Stepping into the log cabin family room of Melanie and Bob Sabelhaus late 1890s Federal-style estate home in Green Spring Valley is like walking back in time. There may be no stately gentlemen drinking port, but during the holidays the ghosts of the past are in attendance as guests at the Sabelhauses annual party stand atop tables and sing “The Twelve Days of Christmas” into the early morning hours.
“The house moves you into the spirit as soon as you walk in the front door,” says Melanie Sabelhaus of the elaborate holiday display she creates annually with her husband, Bob, and floral designer Jeffrey Conti, owner of nearby Pinewood Farm.
On the day after Thanksgiving, the Sabelhauses begin the process of decorating seven special rooms in their home. To start, they travel to Green Fields to find the biggest and fullest Christmas tree— hopefully one that stands at least 15 feet tall— for the log cabin room. “I better have a big tree,” says Sabelhaus. “I have a lot to hang.” Antique, glass and porcelain ornaments adorn the tree as well as a cherished family collection of tiny violins, harps and stars passed down from Melanie’s mother. Other special decorations have been collected around Darien, Conn., and Nantucket, where the Sabelhauses have additional homes.
Reminiscent of an Adirondack lodge with its huge timber beams, the log cabin room or “Christmas room,” as it is affectionately known, is the heart of the home during the holidays. Above the mantelpiece overflowing with lush greenery from Norway spruce and silver fir trees is a moose trophy that evokes a resplendent outdoor feel. A roaring fire, candles and the twinkle of Christmas lights cast a warm glow. “It feels like Santa Claus could be right there next to you,” says Sabelhaus.
In the conservatory, a garland of evergreen magnolia leaves hangs from the ceiling and dresses the fireplace mantel, which holds a centerpiece abundant with pine cones and leaves. Other festive touches in the room include creamy white poinsettias and bare branches of willow, silver maple and star magnolia in the two vases standing upon the mantel. Welcoming guests into the center hall are two red-capped toy soldiers that flank the entryway. An ornate table with golden touches takes center stage with jolly Santas, tiered candles and a tall arrangement of red osier dogwood, ilex berries and white pine.
By the first week in December the Sabelhauses decorating work is complete. “I want to enjoy my home,” Sabelhaus says. “I want the entire month to be nothing but Christmas.”
Jeffrey Conti, 410-877-7082
Green Fields Nursery & Landscaping Co., 5424 Falls Road at Northern Parkway, 410-323-3444, http://www.greenfieldsnursery.com