Home for the Holidays

Gifts that make the sweet home sweeter.

Couples & families in the area take “home for the holidays” literally by giving gifts to the home. Here’s a few ways that local residents forego traditional gifts for ones that outlast the season.

Kitchen Fit for a Claus

For many, the kitchen is the heart of the home––the place for greeting, eating, coffee drinking and calendar keeping. The gift that keeps on giving would be one for the cooking quarters.

“I love to cook so we’ve remodeled our kitchen to make it ours,” says Regina Lee of Suamico, who worked with Katie Wagner, owner of The Tile and Stone Gallery in De Pere to create a kitchen of her dreams for she and her husband, Jim.

In 2009, the couple upgraded their 10-year-old, third-generation space to a gourmet style kitchen that now features special touches that would make Mrs. Claus jealous.

The Lee’s kitchen has taken on a whole new form with new Wolf appliances, countertops, hardware for the cabinets and a backsplash of diamond patterned Harlequin mosaic tile.

“It was the first year we decided to celebrate with non-traditional gifts,” says Lee.

Bedroom Benefactions

The holidays bring tidings of new bedroom furniture for Tom and Amy Zickert-Vandenberg of Allouez.

A piece made from an exotic material called Zebrawood caught their attention. The wood grain consists of light and dark tones creating the look of zebra stripes. “We’re thrilled with the Zebrawood bedroom set we picked out and [Amy’s parents] purchased for us from Ethan-Allen in Green Bay,” Zickert-Vandenberg says. “We will always cherish this special gift.”

In 2009, Rob Zelazoski of Greenville also purchased something from Ethan Allen as an anniversary present for his wife, Stacy. “In the past, we would purchase a piece of furniture and indicate that it is for our birthdays, anniversaries or Christmas for that year,” Zelazoski explains.

Last Christmas was no different, as he purchased a home furnishing for the couple’s home.

The piece is a brushed-nickel, top glass, side-cube table, which is situated in the spare bedroom and holds the Zelazoski’s wedding picture.

Stacy and Rob describe their tastes as modern and contemporary, yet functional, and the side-cube happened to be the final piece in that particular room.

Natural Selection

It’s the Jeff Des Jardins of the world who defy the ghost of last-minute gift-giving husbands’ pasts.

In September he selected a natural patterned wooden bowl for his wife, Darlene, from Wisconsin Arts Gallery & Framing in Allouez. “It just caught my eye,” says Des Jardins. “I try to select things I like and think she will like for our home.”

In the past, Des Jardins has purchased porcelain figurines, art pieces in the shape of birds (Darlene is an avid birdwatcher) and a handmade basket from a South Dakota Indian reservation. “I look for items that will last,” he adds.

Barbara Shakal, owner of Wisconsin Arts Gallery & Framing, says that contrary to popular belief, husbands like Des Jardins are not such a unique oddity. “It’s nice to see couples come in and select gifts for each other they can enjoy together,” she says. “We often see couples picking out items early in the year and placing them on layaway in time for the holidays.”

Diane Gerhard, owner of Homestead Décor in Bellevue, also works with many customers who are looking to buy keepsakes gifts for their homes. “Living room wall pieces are quite popular, along with treasured furniture,” she explains. “Items such as lamps, foyer chests and clocks are also common.”

November is one of the busiest months for couples seeking special gifts for their homes, but there’s always room to accommodate those who procrastinate.

“Another popular trend are those who wait until a few days before or even after the holidays to let their significant others come in and select something special,” Shakal adds.

Home Is Where the Holiday Is

For the holiday season, the Neenah home of Judy and Tom Owen is dressed with ornaments, fresh greens, pendants and Christmas decor. In what seems to be a permanent trend, decorating the house for the holidays is as much of a gift to the home as it is to the homeowner.

Each year, Judy consults with designer Tom De La Hunt at The Wreath Factory downtown Menasha.

Whether it’s the office, kitchen, hearth, hallways, foyer or front door that De La Hunt is showering with fresh greens, pendants or Judy’s collectables, the decor is a gift to see. “It’s a gift to myself, the family and everyone we have in during the holidays,” Judy says. “Our two children are grown but come home for the holidays. I want it to be a special place. I buy what I like and [De La Hunt] makes magic out of it.”

The centerpiece of their two-story great room is a large, artificial wreath over the fireplace. “The wreath stays the same but the accessories change to give it a fresh look,” Judy explains. “I pick out bits and pieces that I really love and I have no idea how [De La Hunt] puts it together!”

“The Owens share the holidays and the home with their families and friends,” adds Da La Hunt. “When it’s beautifully decorated, you can just sit and take it in.”

So whether you’re a planner or late gift-giving bloomer, give a gift that last longer than the season.

—By Samantha Andrews & Alison Fiebig

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