Amid all the hustle of the holidays, there is a moment when Christmas happens. It may be the sounds of carolers in the neighborhood that suddenly lifts the heart, the arrival home of a loved one from far away, or the jingle of bells and the twinkle of lights seen and heard on city streets. Or sometimes it’s the simple act of lifting the wreath onto the front door. Scents of sweet cedar and fresh cut magnolia leaves bring a rush of memories of Christmas past.
All Roads Lead Home
There is a stretch of road winding up through South Carolina that makes its way into towns like Fairfax, Allendale, Kline and on into Barnwell. The road passes by schools, centuries-old graveyards and under shadows of ancient live oaks. Small white wooden churches dot the landscape along with rusted, dilapidated tractors and farming equipment, tin-roofed shacks overgrown with jungles of pokeweed and wooden sheds. Tired timbers of old barns moan and groan in the wind as pieces of metal roofing hang on. Weathered brick chimneys surrounded by weeds stand tall in open fields. Miles of abandoned peach orchards go untended, storefronts are boarded up and restaurants closed. Welcome to the South. Like many aspects of our culture, the South is changing. And along back roads the pace slows down. But amongst the ruins are treasures waiting to be discovered. Inspiration lives here – stories and ways that belong to the past.
Fresh Magnolia for a Southern Welcome
As we turned off Highway 3 onto a winding dirt lane lined with cedar trees, it wasn’t long before we came upon a stately white wooden clapboard house belonging to Attorney H. Edward Smith and his wife Terri. The South of old endures here. A storied past lives on and a ghost named “The Lady in Black.” She loves to drop and roll things across the floor in the upper parlor. This sends Edward running up the stairs, shotgun in hand, to take a look. Upon entering the room – never a thing out of place.
A Merry Mansion
Step into this centuries-old South Carolina plantation home, Circa 1843, that radiates Yuletide spirit at its most heartwarming. Fresh fruits of the season and a medley of natural finds greet guests at the front door. Surrounded by a lush swag of magnolia leaves, this welcoming wreath -made of fresh magnolia leaves, cedar, brightly colored fresh oranges and pine cones – sets off the heavy wooden entry.
Home is never more dear to us than during this season of joy and reflection. All is merry and bright as decorations are ready for an heirloom Christmas. No other holiday connects us so deeply to our past through beloved family treasures – and offers such promise to build our own collections and traditions. Whether our ornaments and decorations are inherited or bought, memories are what they display each year among the greenery.
Calm and Bright
A step into the downstairs entry reveals a deep, rich heart of pine walls. Dark-hued wooden pine beams in the ceiling lend ambiance to the splendor of the house. A family portrait hangs over an entry table filled with welcoming cheese straws, pickled okra and assorted snacks, while a butler’s tray is ready to offer libations to all who enter. Each carefully selected accessory of this beautifully bedecked home reflects the bounteous blessings of the season.
History lives here. Isaac DeVoe built this home. Legend has it that he had been an accomplished builder in his native Ivory Coast, was brought to America as a slave, then later freed by his owner, who lived in Charleston. Originally a rice plantation, the rice fields are still visible from the bluff out back and rickety trunks, used to let water in and out of the fields, rest in place.
Deck the Halls
A family table from the late 1800’s, passed down from Terri’s great-grandmother, proudly occupies the center of the dining room. Feelings of peace emanate from this heirloom table with little vases of flowers and touches of celebratory shimmering silver. The subdued palette of the India Tree Spode china and natural accents highlight the season’s distinctive sparkle. Mixed metals, ranging from elegant Old Master Towle sterling silver to casual pewter water goblets and cranberry wine glasses, shine against a variety of candles glistening across the table.
A sterling silver turkey cover becomes a focal point, beautifully displayed on an antique Chinese platter in anticipation of a magnificent dinner to be served. Battenburg lace family linens create a homey feel while signaling a special occasion.
Fresh magnolia leaves set off the hand-carved wooden mantle that forms the focal point of the dining room. Sebrell kept the look understated so as to not distract from the mantle’s splendor. A sideboard holds desserts on little sterling silver platters, delicious and tempting. Perhaps most eye-catching of all are the handcrafted Christmas trees made with sugared fruits. Small pins are used to carefully attach each piece of sugared fruit to a Styrofoam base for an elegant touch to what promises to be a festive array of desserts. To the right of the sideboard is one of Terri’s most precious antiques from her mother: an Italian wall sconce with a cherub holding a shell with varying shades of blue, gold and yellows.
Nostalgic trimmings and fresh greenery adorn the family room just to the right of the entry hall in this beloved home dressed for the season in years of family memories. On the brick fireplace hangs the Citadel sword belonging to Edward, (he’s a 1965 graduate) and, below that, a mounted Confederate shotgun. It once belonged to a family member and confederate soldier and has been passed down through the generations.
On a winged back chair next to the fireplace is a piece of unusual duck hunting jewelry representing years of memories and celebrations. This is Edward’s duck call necklace with 122 bands- evidence of all the ducks he had harvested throughout his hunting career. These small shiny aluminum bands are placed around the leg of a wild duck to gain information on migration and longevity. It is a rare thing to retrieve a banded bird and a real tribute to this hunter.
Cherished collections of antlers from the grounds and shotgun shells from deer hunts, dove hunts, and quail hunts adorn both the wreath above the fireplace and the Christmas tree filled with twinkling white lights. “In all our 49 years of living in this house, our tree has only fallen over once” says Terri. “But one year we decided to place it in the upstairs living room close to the mantle. And that’s the only year it fell, breaking my grandmother’s collection of glass ornaments.” Upon entering the room, the housekeeper said she saw “The Lady in Black” standing by the fireplace.
All Is Bright
The second floor and main entrance to the home reveals a breathtaking entryway flanked by living rooms on either side. In the grand foyer, on a Sheraton antique chest, is a striking Nativity scene. Barely a room in the house goes untrimmed. Another special Nativity scene is displayed on a coffee table, given as a wedding gift to the couple by Edward’s mother.
A tree of a different type sits by the fireplace. It’s made of fresh boxwood and brightly colored oranges to carry out the fruit theme used throughout the home. Yuletide treasures always inspire a spirit of joy and wonder that seems to grow brighter with each passing year. Best of all, though, is that these beautiful touches beckon us to settle in and rejoice in the pleasures of home and hearth, such a welcome respite from the holiday bustle.
Many thanks to Terri and Edward Smith for allowing us into their home for this story.