Yuletide with an Artist's Touch

Having an artist in the family added flair as these new homeowners decorated for the holidays.

By Barb Wilson
Photography by Anne Matheis


Condo living in Clayton had been thoroughly enjoyable for newlyweds Angela and Jonathan Ritchie, but it was time for these young professionals to start planning ahead. They envisioned a home in the woods – preferably mid-century modern – where youngsters could play and explore. And they loved the Town and Country area, which also offered an easy commute for Jonathan, marketing director with a major St. Louis-based event marketing firm.    

Searching for property is all in a day’s work for Angela, who’s a real estate agent with Reid Case Group. But that hardly diminished the couple’s excitement when they found just what they were looking for! Lavished with stone and set against a backdrop of lush woods, the ‘50s-vintage story-and-a-half was located in a scenic, private neighborhood and had a wonderful “California/Aspen vibe.” Better yet, it had been renovated by the previous owners in 2010 and required very little updating.  A few changes of paint color and the Ritchies were ready to settle into their first-ever single-family home.

Perhaps the most striking interior feature is a massive standing stone wall that extends the full height of the home, replicating the exterior stone. Wood plank flooring blankets the main and upper levels, and 9-foot ceilings add volume to the open, free-flowing activity spaces.  Upstairs are the master suite and two additional bedrooms, and the finished lower level includes a fourth bedroom, bringing the total living area to 3,500 square feet.

Views from the main-floor deck can only be described as spectacular. Below is a beautifully landscaped, freeform patio with two fire pits that spans the full width of the house. Beyond are the yard’s glorious woods, where a path winds through the trees and a charming footbridge crosses a “creek” bed that handles run-off.

When designing the interior, Angie’s real estate experience was a definite advantage. “I like a simple, eclectic style,” she says, “so I wanted the décor to reflect urban sophistication but still be warm and welcoming.” As a result, much of the furniture came from the couple’s previous condo, some vintage family pieces were added, and Arhaus was the source for many of her new acquisitions.

Finding those all-important finishing touches was no problem for Angie either, and she didn’t have to look far. Jonathan’s mother is Sandra Spotts Hamilton, a multi-talented and well-known Arkansas artist. In addition to painting dramatic abstracts, her credits include writing, teaching, broadcast storytelling and, formerly, project designer for a craft and home décor book publishing company. “Sandra created all of the original artwork in our home,” Angie explains, “and she painted several new pieces specifically for us.”

Obviously a devoted mother-in-law, Sandra also helped Angie to design the holiday décor for the couple’s first new-home Christmas. Working together, they decided on a subtle metallic theme that wouldn’t detract from the home’s architectural elegance. “But I wanted something ‘wow’ for the entry foyer,” says the owner, indicating the wrought-iron railing that lines the main staircase. To achieve the desired effect, they wrapped the handrail in a garland festooned with huge red ornaments and sparkling, twisted silver sprays. Interestingly, the garland’s vivid color actually draws attention to a bold black-and-white abstract canvas that Sandra had created for the adjacent foyer wall. 

    The Christmas tree is positioned in front of a full-length window in the den, which Angie humorously refers to as Jonathan’s “cigar lounge.” Decidedly masculine, this room is furnished with leather club chairs set against a grasscloth wall, an animal hide rug from Arhaus, a dry bar, vintage sconces and a faux African gazelle head (affectionately named “Speedy”).  

An oversize lantern resting on the floor next to one of the club chairs is a memento from the couple’s wedding and trimmed with evergreens, silver ornaments and a metallic bow. The tree itself reinforces the motif with huge glittering snowflakes, gold and silver ornaments and sheer gold-toned ribbon woven among the branches.

Tastefully festive, the silver-and-gold theme enhances the living room’s soft gray/beige palette. Hung from the mantel of the stone-fronted gas fireplace are the couple’s Christmas stockings and a shimmering wreath crafted by Sandra. Simple arrangements of greens, ornaments and clear glass candleholders top the mantel, coffee and side tables and a handsome console table that backs to the velvety gray sofa.

Since the formal dining room already showcased a magnificent gold abstract, the seasonal decorations in this space were kept to a minimum. A modest organic centerpiece, accented with snowflakes and flanked by tall tapers and votive candles, are a perfect complement to the lustrous trestle dining table. 

Crisp and clean with its full wall of built-in white cabinetry, gleaming stainless KitchenAid appliances, and Carrera marble surfaces, the kitchen invited a bit more holiday color. The expansive 4-by-9-foot center island offered plenty of space for an artistic display of multi-colored ornaments, natural and frosted pinecones, hurricane and miscellaneous candleholders, snowflakes, and various other favorite seasonal treasures. A side note, the island also houses a handy microwave drawer, one of the few additions the new owners made to the home.

A quick tour of the upstairs privacy level included the Zen-like master retreat, which features a raised-hearth fireplace and gorgeous wooded views from the corner windows and a small balcony. Another of Sandra’s original abstracts – a spinoff of the foyer canvas – dominates one wall, and rich chocolate brown and Nile green bedding fabrics accessorize the nailhead-trimmed headboard, upholstered in natural-hued linen.

As stunning as it is – inside and out – the home will be undergoing a few changes in the near future, however. Popping home unexpectedly for a lunch break, Jonathan was eager to describe his plans to convert the lower-level entertainment area into a stylish bar and home movie theater.  

More importantly, though, there will be another stocking hanging on the Ritchies’ mantel next Christmas! And odds are, Sandra will be more than happy to help design the nursery. In every respect, this fashionable residence is everything its owners could have hoped for – sophisticated, warm, lovingly furnished, and filled with anticipation for the New Year. 

New furnishings: Arhaus, 314-968-3401
Designer/artwork: Sandra Spotts Hamilton, [email protected]
Reid Case Group, 314-863-7515