A Cozy Christmas House

HGTV Magazine shows you around this Chicago-area home that, come December, reaches peak comfort and joy.

Photo By: Kim Cornelison (styled by Heather Bullard)

Photo By: Kim Cornelison (styled by Heather Bullard)

Photo By: Kim Cornelison (styled by Heather Bullard)

Photo By: Kim Cornelison (styled by Heather Bullard)

Photo By: Kim Cornelison (styled by Heather Bullard)

Photo By: Kim Cornelison (styled by Heather Bullard)

Photo By: Kim Cornelison (styled by Heather Bullard)

Photo By: Kim Cornelison (styled by Heather Bullard)

Photo By: Kim Cornelison (styled by Heather Bullard)

Photo By: Kim Cornelison (styled by Heather Bullard)

Photo By: Kim Cornelison (styled by Heather Bullard)

So Much Character

Nicole and Brandon Balch’s Victorian home in Oak Park, IL, hits its prime during holiday time. Although icy Lake Michigan gales howl outside, everything inside is snug and festive, from the greenery swagging the original oak woodwork to the Tannenbaum twinkling in the curved front windows. Three years ago, the couple was charmed by the 1890s character of the 3,000-square-foot house, even though Nicole had never been a rah-rah fan of 19th-century architecture. “This place was just so special, it pulled me in,” she says. See more of Nicole and Brandon's cozy Victorian home at Making it Lovely.

Holiday Past Meets Present

While smitten with the meticulously restored period details, Nicole didn’t want the house’s history to dictate the decor. Her game plan: Create a multi-decade mix of bold patterns and fearless colors that’s totally up-to-the-minute––and compatible with the home’s past. With comfy furniture and a meandering layout that encourages guests to circulate, it’s ideal for the holiday shindigs the couple loves to host. There’ll be lots of family at their Christmas Eve brunch and Christmas day dinner because, for Nicole, the more, the merrier. “This house was meant to have a lot of people in it,” she says. 


Located in a historic district, the home was painted in seven different exterior colors by the previous owner. “She did taupes, pink, teal, and purples,” says Nicole. “I love it! It’s like this storybook house I was always meant to own.” 


Originally intended for burning coal, the family room’s fireplace was retrofitted decades ago to run on gas. “It’s great—you get the visual of flickering flames without any of the work,” says Nicole. Brass reindeer from the 1970s found on eBay and a large abstract painting of the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy, loosen up the traditional oak mantel. 

Living Room

The oak shelves and cabinets could pass for Victorian craftsmanship, but they’re new construction. “They totally blend in with the original 1890s shutters and trim,” says Nicole. The black-and-white-striped sofa from chairish.com holds its own against the wall of books, and it inspired the black-and-white-chevron ornaments on the Christmas tree. The rug is by Dash & Albert, and the pom-pom-trimmed pillows are from West Elm.

Home Office

An iron Restoration Hardware secretary, topped with boughs of fresh spruce and Douglas fir, and a utilitarian stool turn a living room corner into a festive spot for writing Christmas cards. Nicole credits the pink and black in the fab.com print—a reproduction of a German educational chart popular in the 1950s and ’60s—for inspiring the home’s color palette.

Family Room

It was a big risk, big reward decision, but painting the walls true black (Black Beauty by Benjamin Moore) made the teal sofa and the floral side chair—both from Anthropologie—look more sophisticated. The graphic gray-and-white rug is from Rugs USA.

Dining Room

In the high-traffic dining room—where the family eats every meal—wipe-clean galvanized-steel chairs from Industry West and a sturdy Pottery Barn outdoor rug keep everything kid-proof. During holiday gatherings, Nicole lays out a dessert and coffee buffet on the colossal 8-foot-by-7-foot mirrored oak hutch, which came with the house.

Master Bedroom

The shag rug from Anthropologie kick-started the coral color scheme in the master bedroom, which teams a Room & Board bed with a walnut side table passed down from Brandon’s grandparents. Thanks to a picture rail that’s original to the house, Nicole can easily change up the art—or hang a holiday wreath. The bedding is from West Elm, and the brass-finish adjustable lamps are from Pottery Barn. 

Eleanor’s Bedroom

Eleanor—a.k.a. the family’s designer-in-training—requested a bedroom painted deep blue (Loyal Blue by Sherwin-Williams). Since the ceiling is also dark, a West Elm chandelier ensures the space gets plenty of light. Horses, one of Eleanor’s favorite animals, were put on repeat: They appear on the Garnet Hill duvet cover and in the secondhand painting above the Target desk. 


The third-floor playroom is splashed with eye-catching prints, from the stripes on the Dwell Studio wool rug to the florals on the drapes that Nicole sewed from Moda fabric. The squishy Land of Nod beanbag chairs are Eleanor and August’s favorite spots for plopping down and reading. 

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