An Ankeny home exudes holiday tradition in colorful and formal style.
Story by Carol McGarvey
Photography by tim Abramowitz
Featured in November/December 2020
If you’re lucky enough to know Deborah and David Adams of Ankeny, then you know they are saving you a trip to Virginia. Their home at Christmas showcases apple cones topped with welcoming pineapples, along with swags and garlands of fresh greenery, all so reminiscent of Colonial Williamsburg.
The couple, both natives of Waterloo, moved to Ankeny in 2011, when David, an engineer, retired as operations manager of the tractor division of John Deere Waterloo Tractor Works. They moved to be closer to their two children and three grandchildren.
Deborah gives a shout-out to her late father for her love of traditional holiday details. “He and I did the Christmas decorating, and he wired beautiful pine cone wreaths (no Styrofoam allowed).”
As she grew older, she relished the pages of Colonial Homes magazine. “The high point of interior design that appealed to me was the second half of the 1700s,” she explains.
In Waterloo the couple lived in a 1940s Colonial-style home. In Ankeny they opted for a 2005 transitional-style home with traditional details, such as rich dark wood and a two-way fireplace with one side opening into the kitchen. “I was so taken with the kitchen,” Deborah says. “The fireplace clinched it for me.”
The holiday decorations are a lively blend of American, Scandinavian, and blue-and-white china and stoneware items. David has given Deborah a Royal Copenhagen Christmas plate every year of their marriage, 45 years. They are displayed around the walls of a formal sitting room near the front door. “We refer to that room as the don’t-touch-Grandma’s-stuff room,” Deborah says. Decorated in light blue and silver, the sitting room features a winter scene covered with a glass cloche; bowls with white, blue, and silver shiny balls; a small tabletop tree; and snowflake designs.
In the living room a big Christmas tree—all gold in design—sparkles with detail. Deborah earlier had an eclectic tree with ornaments collected during family travels. But now it’s primarily gold and shiny. “I try to shop sales after the holidays for the next year,” she says.
Blue and white details herald the holidays, but the Adamses also enjoy other traditional pieces. Just as at Williamsburg, ceramic Staffordshire dogs decorate the warm and inviting room. In front of the two-way fireplace are a small cocktail table and chairs set for a holiday quiet moment. An apple cone with a pineapple on top adds an elegant and natural touch.
Large bookshelves holding Deborah’s many, many books add a comforting feel. “As a former junior high English teacher, that’s just what I do,” Deborah says. It’s not surprising that a Santa hat-sporting bust of the bard himself, William Shakespeare, guards the books.
The table on the kitchen side of the double fireplace is set for a festive meal. Deborah enjoys using the Spode china that belonged to her mother. She likes to contrast a blue-and-white tablecloth with a plaid runner for the table. Red goblets make the tablescape pop with color.
Other details include botanical prints over the fireplace and a collection of Rowe Pottery pieces from Cambridge, Wisconsin. A corner cabinetry nook displays a Candy Shop, loved by the grandchildren. Vintage cookie cutters, candy canes, and Santa and snowman figures make it a grandchild magnet. Fresh greenery swags and garlands carry out the theme. Other details include a wassail bowl in the corner and a pineapple over the sliding door to the deck.
In open shelves Deborah displays her collection of blue-and-white china. The white kitchen sparkles with holiday details, including oversize white lanterns.
The couple keeps David’s Scandinavian heritage alive in the kitchen. “We make lefse, along with Norwegian meatballs, potatoes, and pickled cabbage,” Deborah says.
“It’s all just so fun. It’s a special time of the year to keep traditions alive.” •