined charm.

Classic Christmas touches are everywhere. Poinsettias and amaryllis, accented with ivy in carefully cultivated pots, add natural elegance. Gold trim and jingle bells embellish stockings and pillows. Fresh Christmas trees enliven nearly every room. Spiced potpourri scents the air. And Santa Claus figurines add a jolly, personal touch throughout the home. “The homeowner loves Santa Clauses,” Miller says. “We collect them from all over the place.”

Miller and the homeowners display other holiday collections as well, and each room has a motif. The media room features snowmen placed whimsically throughout the room. The great room hosts a tribute to the Twelve Days of Christmas, with little lords a-leaping, golden rings and turtledoves counting out their ranks along the tops of the cabinets. The turret, with its circular architecture and rock-ledge molding, departs from the rest of the home's design. Here, the room reflects Mother Nature's take on Christmas: bears, reindeer, skiers and other outdoor-themed goodies charm the space.

Rather than relying on the traditional bright red (and green) to tie the holiday themes together, Miller creates continuity from room to room by emphasizing the home's most dominant color: burgundy. She adds burgundy bows on wreaths and reindeer, burgundy ribbons to adorn the trees, burgundy stockings on the mantle, and burgundy blossoms here and there to complement the home's rugs and upholstery—a shining example of how holiday design becomes a natural extension of the home's interior.

It's as important to consider scale when decorating for the holidays as it is when creating an interior design plan, Miller says. And in such a big house, bigger is usually better. The wreaths over the fireplaces are as wide as the very substantial chimneys, and most holiday accessories have heft to match the home and its furnishings.

And the trees. Oh, the trees.
It goes without saying that at Christmastime, a home's focal point is the tree. In this home, there are four. They're massive—between 12 and 20 feet tall—drawing the eye upwards through the gracefully-adorned branches to the intricate tree-toppers, and up to the home's cathedral ceilings. The trees are so tall that they're magical, appearing to rival the soaring pines that surround the house.

The homeowners want each tree to sparkle with “tons and tons and tons of lights,” Miller says, so she uses string after string of LED Christmas lights to turn up the brilliance. “We wrap each branch all the way into the center and all the way up the trunk, which is not the most fun job in the world,” she says. But the results are worth it.

On snowy, winter nights here, with the home's lights dimmed, the Christmas-tree lights sparkle from deep within the branches, giving the trees—and the home—the perfect seasonal glow.

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