Spend the holidays with Lauren Liess, and you'll come away with a whole new outlook on the "perfect" Christmas.

By Sally Finder Weepie
October 30, 2020
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Agonizing stress, it seems, comes with the season. We have to search for just the right gift, labor over just the right meal, stress over each and every strand of tinsel. Or maybe we don't. "A relaxed attitude toward perfection has led me to some serious contentment," designer Lauren Liess says. "My favorite thing about Christmas is just taking time off with my family. We like to keep things simple."

A festive arbor frames a family moment shared by Lauren; husband Dave; sons Christian, Louie, and Justin; and daughters Gisele and Aurora.
| Credit: Helen Norman

Lauren layers unfussy holiday warmth over a Great Falls, Virginia, home already rooted in the beautiful simplicity of plaster and wood.

Credit: Helen Norman

"We loved this house from the moment we saw it," Lauren says. "We just did a bit of renovation to lighten it up and make it our own." A new glass front door opens to the entry's terra-cotta flooring, now white-glazed instead of visually heavy red clay.

Strands of hardware-store lights wrap around evergreen shrubs, a garden arbor, and the roofline of the welcoming home perched on a hill near town. "We like to do lights on the house so other people can enjoy them," Lauren says.

Credit: Helen Norman

In the entry, a basket of cedar boughs and a trio of topiaries speak to the heart of Lauren's holiday decorating strategy. "I love to just use picked or growing greenery," she says. A concrete table by Currey & Company contrasts a vintage mirror and pops of greenery that Lauren placed strategically.

Family dog Fawn finds a cozy spot in front of the fire.
| Credit: Helen Norman

Poinsettia sprigs, tucked in water tubes, festoon the living room mantel. The tree, too, is fresh, carefully chosen from the lot on the nearby village green. "We put up the tree early; there's no waiting for the day after Thanksgiving," Lauren says. "For us, the Christmas season means spending time around the tree. We play the Carpenters' Christmas album nonstop. I've danced to their Christmas Waltz since I was a kid, and we're still dancing."

Memories dangle on each tree branch, connecting the generations. "My mom gives the kids ornaments every year," Lauren says. "She started that tradition with me when I was a kid. When I grew up, I had enough ornaments to fill a tree. And just look at it now!"

Credit: Helen Norman

A corner of the living area features one of Lauren's favorite finds, a collection of vintage botanical studies. She complemented them with a magnolia wreath, an old olive oil jar she bought for her shop but ended up keeping for herself, and an antique captain's chair upholstered in mohair velvet.

Gisele shares a secret with sister Aurora on the original wood staircase, which Lauren draped with fresh greenery.
| Credit: Helen Norman

The kids laugh and jostle over the annual "Christmas pickle" game, a tradition for the Liess family whether it's truly part of German tradition or not. "We hide a pickle ornament deep in the tree after it's decorated," Lauren says. "Whoever finds it gets a little prize."

Credit: Helen Norman

The vintage goose ornament, a gift from a friend, celebrates the family's love of geese. "We got two new baby goslings this past spring, Love and Story," Lauren says. "They're like members of the family."

Credit: Helen Norman

Waterproof plaster in the bath shrugs off splashes from the copper tub. The wreath is by Studio McGee.

Handmade pottery by Lauren Liess for Wareclay teams with vintage glassware, stemware, and flatware.
| Credit: Helen Norman

The whole house, in fact, is filled with gaiety on Christmas Eve, when Lauren hosts a gathering of extended family. Her hearty stew fills handmade bowls, and favorite salads and sides tempt everyone to fill up on seconds.

Logs crackle in the two-sided fireplace, which opens to the living and dining areas, and packages wrapped in plain brown paper draw a wondering eye. Whispers shared on the staircase mingle with the notes of Richard Carpenter's timeless piano. "It's really cozy, easy, comfortable," Lauren says. "This is our kind of Christmas."

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