A Vancouver family home gets a holiday makeover for a charitable cause

During Rhea and Jed Friesen’s first Christmas in their new home, their holiday decorating was given a big boost when they agreed to be part of Homes for the Holidays, a seasonal house tour on the west side of Vancouver with proceeds going to benefit Kids Help Phone.

The tour also inspired the Friesens.

“Traditionally, our family of four has escaped the cold and rainy weather and spent Christmas abroad,” says Rhea. “Homes for the Holidays inspired me to spend the extra effort at home. As the kids get older, I want to create Christmas memories with them.”

Rhea consulted with friend and interior designer Margot Jagger, who was tasked with transforming the home for the tour.

“We were starting fresh in many ways with their holiday decor,” says Jagger. “Rhea and I, along with a team of our friends who volunteered to help, spent a week getting the house just perfect.”

According to Rhea, one of the key elements in the transformation was incorporating real greenery.

“For me, it’s really the greenery that makes it,” says Friesen. “It transforms a home – it’s the sight, smell and feel of the outdoors.”

Jagger adds that there is no substitute for the real thing.

“My preference is always real greens; there is nothing better than the smell of fir trees, but if you can’t do real greenery, cheat with Frasier Fir candles or room spray,” says Jagger.

The nine-foot tree in the living room, as well as the rest of the home, was decked with turquoise, silver and white. Precious ornaments belonging to the Friesens were also incorporated.

“Each holiday season, I decorate a number of homes and I always start with a key colour that will guide my decorating decisions,” says Jagger, who chose turquoise for the Friesens as “a dramatic contrast to the home’s subdued grey and white tones.”


(Left) Whimsical centrepieces using mini artichokes and asparagus spears. (Right) Incorporate real greenery when possible to bring the outdoors in. (Images: Tracey Ayton)

“I love to choose bright and less predictable colours like turquoise, purple, chartreuse or orange,” says the designer. “I steer clear of any red and green combinations, but on their own they can be fantastic.”

And, adds Jagger, “Christmas definitely deserves some glitter, whether gold or silver.”

The home was awash in silver, turquoise and white from the silver containers in various shapes and sizes housing white amaryllis and paperwhites to the tiny turquoise baubles hanging from manicured myrtle trees in mercury-glass containers.

Unexpected pops of green and orange were added using fresh produce from Southlands Nursery owner Thomas Hobbs.

Hobbs wanted to do something totally different by creating whimsically unconventional displays out of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Personalized ornaments make for unique bobbles. (Image: Tracey Ayton)

For the dining room table centrepiece, he fashioned a globe out of mini artichokes and placed groups of asparagus spears in turquoise and silver pots dusted with sugar. On the sideboard, a ball of mandarin oranges was arranged in a sparkly turquoise dish.

“In lieu of traditional Christmas crackers,” says Jagger, “each family member’s place setting included a small boxed gift tied with a white organza ribbon and a glittery bird perched on each plate.”

Meanwhile, the kitchen table was set for a casual Christmas morning breakfast. White baubles were used as place markers with each family member’s name written on them.

Massive pine cones sprayed silver and dusted with glitter were used to form a runner on the kitchen table. Burlap placemats and matching tree skirt for the mini noble fir tree next to the table were a rustic juxtaposition to the kitchen’s white cabinets and polished-marble countertops.

While the living room tree was the pièce de resistance for Rhea, one of the highlights for her kids was the mini tree in the kitchen decorated with iced sugar cookies.


Rhea and Emma make holiday baking a tradition, like these sugar cookies with homemade icing. (Image: Tracey Ayton)

“My daughter, Emma, loves to decorate and entertain,” says Rhea.

“She helps me do everything from decorate the trees to holiday baking.”

This year Rhea and Emma are set for mother/daughter time in the kitchen creating their own sugar cookies.

Jagger shares a great trick for transforming your favourite gingerbread and sugar cookie recipes into Christmas tree decorations: “Over bake them and make a pinhole to tie ribbon through before cooking.”

Originally published in BC Home & Garden magazine. For regular updates, subscribe to our free Home and Garden e-newsletters, or purchase a subscription to the magazine.