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December 2009


FEATURES

Where the Lovelight Gleams
By Liz Arnold
Photographs by Nancy Hill

A STOP ON THE HOMES FOR THE HOLIDAYS HOUSE TOUR GETS DECKED FOR THE SEASON

Click on any photo for a larger gallery view.

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WREATHING EASY
(click photo for larger view)

"I've always loved interior design," says Claudia S. Harris, M.D. "I've been a devotee for many years." And yes, that suffix is for medical doctor, not "master of decorating," though by the state of her New Canaan house come Christmastime (and off season, for that matter), you could joke that it stands for the latter. Last year, Harris, who, along with her husband Roger, has renovated four of their own residences, enlisted interior designer and Pimlico co-owner Melissa Lindsay to deck her current Georgian-meets-Art-Deco-meets-David-Adler home in a Gatsby-esque 1920s theme she calls "Deluxe Christmas."

"It's kind of the golden age of the kitschy, fun, colorful festive decoration," she says. And nothing was so precious that the couple's three kids, ages 6 to 12, and two puggles couldn't play: Vintage busts in the living room sport glittery, colored beaded garlands, and a pair of Staffordshire dogs observed the festivities in party hats.

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Harris, a psychiatrist, is personally and professionally committed to aiding community-based charities. She is the medical director of the Westchester Arc Clinic, a nonprofit in Hawthorne, NY, but she's also actively involved in the Homes for the Holidays House Tour presented by the Newcomers Club of New Canaan. The biennial benefit (this year it will take place on December 4) pairs a local homeowner with a designer, and all proceeds go toward charities in the area. Harris has served as decorations designer, art director and, in 2007, a chairperson.

Harris, inspired by these house tours, has always enjoyed decorating her "Christmas lab." Last year, renovations on the six-bedroom were finally complete. She and Roger had bought their 1980s brick house because of its Georgian façade and classic proportions, as well as its symmetrical formal entry hall with double-curving staircases. Harris knew it would lend itself to renovations in the style of David Adler, whom she loved. Maybe she sensed, too, that when those staircase railings were looped with fresh spruce garlands and accented with chartreuse ribbon, mercury-glass ornaments and patinated silver birds, they'd be like open arms welcoming guests to the holiday home. She knew it would work in all seasons.

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Harris enlisted architect David Dumas—also an Adler fan—for the renovations. Dumas added classic details such as moldings, transoms and arched doorways. In true Adler style, each room has a theme: The living room features plasterwork like a French salon, the family room is a 1920s Mediterranean great room, and so on. Harris turned to interior designer Scott MacNeill for a few to-the-trade items, but mostly she decorated with antiques as well as contemporary and vintage furnishings bought locally and online.

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