All the Christmases past come to life just inside Gail Reeder’s front door. It feels like the fast paced world goes away as soon as your eyes begin to take in how life might have looked more than 100 years ago. The greenery and berries, Santas and stockings, and old ornaments on the tree create the perfect atmosphere to celebrate this most important season. She brushes the warmth and beauty aside, and simply says, “My home speaks to me when I walk in the door. I love it, and it loves me.” Being surrounded by things she loves just makes her happy. The stories flood her eyes and voice as she looks around and begins to talk about how her home is actually a part of her memory bank. Every piece in every room is a part of the story, and she remembers it all, starting with the first piece she bought in 1979. But her love and appreciation for old furniture began even before that when she was a little girl.
Gail remembers as a child watching her father build furniture. The homemade beauty and simplicity spoke to her even then. She loved watching her dad fashion the dove tails, and the square nail pegs to hold the wide planks of wood together. Even then, as young as she was, she appreciated the craftsmanship and love poured onto a piece of furniture when it was made with chisels and hewn with pride right in the workshop. It felt warm and inviting, which is exactly how her home feels today, so many years later. That childhood is still a part of who she is and it’s woven into every nook and cranny of her home. It invites you in to sit a spell and just be. In a world of racing here and there, it’s a respite worth noting. When you add the Christmas greenery and berry flavor to the mix, you expect Old Saint Nick himself to call out to you from the sitting room.
And the primitive beauty is a part of the love story between Gail and Larry, which began back in October, 1986. Back then, they collected Oak, but soon started weeding it out and changed to primitive style furniture and accessories. Larry worked at the post office and Gail at the bank, but every spare minute was spent traveling near and far in search of the furniture and eye candy that welcome each visitor to Gail’s home today. Gail talks about their excitement when they would find the next piece that called out for them to take it home. Sometimes they would have to ask a friend to bring this or that home for them because their truck wouldn’t haul it. Other times, they’d borrow a trailer to bring home their latest treasure. Either way, they loved every minute of it, because it was more than just a hobby, it was their life together. Every time they had a vacation day, or just a weekend off, they’d set off on their next adventure. Larry looked for crocks and stone, and Gail had an eye for dough bowls and of course many other items; she has firkins (stacks of sugar buckets), old coverlets and quilts, baskets, and just about anything else you can imagine in a primitive home with a colonial flare. When Larry was suddenly taken with a stroke in February, 2013, all the years of love and traveling to search for antiques and primitives became even more cherished memories. They all surround Gail each day and whisper joy and happiness. Each piece brings back the adventure of when they found and bought it at this or that place, some near, and some very far. In so many ways, because of how life’s road leads us through bends and circles, they keep some of Gail’s most treasured moments very much still alive in her heart.
And this late November afternoon, when I came to visit, Christmas had just come to life in the Reeder home. I scribbled in my notebook trying to capture Gail’s thoughts the best I could, and soaked in all the beauty and ideas my brain could hold. Check out what I found below.
Even the outside of Gail’s home invites you to remember that Christmas is all about warmth and glow, and that sweet feeling we get when we remember our own Christmases long ago.
When I asked Gail what gave her the inkling that “Primitive with a Colonial Flare” was the style for her, she smiled and said that it was her dear and life long friend Grecia Dunn Williams who introduced her to this style she loves so much. She remembers Larry and herself leaving Grecia’s home after a gathering, and feeling almost tearful in her longing for the atmosphere and beauty of Grecia’s primitive style. Larry told her that they would begin collecting one piece at a time, and so they did. And like Larry, Grecia has also left this life, but Gail cherishes the reminders of both of them in every room of her home.
Gail’s neutral pallet allows her to create many color schemes that could change as often as she wants.
I asked Gail how she determines which items make the perfect vignette. She focuses on balance, symmetry, color scheme, and then texture, with at least three different textures in each gathering. For example the one above has wood, cloth, and stone. Next she pulls the color scheme, this one focusing on tans and reds, and then adds greens or florals. It’s hard to imagine that the beautiful vignettes that Gail creates begin with this simple thought process each time. But after she told me that, I began to notice, and the pattern is evident throughout her home.
It’s amazing how much greenery, berries, and cones change the look of a vignette. They make Christmas come to life everywhere they are placed.
Above is Gail’s guest bedroom, with Frosty sitting a spell.
The guest bathroom is beautifully decorated as well. I loved the wash table with old mirror and soaps. Add a Christmas towel and greenery, and you are finished.
After studying these photos, it makes me realize that just adding the greenery and berries changes the whole feel of the room. It makes an already inviting room feel cozy and warm.
The sitting room was one of my favorites. The “colonial flare” is throughout the house, but never more so than in this room. I’ve been to Mt. Vernon many times, and this room made me feel like George Washington might just join Santa to sit and relax.
Gail’s bedroom is another masterpiece, and the Colonial Flare comes through very strongly in this room as well. Her way of arranging and pulling color schemes together create a timeless look and invites relaxation.
The laundry room – above – has it’s own bit of Christmas as well.
Because she’s collected so many years, Gail doesn’t add much these days. She’s out of room, but she still loves to attend the shows and just be in the atmosphere.
Back to the living room for perfect examples of symmetry, wide boards, and textures to create the perfect Christmas vignette. Maybe it’s my favorite too.
Pictured above, Larry’s recliner is the only piece in the home that isn’t within the theme of primitive with a colonial flare. It was Larry’s recliner, and Gail loves it because it makes her feel close to him. I think it fits perfectly with the memories, stories, and atmosphere that flows through her home.
And when you think you’ve seen it all, that there is no more Christmas left in the world because Gail has captured it all right in her home, then you find the back porch. The patina, the red berries, greenery and vintage boxes and bowls bring everything to life.
Gail, thank you for allowing me to experience a little of the Christmas magic that you created this year. I hope I told your story well and I also hope that your memories continue to bring you joy and comfort right through the cold winter ahead. And to you the reader, I hope that you are inspired to go out and create your own memories and vignettes that help tell the story of your life. I wish you many seasons of warmth and joy. -Pat