A One-of-a-Kind Christmas in Upstate New York

A staid holiday house this is not! Think tie-dye instead of plaid and fuchsia rather than red. HGTV Magazine takes you inside.

Photo By: Jonny Valiant

Photo By: Jonny Valiant

Photo By: Jonny Valiant

Photo By: Jonny Valiant

Photo By: Jonny Valiant

Photo By: Jonny Valiant

Photo By: Jonny Valiant

Photo By: Jonny Valiant

Photo By: Jonny Valiant

Photo By: Jonny Valiant

Photo By: Jonny Valiant

The House

When it comes to holiday decorating, Betsy Olmsted doesn’t just hang a simple wreath above the fireplace — she finds one made of funky vintage ornaments. She doesn’t just put up a traditional Douglas fir — she dresses a glittery gold tree and caps it off with a homemade hot pink star. The textile designer, known for her hand-painted woodland scenes in neon colors, prides herself on decking the halls in a way that’s as unique as her Saratoga Springs, NY, home.

When she and her husband, Peter, first toured the converted 1890 carriage house, they fell for the way it married farmhouse charm with a modern layout. Plus all the walls were already painted a crisp white — the perfect backdrop to help Betsy’s spunky decorating style stand out. During the holidays, it makes her wildly festive touches all the more striking. As she puts it, “Christmas around here looks quirky and fun, just the way we like it.”

Living Room

Betsy’s tree-trimming formula: lots of sparkle plus oodles of ornaments. This year the family decorated a 9-foot-tall gold-tinsel number by Vickerman with white tinsel garlands and boxfuls of bright baubles. The ’70s leather sectiona l— from an antiques store in Hudson, NY — is topped with tie-dyed pillows that Betsy made with the kids. New this season: patterned stockings Betsy designed with a retro holiday-meets-nature look. The wool rug is from Crate & Barrel, and the hot pink pouf is from HomeGoods.

Christmas Tree

A towering gold-tinsel tree takes the spotlight in the living room.

The Family

Betsy and Peter Olmsted with Emmett, 8, and Wells, 5.

Dining Room

Filling glass lanterns and candleholders with ornaments holidays-up a room in five minutes. This space, used for both nightly dinners and special occasions, features a whitewashed ash table from hivemodern.com, assorted vintage chairs and an old Serapi rug from Betsy’s mom’s family. A starburst light by Lou Blass is festive year-round. “It looks like a giant snowflake!” says Betsy.


The Olmsteds considered painting the paneling white, but the original black color grew on them. They also kept the maple counters along the wall and the soapstone atop the reclaimed-pine island. One small change with big impact: replacing the open, stained pine shelves with black-painted ones and brass brackets. The tree-shaped Advent calendar perched on one is from Target, and the barstools are from Schoolhouse Electric.

Family Room

This cozy room is the place to be during family gatherings, thanks in part to the orange Togo sectional — a prized possession of Betsy’s. After eyeing one for 12 years, she finally got it on sale from Ligne Roset. It’s where the boys like to play Peter’s old Nintendo, hooked up to an ancient TV. “They call it ‘the old-fashioned Wii,’ ” says Betsy. She painted the paneled walls Linen White by Benjamin Moore and had the vintage chair and ottoman (they once lived in her grandparents’ house) reupholstered in striped fabric by Knoll.

Master Bedroom

It’s loftlike thanks to 18-foot ceilings, original wood beams, and a trio of high windows. The low-profile West Elm bed, from a previous home, “works because it’s simple and lets the architecture shine,” says Betsy. The flat-weave Persian rug is from her college days; she designed the quilt with remnants of her own fabrics.


“I think it’s safe to say there’s no other bathroom in town with hedgehog wallpaper,” says Betsy. She designed it herself and painted the unsightly ceramic tile and base of the tub to coordinate with it. She used latex paint in Gentleman’s Gray by Benjamin Moore, a good low-cost move if the tub and shower don’t get much use (if they do, use epoxy paint).

Wells' Room

Wells’ bedroom is steeped in family tradition (wacky reindeer balloons aside). The teak headboards were in Betsy’s dad’s room when he was a kid. Betsy attached them to simple bed frames from West Elm. The spaceship prints by artist Clayton Pond, a friend of Betsy’s family’s, hung in her brother’s room when he was growing up. The comforters and shams are from Target, and the pom-pom blankets are by Shiraleah.

Emmett's Room

Emmett’s bunk bed from The Land of Nod comes in handy when family visits for the holidays. “We don’t have a guest room, so the kids pile in here,” says Betsy. The quilt is made with fabric from her collection with Clothworks. Since Emmett is into nature, at Christmastime they decorate the vintage-style feather tree with felt-animal ornaments. Another cool touch: a chevron rug from a West Elm outlet topped with a tiger-print one from The Land of Nod.

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