The Art of Living: Christmas at Designers’ Homes Across America

Story by Lyda Kay Ferree, The Southern Lifestyles Lady. Photography courtesy of Schiffer Publishing. Designers: Christopher Radko, Mary Helen McCoy, Pam Kelley and John Lyle.

Patricia Hart McMillan has a 20-year career as an author, interior designer, and editor in New York City. She has a degree in art history and English literature, and she graduated from the New York School of Interior Design.

She has published 18 books. Her book entitled “Christmas at Designers’ Homes Across America,” published in 2016 by Schiffer Publishing, was’s #1 best seller/residential architecture in November 2016! She is best known as co-author of “Home Decorating for Dummies.”

Two of her celebrity interior design projects are as follows: fashion designer of Oleg Cassini’s historic Grammercy Park house (added his fabrics and wallpapers) and the New York City penthouse of Frederick Haviland, legendary Haviland Limoges porcelain (He relocated from an historic house in Ulster County, New York).

McMillan’s work has been published in magazines, books, syndicated columns and blogs. Her work has been featured in the “New York Times,” “Wall Street Journal,” “Parade,” “USA Today,” “Architectural Digest,” “House Beautiful,” “the Designer,” “Good Housekeeping,” “Meredith Magazines,” and books. She has been quoted on HGTV’s on-line site. In addition, she is a guest expert on interior design on talk radio and TV shows. Her editorial work includes the following: design and remodeling editor at two New York City-based national magazines, editor-in-chief, “20/20 Magazine,” and Special Sections Editor of “The Star-Ledger,” the 13th largest US newspaper.

If you are not yet in the Christmas spirit, you will be when you open the pages of the lovely book entitled “Christmas at Designers’ Homes Across America,” co-authored by Texas designer Patricia Hart McMillan and her daughter, Katharine. The book features holiday vignettes, both indoors and out, from 22 leading designers. Unlike Patricia’s previous holiday books, this book opens the doors to private residences. You will see Christopher Radko’s Christmas decorations, many of which date from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (I adore my Radko Christmas ornament of The Peabody Hotel as it reminds me of my years spent working in this special historic hotel in Memphis, Tennessee.)

“The New York Times” dubbed Christopher Radko the Czar of Christmas Present because he reignited the love that millions have for vintage Christmas tree ornaments. Says Radko, “My ornaments grace the trees of stars including …Dolly Parton, Elton John, Oprah Winfrey, Julie Andrews and Beyonce. In my earlier years, Hollywood collectors of my ornaments included Katharine Hepburn, Gregory Peck, Lauren Bacall, Jimmy Stewart, and Elizabeth Taylor. Across the ocean, even England’s Queen Mother added them to her Christmas tree.” His favorite is “any ornament that brings a smile to someone’s face.”

At the other end of the decorating spectrum you will visit a Jackson, Mississippi home, an ultra-modern space that finds inspiration in Elvis Presley for a “Blue Christmas,” even sharing a recipe for a matching signature martini (Recipe included in this article.).

From breathtaking entryways to opulent living rooms, “Christmas at Designers’ Homes Across America” delights the imagination with tips and inspiration for a joyous season. “Seeing the homes of designers on these pages has convinced me that some things cannot be downsized,” says Patricia. “And Christmas is one of them!”

The fact that designers are willing to share their homes at the most magical time of the year is really quite wonderful. It’s glorious! It’s an expression of love from them. Not only do they express love for their family, but they’re willing to share that love.
— Patricia Hart McMillan

VIP: Why did you write six Christmas books?

Patricia McMillan: Magazines had begun to ignore Christmas! Historic houses kept the faith! All are dedicated to Jesus Christ.


VIP: Why did you write the designer book on Christmas?

PM: Christmas décor by designers is a labor of love. Most of the designers were happy to send images. Others were delighted to photograph their homes. I am an interior designer. The book created much publicity for all of the designers and photographers who conducted their own signings!


VIP: What do you love about Christmas?

PM: The fact that this event is a mass celebration of Christ, light in an increasingly dark world. The atmosphere—LOVE is in the air! Lights and decorations are visible symbols of Christ’s singular teaching—LOVE, the most productive of all emotions.


VIP: What is your decorating style?

PM: Traditionalist, which invites you to walk in. Contemporary is more head than heart. It is objective and it treats a room as an object invites you to look in!


VIP: Talk about the colors of Christmas.

PM: Color is a language full of meaning. Red and green are life colors. Red signifies blood and green equals growth. They are most meaningful colors full of mystery and excitement, creating yin-yang since red stimulates and green soothes.


VIP: Was it difficult to select the designers you wanted to feature in your book?

PM: No, I had already seen their work. I knew some personally. I could see their style, how they approach interior design, and I could get an idea of their following. I knew some A-list designers like Joe Ruggiero from New York City and Cecil Hayes from Florida and I saw others’ work on Facebook.


VIP: What Christmas trends are you seeing now?

PM: The biggest trend is toward MORE celebration! Over the past 8 years I’ve seen MORE of everything Christmas! MORE decorations and lights are in the store. There are MORE and more beautiful decorations at the entrance to gated communities in San Antonio, where I live, which explains why I’ve seen fewer decorations for sale at Salvation Army and Goodwill. Early on in my life I found stacks of Christmas plates and loads of ornaments. NO MORE!


VIP: Do you prefer the traditional Christmas designs or the modern glitzy designs?

PM: I’m a traditionalist. Traditional design, particularly interior design, is much more subjective. By that I mean it’s the interiors that invite you to walk in. Contemporary design, like Japanese design, is highly intellectual. It’s more head than heart. It really does invite us to look at rooms as though they were an object. We don’t necessarily feel warm and we don’t necessarily want to walk in. We just want to look at them. I don’t think that’s the purpose of home. The purpose of home is to be present, be in the room and for the room to serve us, not vice versa.


VIP: Are you seeing a trend toward the use of vintage ornaments?

PM: Vintage is forever. The biggest surge of interest in vintage was created by Christopher Radko. He became a sensation overnight when he began reviving his ornaments. The list of collectors of vintage ornaments including the Queen of England gives you a glimpse into the heart of America. Every once in a while marketers try to bring in contemporary as the ‘something new’ and it lasts for 20 minutes and then it’s gone again. But the ornaments per se, there is something for everybody.


VIP: Do you have more Christmas books in the works?

PM: Three are scheduled for fall 2018 release: “Christmas by Design” (whole-house features by interior and other designers), “Christmas at Vintage Texas Homes” (many in San Antonio, which celebrates its Tri-Centennial in 2018) and “Bright Ideas for Christmas” (vignettes of areas usually decorated; i.e., mantels et cetera).


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What to Know

Patricia Hart McMillan’s books are available on “’Christmas at Designers’ Homes Across America’ was a number one best seller last Christmas when it was introduced and it continues to sell well because it is evergreen,” said McMillan. “That is true of all of my Christmas books and I’ve done six. Others are about Christmas at historic homes. It is always inspiring to read about what others are doing or have done to build their homes, communities and their nation. Designers’ homes shows what designers are doing to make their homes and their communities more beautiful. Designers’ lives are about beauty.”