Call it "Christmas Immersion." The Design House, tucked in beside the Old Lucketts Store, a 138-year old restored general store, which is usually home to antiques and vintage finds, has been fully transformed into a winter wonderland.
The Lucketts Store has been holding Design House events for more than a decade. Throughout the year, shoppers can peruse the house to discover seasonal decorating ideas with the home’s signature blend of old and new furniture and merchandise. As the staging events gained popularity, business partners Suzanne Eblen and Amy Whyte thought it seemed natural to do a Christmas-themed house. They had no idea that it would turn into an annual extravaganza drawing shoppers from miles around looking for a nudge to get into the holiday spirit
As Amy describes that first year, “We started off small with usual mix of furnishings in a house decorated for Christmas. But even with only a small amount of Christmas inventory actually for sale. It was wildly popular -- so much fun to host that we decided right then that we would go all in for the following year.”
The second year was even more popular, with multiple hour-long waits just to get in. The crowds were more than the house could hold and all of the holiday merchandise was gone in record time. “That year took us by surprise,” explains Amy, “We really had to rethink how we would manage the Holiday House.”
They were no strangers to event merchandising. The partners already had moved their gigantic Spring Sale to the Clarke County Ruritan Fairgrounds because it had outgrown their Lucketts space, but they wanted to keep the Holiday House in situ so it would be an immersive experience, fully decorated from porch to post.
Making that happen is a year-long affair. Just as most of us are taking down our trees and packing away garlands, Suzanne and Amy head to a major holiday retail show in Atlanta to start their buying for the subsequent holiday.
“We have always bought with our hearts – only what we love. We don’t buy anything just because it’s trending unless we think it’s incredible too,” says Amy, “As we’re shopping, I see themes developing. My brain pulls all the inventory together: these ornaments and ribbon go together. Those colors are all working together. That way, when we see other merchandise that coordinates, it’s an easy 'yes.'”
“When we get home, I sit down and make a crazy little map of the house filled with notes that makes sense to me like, 'cream and light green,' or 'buffalo plaid and black labs.' I scribble away in a journal and then I tuck it all away until the late summer," Amy adds.
Purchases start arriving by May and continue through the summer. By August, the back-up signal and air brakes of a delivery truck can elicit groans. Says Amy, “We don’t just buy one or two boxes of something we like; we get eight or nine pallets!”
Amy and Suzanne shop auctions year-round for the antiques they sell at the Lucketts Store, but by summer are looking for old sleds, skis, and skates as well as large dining tables and consoles that can be used for staging holiday merchandise in the rooms of the farm house.
By September 1, the house has a fresh coat of paint and new wallpaper. Amy likes to lay the foundation by arranging furniture first, then trees, then garlands. She favors tall and skinny trees so she can pile on the ornaments and still have room to display heaps of items for sale. She’s gifted at layering different kinds of merchandise together: stacks of holiday mugs next to soft felt ornaments surrounded by baskets of velvet ribbon and boxes of colorful bottlebrush trees. Displaying the holiday haul takes up every day from September through mid-November.
This year, the house features multiple rooms with traditional red and green décor, one dedicated to camp-Christmas and several others featuring nature-inspired and multicolored schemes. Dog, horse and bear lovers will delight in the details.
Make the Holiday House one of your Christmas traditions. Its quintessential farmhouse Christmas is guaranteed to put you in the spirit.
If you go…
Reserve your timed tickets. Tickets ($25) must be pre-purchased online and are not available at the door. Once in, you may shop as long as you like though visitors may be limited to two per room.
To keep staff and other shoppers safe, plan to wear a mask while in line and the entire time you are in the Design House.
Dress for the weather because there’s plenty to see outside. Consider layers and wear comfortable shoes. There are steps in the house and part of the fun is taking photos in front of the murals or warming up by the fire.
Look up and down in each room. The Design House uses every available inch, so you might find a treasure stacked in a basket under the tree, or strung from the ceiling. If you can’t find what you’re looking for – ask. The staff can pull stock as needed.
“People love our rooms because they are over the top and our trees are full.” To recreate the Lucketts look, buy multiples and repeat elements, like using the same ribbon on the tree and wrapped around candles.
Enjoy the experience. Set a relaxed pace and take in the sights, sounds, and smells to get into the spirit.
www.luckettstore.com, 42350 Lucketts Road, Leesburg, VA 20176