Walk into Jerry and Mary Helen Masters’ house in December and you will think you’ve been transported to the epicenter of holiday spirit. The doorbell plays carols, and from the holiday décor on the outside to every last corner indoors, Santa and rules a home full of seasonal adornments. Even the owners have lost track of how many Saint Nicholas pictures and statues they own.
The front porch has a decorated tree, and the foyer holds a small commode with German glass ornaments and candy dishes. Beyond this is one of the Masters’ rare color punctuations in their decor: a floor-to-ceiling faux arch in royal blue which leads into the kitchen, also royal blue.
The home is predominantly white inside and out, leaving the couple plenty of opportunities to indulge in their love of vibrant colors, antiques and Christmas items.
A large pearl-gray couch in suede is angled around a glass cocktail table in the living room that displays a collection of glass holiday trees. The full-size one, a 7-foot tree with family ornaments collected over the years, stands nearby.
“We designed the circular rugs in the living and dining rooms and kitchen, and had them made locally,” explains Mary Helen. ”They all feature overlapping circles in vivid shades of red, blue, green and gold, reminiscent of balloons at a circus.”
Mary Helen needle pointed a sofa cushion to match them. She’s also done a Santa cushion, of course.
The dining area nearby has a larger glass table displaying more trees — metal this time — with a jellyfish chandelier above. The chairs pick up the red, green, gold and blue of the rugs.
Against one wall is what Jerry termed a hunt board buffet in dark wood, holding Santa miniatures from Japan and Germany dating back to pre-World War II. Above this hangs a large oil portrait of Santa, executed by a cousin.
Underneath, a candy-filled Santa drives a sleigh pulled by reindeer. Beside a slider leading to the pool area hangs a Finch tapestry depicting Saint Nicholas.
In a nearby hall is an unusual Santa created in mola, the intricate embroidery from the San Blas Islands. This shares wall space with the jolly old man rendered in watercolors, prints, drawings and other media. Jerry points out a large frame nearby containing antique Christmas postcards.
“We had four such frames,” he recalls, “but we downsized when we came here from Ohio.”
Jerry was a school administrator and Mary Helen ran the family business in appraisals and estate sales.
“I try to laugh about it now,” she confesses, “but ‘Antiques Road Show’ put us out of business.” They still have their own extensive collection, however with some pieces dating back to the 1700s.
Off this hall is a guest room with a star on the door—Mary Helen fashioned it of large-scale buffalo-plaid gingham in red and white, the same material used for the bed coverlet. Its entertainment center has shelves devoted to Christmas.
“Here’s a 1860s Santa of mica and paper maché,” explains Jerry. “There are also Russian stack dolls of Santa, a tree and other holiday objects.”
“This is only a third of what we had,” Mary Helen adds. “We sold most of it in Ohio. It represents 20 years of collecting.”
The office next door contains an antique music box with 15-inch discs playing carols. A couch in a plaid of intense primary colors doubles as a guest bed. There are Inuit prints of loons from Alaska on the walls, and a miniature train set steams away to deliver holiday gifts.
“The little Austrian bentwood rocker and highchair are very old,” says Mary Helen. “They belonged to my mother around 1906 and each generation of the family has used them.”
A Corian-topped bar with two stools fronts the kitchen, with white cabinetry and of course, two dozen Santas and stuffed dolls on the plant shelf currently.
“It’s a small kitchen, but I did insist on two dishwashers because we like to cook and entertain,” explains Mary Helen. Another practical touch: beautiful blue tiles used as a backsplash that can be removed for cleaning.
The master bedroom’s relaxing slate-blue walls show off wicker furniture and a crocheted bedspread in white. Toss pillows in needlepoint by Mary Helen show off bright accent colors. On one wall is a Battersea shadow box, resembling a printer’s drawer with tiny compartments that hold a variety of collected miniatures in wood, china, glass and metal.
The television cabinet opposite the bed plays a DVD which simulates a fireplace, to add atmosphere to chilly Florida nights. The cabinet display Christmas: reindeer of mercury glass and milk glass from days gone by. The master bath features an enormous assortment of ornaments and Christmas tree toppers.
With such a welcoming holiday atmosphere, there’s no question that Santa stops at this home on Christmas Eve.