The toasty Mississippi climate yields a big dose of southern comfort in this family home.


Christmas comes with certain images that entertain the imagination every winter: lights that add dazzling sparkle to bare tree limbs, wool coats that combat the air's frigid chill, warm-spirited carolers, and a blanket of snow that serves as a canvas for snow angels and hoofprints of prancing reindeer.

In the South, balmy temperatures nearly always relegate some of those images to the imagination. But Shay and Rob Tatum's Hattiesburg, Mississippi, address doesn't deter from the visual magic of Christmas. When the holidays are on the horizon, the couple commits to creating a wonderland of joy, peace, and love—minus stocking caps and mittens.

arched entry hallway to open front door
Credit: Brie Williams

The foyer boasts a pair of benches where the children—Addison, Rhodes, Ann Frances, and Luke—can put on their shoes for a day of school or play with their friends and Rosie, their goldendoodle.

family sitting on stone steps to house
Credit: Brie Williams

"We don't know any different than to have a warm Christmas," Shay says. "The bottom line is, it's hot here, and we only see a white Christmas once or twice in a lifetime. We take our kids on a ski trip each year so they can see snow. We don't naturally have what you think of as Christmas scenery, so we create it ourselves."

That environment is realized with the talent of Christmas specialist Brandon Chase Welborn, who transforms Shay and Rob's home into a seasonal show of winter greens, red bows, garlands, and wreaths. His decorations enhance the already elegant foundation of interiors by New Orleans-based designer Chad Graci. After crafting spaces in three homes for the Tatums, Graci knows that while his designs must marry the prettiest textures and palettes, family function and comfort come first.

"Shay loves formality here and there," Graci says. "She prefers a palette that's soft but unexpected and a place to highlight beautiful antiques. But the primary focus is always family. Every room needs to be accessible to all four children and deal with the traffic of their friends, extracurricular activities, and everything else that accompanies their active lifestyle."

large white french style home christmas decor
Credit: Brie Williams

Wreaths and garland bedeck Rob and Shay's French-style home in Christmas cheer.

Finished in 2019, the new build—a French-style home with a Southern spin designed by architect Will Ballou—is filled with modern amenities and a touch of family history. The beam that separates the family room from the kitchen, for instance, was taken from an old brick and lumber factory that Rob's family owned when they settled in Hattiesburg in 1893. That business branched out into another arm of residential living—real estate development—over time.

christmas garland and bows on banister
Credit: Brie Williams

While rooms put a focus on family, the foyer welcomes on a serious note. An iron railing defines the staircase, whose wall shows off a collection of traditional works of art.

A lighted garland climbs the iron staircase railing. Situated at the base of the stairs, a chest of drawers provides a spot for family collectibles.

living room with christmas tree and garland on fireplace
Credit: Brie Williams

Take a walk through the living room, and it's clear that seeing through the house to the crown jewel of the backyard—the swimming pool—was essential. So was a textural Oushak rug, handsome performance fabrics covering furniture, and a limestone fireplace with a collection of botanicals hung above it to disguise a television.

"No room is off-limits in this house," Graci says. "A TV is a TV, and in some rooms, such as a bedroom or family room, it makes sense to let it show. Who wants to be opening and closing contraptions all day long? But the Tatums needed a TV in the living room as well, and here, the artwork was an attractive solution to hide something in a space they wanted to read as more formal."

This gathering spot hosts the formal Christmas tree trimmed in classic red and gold ornaments. A substantial garland of winter greens and fashionable velvet-and-sequin bows cascades over the fireplace.

festively decorated neutral tones family room
Credit: Brie Williams

A French armoire that Rob and Shay used in their previous home found its spot in the family room as a home for the TV. This room's Christmas tree displays handmade ornaments crafted by the Tatum children.

neutral tones dining room with botanical drapes
Credit: Brie Williams

With the kids' busy schedules, Rob and Shay don't pencil a whole lot of entertaining onto their calendars. But they do extend their home to formal gatherings at Christmas. So the dining room needed to function for several people beyond their immediate family. This space is graced with a table that is new, a design "rule" that Graci adheres to when conjuring the plans for dining rooms.

Botanical drapery fabric initiated the scheme of the dining room. The new dark table contrasts light-finish furniture that includes painted chairs and a Swedish sideboard.

"My designs mix old and new, but I specify a new table for the dining room," he says. "Antiques are beautiful, but their mechanisms are not always smooth, leaves can go missing, and the knee clearance is not always comfortable. Plus, old dining tables tend to be narrower, so there is oftentimes a traffic jam of the things needed to create a beautiful tablescape. So I advise clients to buy a new piece."

high ceiling farmhouse kitchen
Credit: Brie Williams

No different from the dining room, the rest of the house illuminates in a color scheme that is light and warm. The family room and kitchen offer inviting spots to dine and relax. Laid-back upholstered seating and a stately armoire that houses the TV lend a place to take in movies. The kitchen blends white-and-gray Carrara marble counters with creamy cabinetry.

The kitchen whispers pattern into its scheme. Simple green-and-ivory gingham was fabricated into a balloon shade over the window while subdued stripes add interest on the backs of the barstools. A trio of mercury glass pendant lights supports Christmas greens and striped ribbon.

dining room with festively decorated table and chandelier
Credit: Brie Williams

In the breakfast area, a custom dining table with an old cypress top is surrounded by two styles of seating: Wing chairs are covered in a botanical print, and cane-back chairs have vinyl seats for easy cleanup.

neutral tones elegant bedroom with striped sofa
Credit: Brie Williams

The master bedroom suite repeats the palette. In the bedroom, an array of textiles softens the look while the bathroom takes its color cues from a statement tile pattern that stretches across the floor.

Designed as a sanctuary, the master bedroom features a four-poster that is flanked by a pair of mirrors, along with matching bedside tables and shiny silver lamps. Simple wreaths hung over the mirrors make a subtle reference to the holiday season.

gray bathroom with scalloped curtains and furry ottoman
gray armchair by bathroom window
Left: Credit: Brie Williams
Right: Credit: Brie Williams

The challenge in the master bathroom was to create an intimate environment in a space with grand proportions. A large-scale parquet tile floor was laid to anchor glamorous appointments such as a glass-beaded chandelier, facing vanities with mirrored fronts, a bench with flokati upholstery, and a linen-covered armchair and chic acrylic table near the tub.

brick patio with table and fall tree
Credit: Brie Williams

A table and chairs provide a spot to enjoy an alfresco meal, even on Christmas Day.

This classic foundation, which runs throughout the home, becomes an important tool come wintertime when seasonal decorations are the primary visual hints to establish cheery Christmas charm.

"Our house is open to our friends all year around, but on Christmas Day, it's just us, our home, and a place for us to bank special memories," Shay says.

By Krissa Rossbund and Eleanor Roper


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