The Garden Club of Long Beach Island Hosts 52nd Annual Holiday Tour of Homes

By PAT JOHNSON | Dec 13, 2017
Photo by: Pat Johnson Michele Farias (left) and Suzanne Abbiati were chairwomen for the ‘Vintage Masterpiece’ house in Beach Haven.

The 52nd annual Holiday Tour of Homes presented by the Garden Club of Long Beach Island was held on sunny Dec. 7. For many on Long Beach Island, the tour is a holiday tradition, a must-attend treat for family and friends.

Not only is the tour a peek into some of the fabulous homes on LBI, but ticket holders are invited to partake of a lovely luncheon at the Brant Beach Yacht Club. They could also purchase garden-inspired crafts and art at the Holiday Boutique held at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church. This year, the five homes donated for the tour event were by homeowners in Barnegat Light, Surf City, Ship Bottom, Brant Beach and Beach Haven.

Starting in the fall, each home was visited by a garden club committee headed up by one or two chairpeople who took stock of the rooms they were allowed to decorate, and planning went on from there. Members then met over months to create holiday decorations or to start acquiring antiques and decorations from family and friends to be able to turn the homes into winter holiday wonderlands.

On Nov. 1, members attended a holiday design workshop taught by national flower show judge Teddie Falcone at the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences in Loveladies. Lastly the members purchased fresh greens and flowers, and made the fresh flower arrangements that would last for the weekend. Some greens would last through the holidays if homeowners wanted them to stay.

The dependence on long-lasting greens, swags, wreaths and roping this year made for fewer fresh flower arrangements but added to the overall Christmas and holiday tradition.

In the historic district of Beach Haven, a restored “Woody” station wagon and Crown Cola ice chest beckoned visitors to the new house on Norwood Avenue built to historic district specifications. Susanne Abbiati and Michele Farias co-chaired the “Vintage Masterpiece.” Throughout the house the navy and white color scheme was enhanced with the addition of red pillows and decorations. The Christmas tree in the great room was loaded with silver and white balls and oyster shell angels.

Club members Chris Vohden and Irene Bausmith found new and beautiful purposes for the lowly oyster shell. Besides the oyster shell angels, they made oyster shell “trees,” and oyster shell “flowers” to decorate greenery.

Red roses, hydrangeas, white mums and blue eucalyptus stems made for simple but elegant arrangements in a variety of holders, including whitewashed wooden whales.

Tourists found fun inhabitants in two of the bathroom showers: a dress form covered in collected LBI beach badges and a 1920s era wooden cutout of a beach flapper.

The laundry room was enhanced with a string of brightly colored mittens, and an oversized vintage bubble gum machine held colored Christmas balls in the recreation room. Outside, tree branches held birdhouses and ornaments made of seeds in an antique salt-glazed pickle jar near a bright red painted sled. Re-purposed wood pallets cut to tree shapes were outlined in colorful 1950s outdoor bulbs.

The house in Brant Beach is known as the “Lighthouse Reflection” for the lighthouse-shaped office space on top. House tour visitors waited in the carriage house for the doors to be opened and commented on how wonderful the weather was for the house tour. Unlike this day of sunshine and seasonal warmth that climbed into the 50s, tours in the past have occasionally been cold and windy, even rainy.

Inside, the house is appointed in dark cherry-wood flooring, furniture and built-in bookcases. Many porthole stained glass windows depict gulls in flight and lighten the dark interior.

Club members Debbie Ayers, Kathie Friesen and Joanne Mitchell served as chairs of this home and had “so much fun decorating,” said Ayers. Joanne made the silver lighthouses that decorated the real Christmas tree and also the letters spelling out “Noel” on the bookcase. In the corner of the living room they set up for Santa’s break with cookies for him and carrots for the reindeer.

Just so we’d know we were by the beach, a surfboard was decorated with lights and a pineapple wore sunglasses and Santa hat in a boy’s bedroom.

Another fun touch was the cupcake stand with carnations in paper holders standing in for the real desserts.

Throughout the hallways, each clear window held fragrant wreaths made of grapevine, dried orange slices, juniper branches and locally sourced sand dollars.

The dining room table was set for with blue ribbons and pine cone chair swags, a runner, and a centerpiece in holiday greens and white roses.

The next house, in Ship Bottom, was a dainty treat titled “Bandbox Perfection.”

Rosemary Fallar welcomed visitors into the kitchen entrance and explained the room has a cardinal bird theme with images of the winter visitor on pillows and ornaments. Fallar had created a boxful of water glass arrangements holding red Peruvian lilies in fresh cranberries.

On each level of the house – there are four –the owner had decorated with tasteful collages of dried flowers and organic materials. She also made pillows reflecting the holiday season in her crafts and sewing room. A taste for simplicity pervades this charming home with simple swags adorning the bedsteads and tree ornaments made with buttons and bows.

A vintage print of a girl and dog frolicking in a snow sled is one tableau in a bedroom alcove. In another vintage toy room, Santa checks his list for naughty and nice boys and girls.

From the sublime to the expansive, the next home, “Seaside Escape,” takes up three lots on the bay in Surf City – one reserved for the volleyball court.

A polished aluminum Airstream was parked in the drive with Santa in the driver’s seat. The Craftsman style house includes seven bedrooms, each with its own radiant heat bathroom, a bridge linking the guest wing and an outdoor living area complete with infinity pool and outdoor kitchen and cabana.

The great room incorporates the kitchen, dining area and sitting room with fireplace, adding to the “lodge” ambience. Over the huge dining table, which could seat 20, was a rustic circular chandelier that the garden club team led by Diana Barbieri and Mary Stevens had swathed in greenery. The kitchen arrangements on the counter were wooden pineapples (symbols of hospitality), also in seasonal greens. Nautical antiques, including the largest red and green kerosene boat lights ever collected, flanked the variegated stone fireplace. Wooden boats held table arrangements of greens, shells and glass fishermen’s floats while succulent gardens were planted in large clamshells.

The most talked-about feature, though, was the upside down Christmas tree made entirely of natural hydrangea stems. This hung in the bridge leading to the crow’s nest. The ceiling was made from cedar reclaimed from the original house on the site – to prove it, the owners left a bottle cap from a Rolling Rock beer bottle embedded in one plank.

Bedrooms were simply decorated, one with a wooden pallet “tree.” Another was the “Grinch” bedroom with a Grinch-face facsimile imposed on a small lifeguard chair.

A bedpost made of rope gave the impression of a swinging bed, and one of Linda Ramsay’s bicycle paintings served as a focal point above the bedstead.

Last but not least, the “Beach Memories” oceanfront in Barnegat Light had a contemporary feel. The reverse living home made the most of the sweeping views of the dunes and ocean from the living room. In this space, greenery arrangements again held sway with small flowers of yellow bupleurum and blue thistle as accents. “We wanted to keep it natural like the dunes,” said house chair Joyce Hillyar.

Judy Hack decorated a predominately white and blue bedroom with a natural Christmas tree decorated in beaded fish and rhinestoned starfish.

In the combined dining and kitchen area the colors red and white held court with a fleet of glass hurricane shades filled with pine cones surrounded by greens and a few blooms arrangements, sailing down a massive table. The table was made from bleachers salvaged form the Hun school in Princeton, we were told. In the corner of the room the red and white Christmas tree was pretty, and the fireplace was swathed in greenery, including hanging strands of amaranthus.

The biggest surprise in this house was the indoor pool and two-story atrium that could be viewed from above from the kitchen-dining room. This feature was decorated with lush red poinsettias.

Lunch at the Brant Beach Yacht Club was catered this year by Foodies of Harvey Cedars and offered delectable finger foods both savory and sweet. And being served tea or coffee from silver pots by garden club members was an added sophistication to a lovely day spent in perfect surroundings.

The tour is the biggest fundraiser of the year for the club, which promotes education in gardening along the shore with ecologically and sustainable methods and plants, teaches plant care and offers local scholarships.

A hint for those who have never been able to purchase tickets to this event: check the Garden Club of Long Beach Island website frequently starting in October 2018. 




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