Home (Decorating) For the Holidays
There’s a reason Renée Baldwin’s email starts with “moveovermartha.” Her life’s passion is about transforming objects and spaces into something beautiful.
This year, the Baldwins’ Lake Bluff home is being featured on the Historic Christmas Home Tour, benefiting the Lake Bluff History Museum, on December 2 and 3, inspiring Renée to dial her already grand plans for holiday decorating up a notch.
“When my son heard that our home had been selected to be on the tour, he acted confused,” Renée says, surrounded by the greenery and ornaments she’s using to make a dog-inspired wreath for her favorite veterinarian this Christmas. “He said, ‘We don’t even decorate our house.’ And I said, ‘That’s right. WE don’t do decorations—I DO!” she adds with a laugh.
While her flair for the holidays may be lost on her two sons, it is appreciated by any and all who have the pleasure of entering her home during this festive season. “I shop for Christmas all year. If I see something that I love, even if I don’t have a plan for it, I buy it,” Renée explains, showing her year’s purchases organized by color on her basement craft table.
One decoration Renée is particularly excited about is a copper picture tree she bought in 1999. “It’s been sitting in my basement, with the receipt, for more than 10 years,” she adds. “But this is the year—I’m going to put it together.” To a decorating novice, such a project could stimulate an anxiety attack. But to Renée, whose hundreds of pictures are organized into a manageable pile, it’s all in a day’s work. The tree will be a wonderful addition to the numerous family pictures that line the Baldwins’ walls and fill their furniture hutches.
Renée then points out her garland-lined foyer stairwell. “This is a favorite. From the garland, I’ve clipped vintage buttons with ribbons and I’m going to hang our holiday cards from them as they arrive,” she explains. Renée enjoys repurposing items she may have intended for one project but ends up using for another. A lifelong collector of vintage buttons and charms, Renée has integrated her flea market finds into her holiday scheme. “I have hopes for a jewel-encrusted Christmas tree this year…we’ll see,” she says.
While the Baldwins’ decorations may have been more traditional when they moved into their home 15 years ago, Renée’s taste has definitely evolved. “I think I was more about the buffalo plaid and pine when I first started. But now I’m drawn to the glitzy, gilded, earth-tone decorations. It must be because I’m a redhead.”
Renée says Susan Hawthorne, neighbor and owner of Romancing the Home in Lake Forest, is her inspiration. “If I have four layers in a place setting, Susan has 11,” she says, walking through the Winter Wonderland that was once her dining room. With two-foot reindeer as her centerpiece, it’s no question what holiday season we’re in.
Renée’s grand plans will culminate this year with the decorating of the lush spruce tree in her front yard, a tree that surpasses the home’s three stories.
“Our landscaper thought I’d lost my mind when I told him about what I wanted to do, but I think it’s going to be fantastic,” she says with a twinkle in her eye. Renée will inflate 40 clear beach balls and encase them in gold wire. At night time when the tree is lit, it is sure to garner all the attention and admiration of those traveling down Center Avenue in Lake Bluff.
Don’t think you will catch the Baldwins’ holiday decorations on a winter stroll in January. “I believe it’s bad luck to start the new year with the decorations still up. So by New Year’s Eve, this all comes down.”
But the designs for next year’s Christmas extravaganza begin. Martha Stewart would be so proud.
—Ann Marie Scheidler