There’s a teardrop of evergreen laden with ornaments, pine cones and luxurious embroidered ribbon hanging from each end of the fireplace mantel in the Riverside Terrace home of Dr. Jaime Middleton Lawler and her husband, Dr. Theodore Lawler Jr.
It’s a jaw-dropping touch among the contemporary holiday décor that will be on display here, one of three homes featured on the Blue Triangle Garden Club’s annual Christmas Tour of Homes.
This home’s year-round color palette is gray and teal, so for the holidays, they dip into a pool of cheery pink, aqua and lime green along with silver and gold, garden club president Bola Patrick said.
She, Cynthia King and Wanda Kissentaner were at the Lawlers’ home recently to work on the décor. The living and dining areas were done, a sitting room is on its way to being turned into a kids’ version of Christmas, a nod to the couple’s two young daughters, and the kitchen will come last, just before the event on Sunday.
This will be the 56th holiday home tour for the club, which is marking its 80th anniversary this year. Patrick explained that the club was founded by a handful of women who wanted to promote civic appreciation.
For their first tour, they made all of the decorations and floral arrangements themselves. Their tickets were hand-made, on red construction paper.
“People who grew up here remember attending the tour with their moms,” Patrick said. “They came after church and had on dresses and gloves, and the little brothers had to come in their little suits.”
Proceeds will benefit the Blue Triangle Multi-Cultural Center, which was badly damaged in Hurricane Harvey. The building got its start as a branch of the YWCA years ago, when segregation prevented black residents from participating in activities at the main building.
Eventually the Blue Triangle facility became a self-funding, independent organization that provides activities to people of all ages. In the past decade or so, it’s become the place where children in the Third Ward learn to swim in its indoor pool.
Many visitors are tourists who simply stop by to see its famous artwork, John Biggers’ 1953 mural, “Contribution of Negro Women to American Life and Education.” That mural suffered a bit in the storm, too, ending up with a coating of black mold that required remediation.
Charlotte Bryant, executive director at the Blue Triangle, said the garden club’s annual donation and ongoing efforts are vital to the center.
The building already needed a new roof that was expected to cost $300,000, and Harvey’s deluge increased the price tag to $500,000. Bryant is hoping for insurance or FEMA money to help but so far has gotten only promises.
In addition to helping fund programs at the multicultural center, Patrick and her club members say tourgoers will also get some good ideas for DIY projects to decorate their own homes for the holidays. Those Instagram-worthy fireplace-mantel teardrops are stealable ideas for people good at re-creating décor.
Some of the bulbs on the 9-foot tree in the living room have glitter embellishments, and Patrick noted that’s something people can do on their own – or with their kids – using plain bulbs, glue and glitter.
There’s no angel or star atop the tree; instead, it’s a glorious spray of aqua and gold “greenery” studded with gold-trimmed burlap poinsettias, a contemporary twist on a very traditional holiday flower.
The tour’s other two homes are traditional and midcentury style, with the traditional home featuring a lot of red and green, Santas and a live evergreen tree. The midcentury home has a lot of hardwood, so the holiday décor will fit in with earthy colors and rustic burlap.
Every holiday trend imaginable has shown up on the tour over the years, and Patrick remembered one very large home that had 20 trees to decorate.
That’s a lot of elbow grease for the club, which puts a team of seven or eight members on each home for six full days.
Three trolleys will travel the neighborhood, shuttling tourgoers from parking at the R.F. Austin Professional Plaza on Blythewood among the three tour homes. Each year the group sells up to 700 tickets for the one-day event.
Patrick hopes that anyone in need of Christmas cheer will stop by.
“It’s a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternooon,” Patrick said. “It’s festive and a way to experience the holiday and get into the spirit of Christmas. And you can take a break from shopping.”