Party at Stacey's
And it Just Happens to be the Holidays
Photos by Wendy Carlson
One afternoon, just weeks before the Christmas season, Stacey Matthews invited professional women of every ilk—designers, writers, and retailers—to her Roxbury home to clink champagne flutes and kick off the holidays. Well, sort of.
“Actually, we do this all the time,” says Matthews, of the impromptu soiree. The holiday season, however, can be an especially hectic time for Stacey, who with husband Pels is co-principal of The Matthews Group, part of William Raveis. “It’s a total myth that the market is not busy here in winter. I think a lot of agents like to spend the winter in Florida and perpetuate that myth,” says Matthews. “But our weekend buyers tend to get their bonuses in December and January, so they want to buy then,” she adds.
So, when not juggling clients or chauffeuring her teen-age twin sons, Brett and Carter, 14, back and forth to The Gunnery, Matthews stays connected with friends by entertaining at her spacious, shingle-style home. The Matthews purchased the house six years ago and commenced renovating and expanding it with entertaining and comfort at the forefront. “I would never have purposely designed a kitchen this large,” she says, of the sunny, planted-filled room where most of the guests congregate. “But I absolutely love it. It’s really much more than a kitchen. It’s an entertaining kitchen and it’s hard to get anyone out of here at parties, so I don’t bother trying.”
Indeed, as bottles of Mionetto prosecco are uncorked and poured and the fromage d’Affionois circulates, the banter swirls from one topic to the next. Taking center stage are tales of holiday mishaps—of a drunk dog, of a toppling Christmas tree, of blizzard-induced sleepovers, and a nine-course dinner featuring sea urchins—those spiny round echinoderms whose edible flesh are its sex organs.
“My husband and I were having Christmas dinner in Provence at a grand hotel with a nine-course tasting menu, which would have been wonderful but every single course had sea urchins. I hate sea urchins!” recounts travel writer, Marcia DeSanctis, whose book 100 Places in France Every Woman Should Go was just released, presumably sans mention of sea urchins.
Designer and author Susanna Salk recalls the year their giant Christmas tree—gloriously decked out on their four-season porch with all the presents beneath—refused to stay up. “We found ourselves up in the middle of the night wondering why—going downstairs revealed that our tree had toppled over, destroying many of the ornaments in its fallen path. Before the boys could wake up, we resurrected the tree, cleaned up the smashed bits, and distributed them as best we could. A few hours later—thud. It happened again. From that holiday forwarded we always made sure to fasten the top of the tree to the ceiling.” To make matters worse, the next week she ran over the remaining ornaments in the driveway.
Holidays can also bring families closer then ever expected. Jessica Travelstead, realtor with The Matthews Group, recalls fondly one close-knit Christmas. “I am one of five children and one recent Christmas we were all able to come home to my parents’ house for the holidays. With all of us spread out with our own families, it is very rare that holiday schedules coordinate. We were all at my parents’ house—grandparents, uncles, siblings, in-laws, outlaws. And I even had a new baby. Christmas night a storm came in, and within a few hours the driveway was drifted over. Of course, there were no plows out. We found ourselves stranded and all had to sleep over. Even my grandparents who lived only twenty minutes away. There was family in every bed and on every couch. My grandfather slept in his tweed jacket in front of the fire. It was the coziest, most special Christmas ever. I felt like a kid again with all of my favorite people under one roof.”
For Cara Hotchkiss, lead designer for Oliphant Design in Litchfield, Christmas is the busiest time of the year. “When I was young, we had very strict rules in my family that no presents were to be opened until everyone was there on Christmas morning. This was agony. Each year I woke at the crack of dawn. One year my mother agreed to let me open one present as long as I promised not to wake my younger brothers. I scrambled around in the dark shaking and sizing up anything that had my name on it. After much deliberation, I decided on the one and ripped it to pieces to find a beautiful red alpine ski suit. I was thrilled. I had it on in minutes and was so excited I failed to notice the sleeves were halfway up my arms and legs were way too short. I ran into my parents bedroom to thank them and express my delight only to discover I had opened my youngest brother’s present.”
But as holiday mishaps go, few can match the story told by interior designer Karen Davis. “My parents were having a holiday party and made a batch of bourbon-spiked eggnog. My mom put the antique English silver punchbowl outside on top of a chest freezer to cool off. Our black Labrador, known for her vertical jumping ability, jumped on top of the chest freezer and drank almost the whole batch of eggnog. The poor dog wasn’t feeling so well after drinking all of that bourbon. He was sort of teetering around the house and we had to keep an eye on him all night.”
As for that silver punchbowl, Davis inherited it. She still uses it for holiday punch, though it’s kept safely out of the reach of leaping dogs.