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Homes for the Holidays

Independent Presbyterian Church kicks off 74th annual tour

Take it from Paige Albright, who has served on the committees for more than a decade: the annual holiday home tour hosted by Independent Presbyterian Church takes a lot of dedicated people to make the magic happen – and it has for the last 74 years. As the church’s largest (and most festive) fundraiser, this beloved tour hasn’t missed a single beat for almost a century. Now, after a few virtual “pandemic” years, the all-volunteer team is excited to host the tour in person again. 

“I supported it going back to being in person,” says Teri Borders, tour chair for 2023. “People got used to it being virtual, and it’s a process of getting the homes ready, but I’m so excited to be back in person. It’s such a tradition.”

More than a tour

At the heart of the IPC Holiday Home Tour, initiated by the women of the IPC, is supporting various area charities. Between the generous volunteers and the homeowners, overhead is kept low to allow more opportunities to give. “It’s part of the ministry of the women of the church, and our proceeds [from the home tour] go to women and children in difficult situations, including First Light, Stair of Birmingham and Community Ministries,” Paige says. “It’s special and iconic and a tradition for so many people in our community. It’s one of those things we want to keep going, as our oldest fundraiser in the church.”

The process 

Homes for the tour are selected from the numerous fabulous houses around Birmingham and its environs, and Teri and Paige point out that the tour organizers strive to keep each year unique and each home distinct in its own way. 

“We start the selection process early in the year; our committees discuss it,” Teri notes. “We try to get church members to volunteer their own homes, since it’s hosted by IPC, but we also search for architecture and design that appeals to a wide community. This year, we have a house that you’d see in Architectural Digest – very modern. That was the first one we picked. Then we picked a more traditional home. And we have one from the historic Hollywood area of Homewood. All three are different.”

Each home on the tour has a team of “hostesses” to greet tour-goers and share stories about the abode and notes on its design. The holiday decor of all residences on the tour is far from thrown together; instead, expert designers create a beautiful, artful vision to uplift tour-goers and prepare their spirits for the season. 

“The homeowners, along with their designers, decide how they want their home to look for the holiday season,” Teri says. “ Each house has its own chair, and that person works with the homeowners and the volunteers on the logistics. They essentially serve as liaisons.”

For Mark Kennamer, the designer who prepared Doug Klick’s home for last year’s tour, it was a fun challenge to blend his own idea for holiday glamor with the appearance of the house. The final results included, among other highlights, an elegant dining room and living room spread with accents from Alabama’s great outdoors and a kitschy display of Doug’s nutcracker collection. 

“Doug collects nutcrackers, and he’s accumulated so many that the stairwell was the best place to put them,” Mark says, smiling. “We also used a lot of natural elements . . . wild greenery, amaryllis, things like that. We of course love big bows and shiny things, but we set everything off with natural elements. I love to decorate for the holidays at my own house, so we had a great time doing this together.”

Plans for 2023 and beyond

Though in the past, tours have spanned two days — a Saturday and Sunday in early December —  the first post-Covid tour is Saturday only, December 9. But the packed itinerary includes three homes, all decked out for the season, plus a sanctuary tour and a ticketed tea party at the church. 

“In years past, for the tea, the ladies of the church would make homemade cookies and tea and play Christmas music, and it would be more of a drop-in setup,” Paige says. “Now, it’s more like a formal afternoon English tea, and it’s seated.” 

As for the big 75-year celebration next year, Teri shares that the IPC women are hoping to put together a commemorative book about the tour’s evolution and significance throughout the decades. While it will be a challenge to wade through scores of pre-internet fodder, Teri feels it would be worth it. 

“The notes are typed on a typewriter or handwritten so it’s harder, and things were mailed out, not online,” she says, “so we will have to spend time going through all that, but it would be neat to have the history of all the homes in print.”

Tickets for the IPC Holiday Home Tour are $40 for touring the three homes and $75 for touring the three homes as well as the church tour and the tea party. A bus travels back and forth from the church to the homes, allowing tour-goers to easily enjoy all components of the day. 

“This tour offers holiday decor, great architecture and landscaping,” Paige points out. “We have church-goers and design enthusiasts alike who attend.” 

Visit ipc-usa.org/holiday-house-2022.html. 

At the heart of the IPC Holiday Home Tour, initiated by the women of the IPC, is supporting various area charities.

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