In This Massachusetts Farmhouse, Vintage Christmas Decor Is On Full Display
The path to an expressive personal style evolution has been a winding one for this Massachusetts homeowner, but by following the lead of her historical farmhouse, she makes Christmas Day— and every day—simple, beautiful, and cozy.
Homeowner Jess Noble didn't set out to pursue a country aesthetic for her family's Sudbury, Massachusetts, home even though she and husband Griff each grew up in farmhouses in rural Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. She was scarred by the maroon walls and wildlife wallpaper borders of her youth. "I grew up in the '80s," she says. "My mom loved stenciling and collected mallard duck decoys." But Jess has always revered history and historical structures, so when the family moved into this 1840s New England farmhouse 10 years ago, Jess thought she would fall in step with the previous owner. "Her style was very Colonial farmhouse, with dark woods and lots of minimal, primitive pieces," Jess says. "It was gorgeous and inspiring to me, so I thought, I'm going to do what she did and keep the house the same way." That lasted for a few years. "It just didn't work," Jess says. "It didn't fit me or our family."
Five years ago, she and Griff embarked on a renovation to expand the house to accommodate their three growing children, and that's when Jess really started to find her way stylewise. "I went to Brimfield, Massachusetts, and the antique dealers around here, and I started collecting things I love," she says. The couple chose a white palette for most walls and woodwork to give the house a light, airy feeling. They preserved the wide-plank pine floors and historical features of the home, including original windows with the first family's names carved into the sashes. "When the renovation was complete, I started placing things and figuring out what works," Jess says. Her staples are New England artwork, vintage signage, handwoven rugs ("the 'holier' the better"), nubby European linens and upholstery, ironstone pottery, and large furniture pieces in scrubbed pine.
Soon, Jess had gathered the hallmarks of a simple, refined country style that suits the house perfectly. "My style is rooted in country," she says. "But I'm always changing the top layer. I stick with antiques I can decorate around." That approach serves her well when the holidays arrive. As followers of her Instagram page know, Jess relies on classic touches for her holiday decorating. She tosses plaid throws and pillows over the European linen upholstery, lines the scrubbed-pine surfaces with potted paperwhites, and sets brown-paper-wrapped packages on the wood floors and worn rugs under the Christmas trees. "I have a ton of vintage holiday artwork and prints and New England scenes and snowscapes, and I swap them in," she says. "I want Christmas to feel cozy. It's cold outside, and I want it to feel warm in here." The front porch swing gets used even on snowy days thanks to a warm wool lap blanket.
Over the years, Jess has simplified her holiday decor to three trees, including this one in the family room that's always decorated in silver and white to tie in the upholstery colors and the pale hue of the faux-hide rug. An unfussy tree and year-round natural elements, such as antlers and rural landscape paintings, create a low-key organic look. "When I think of New England," she says, "I think rustic, primitive, natural, and simple, with not a lot of lights or glitter."
With views of the snowy landscape in the backyard, these reading chairs are a popular spot. Jess prefers upholstery to be muted in color and pattern, and she uses antique rugs and weathered woods, such as the tall interior shutters, to provide dimension and patina. "I think all those textural details work to make a space cozy and lived in," she says. "I am also drawn to the history behind pieces that are unique."
Jess trained as a fine art painter and used her skills to paint this personalized family sign. A factory cart holds a basket of cushions to complete the vignette.
Expanding their kitchen was a priority when the couple remodeled. Their three kids love to hang out at the island and help roll out Christmas cookies or sip hot cocoa.
Small wreaths deck the windows in the breakfast nook, where the table is set with fresh greens and fruit. In this new addition to the home, Griff and Jess emulated the wide-plank pine floors of the original house. A pillow covered in a vintage French flour sack joins other red-and-white pillows to bolster the subtle holiday palette.
After seeing something similar in a catalog, Jess arranged green bottles— some found when they excavated for an addition—into a dining room centerpiece with candles and potted bulbs. "The bottles are an ode to a time we will never experience again thanks to plastic," she says. "They're just so cool."
Vintage bottles hold branches clipped from the fir trees outside. The cabinet came from a menswear store; pullout shelves at the top were used to display ties. Pieces of an old hog fence in a seasonal shade of red display antique snowshoes.
Jess' childhood dream to one day have an iron bed became a reality in the master bedroom (although not "with a canopy, per my preteen fantasies," she says). She dresses the bed in layers of new bedding of nubby European linens for vintage appeal. The antique sign came from a shop in New Hampshire.
To gain extra storage, Griff built in a bed with drawers, then added a cased opening to create a canopied effect. Colorful garland, pillows, and small mercury glass trees accessorize for the season.
Like her decorating journey, her route to meaningful Christmas decor has taken some wrong turns, and Jess is happy to share them with her followers in funny, self-deprecating stories. "One year I did a whole tree in birds," she says. "That didn't go well because they camouflage in trees, so that was kind of a fail. One year I got really gung ho about fresh eucalyptus, but it sheds everywhere, and we had so many seeds stuck in our wood floors." So, as with all her previous lessons learned, she streamlined: "I try to not get sucked into seasonal themes and stay true to my vision and my home's vision."