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Christmas Royalty

By Nathan Coker
In Bayou Home
Dec 1st, 2022

Article by Vanelis Rivera
Photography by Kelly Moore Clark

The elegance of Catherine Tonore’s formal décor has also extended to her adornments for the happiest time of the year, making Christmas at the Tonores an extravagant nod to traditional aesthetics and fostering a spirit of merriment. 

Decorating is a matter of attitude. Like personal style, you can’t go wrong as long as you are true to yourself. Such is the design compass that Catherine M. Tonore, CEO of Primary Health Services Center, has embraced in her French chateau-style house. With a personal style that she describes as “very formal,” her interior draws on deep resplendent hues, sparkling lights, and festive aromas. This elegance has also extended to her adornments for the happiest time of the year, making Christmas at the Tonores an extravagant nod to traditional aesthetics and fostering a spirit of merriment. 

When the Tonores moved into their home three years ago, they had their work cut out for them. “I totally redid the whole house,” says Catherine. The many alterations included repainting the walls, glittering the ceilings with grand chandeliers (each accented with gold finish ceiling medallions), and redoing the kitchen cabinets which are characterized by wood appliques of her own design. Inspired by a traditional French aesthetic, Catherine has curated her space with antique wood furniture, a stunning collection of porcelain pieces, deep-toned Persian rugs, and even Scalamandré wallpaper (the same designer that Jackie Kennedy Onassis used in the White House).

Each room of the Tonore’s two-story home—which includes three bedrooms, two and a half baths, a dining room, parlor, living room, sunroom, patio, and courtyard—has a majestic feel to it and is fashioned around a color. On the first floor, the simplicity of the cream interior walls and cabinets balances with the rich red furnishings and hardwood floors. “I love jewel tones,” says Catherine, whose favorite color is undeniably red, a color radiating warmth. Catherine opted for emerald green when tailoring her sunroom to offset this powerful hue. “I always loved Gone with the Wind and they use that beautiful emerald color,” she says, referring to the famous green, curtain dress that Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) wears to visit Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) in jail. “I thought I really made a mistake,” admits Catherine, at the time, desiring to lean into her comfort color. “You have enough red,” her friends reminded her. Though she agreed, her decision to go green was solidified on a trip to Dallas where she eyed crystal chandeliers with green accents. Now, the cozy space is marked by velvet green curtains lined with gold fringe and matching furniture, all facing one of her favorite spaces to occupy—the patio and courtyard.

As a CEO, Catherine has a lot to meditate about, and the patio and courtyard—fully furnished, complete with an outdoor grill and kitchen, and decorated with accent tables and some of her prized porcelain vases—is just the space to commune with something greater than herself. “It’s the Spirit,” she says, adding, “It’s asking God to give you the strength to do things that you need to do, and that is bigger than you can ever achieve yourself.” Comfortable, soothing, and relaxing, her time outside is made even more enjoyable when her bird family joins her. “They seem like they keep growing,” she laughs, referring to the community of sparrows chirping madly from one of the trees occupying the serene space surrounded by travertine stone on the walkways and flooring, stone urns with Christmas decor, lots of red twinkling lights, and even a New Orleans style lamp post. “The birds help soothe me. And I guess they listen to me,” she says, explaining that her outdoor time sometimes takes the form of taking several work calls. 

Another source of communion for Catherine is her family, so the rooms on the second floor are reserved for her oldest grandchildren, Alex and Morgan. There, cool tones and shimmering fabrics brighten, providing a regal atmosphere. Sapphire blue emanates from plush pillows, bedding, and additional crystal chandeliers. Gold accents further emphasize this calming shade alongside wood-framed beds, bedside tables, and antique, upholstered armchairs. The primary bedroom, located on the first floor, follows a similar design, adding opulence by way of a canopied bed fit for royalty. Eggplant purple sheets, upholstery, and glimmering, thick curtains further provide this space with a monarchical vehemence.

“I love traditional things,” says Catherine, who enjoys beauty and elegance. “I really enjoy walking through my home and just admiring the things that I have collected throughout the years,” she says, making mention of the pieces that have been passed down to her, particularly by way of her mother. One of her favorite pieces of furniture can be found in the parlor and was inherited from her husband’s parents—a wide-seated plush armchair with quality, red floral upholstery. In the same space hangs her oldest piece of furniture which she found at an antique show. Hailing from Syracuse, New York is a tall, ornate wood-frame mirror from the mid-1800s. “It had the invoice and everything,” she says, mentioning that the paper was so old that it fell apart when touched. 

Catherine’s penchant for pretty things is a year-round endeavor, and even more so during Christmas time which, for her, begins as soon as October ends. “I guess I brought Christmas into the neighborhood,” she laughs, referring to her vibrant decorations which took about a week to complete. Outfitting holiday cheer begins outdoors with Christmas ball garlands lining the Juliet balconies and entrance of her home, outlined with travertine and Bird of Paradise ironwork. Giant ornaments rest over stone urns, red string lights hang over ceramic potted evergreens, and gold and red bows accent ornate wreaths hang from the first-floor windows. “Christmas has always been in my heart,” she says, emphasizing that it is the spirit that brings the family together. 

With the help of Kelly Taylor’s eye for design, the Tonore household is a stunning display of seasonal glam. Three Christmas trees are on display. The first tree graces the parlor and is a Valentino tree. The flocked red velvet makes for a stunning appearance and is complimented by the metallic gold from the lush poinsettia ornaments and limited edition collectible elves by Mark Roberts. The sunroom holds an even livelier tree specifically fashioned for her five-year-old grandson, Will. It is jampacked with joyful, lanky elves, nutcrackers, shiny lollipops, and a jovial elf tree stand. The main Christmas tree is the tallest, most heavily decorated, and towers adjacent to the fireplace which is lined with large gold and red poinsettias, decorated stockings, and Mr. and Mrs. Clause figurines. The dramatic tree topper of glittery, curly ribbon picks is to be expected, as the tree is a burst of red and gold ribbons, more poinsettias, and the occasional elf. 

“We’re kind of running out of space,” says Catherine, whose Christmas cheer immediately grabs visitors as they walk into the foyer—lavish St. Nick figurines top large vases, a family of porcelain carolers huddles in the entryway of the dining room as well as the staircase quarter space landing, while a lavish garland lines the handrail. “I think decorations are more challenging to purchase now,” she says, commenting on the influences of modern tastes which often play with color palettes, keep to minimalist displays, and embrace colossal front yard inflatables. “You may have to shop early if you want to get anything unusual,” she adds, explaining that most of her holiday finds come from her trips to Dallas. Though she is true to her style in fashion and decor, she understands that the formal is not for everyone. Even then, to stand in any room of her home is to appreciate the splendor of sophistication.

Catherine’s dedication to designing an interior befitting the festive season comes from reverence for gathering family. “We share wonderful things,” she says, eagerly revealing that this year her family will be wearing Christmas pajamas chosen by her youngest grandson. Without a doubt, tradition is at the heart of the Tonore household and is meant to be passed down, starting with her children. “I hope they’ll carry the tradition on, and have plenty to share with each other.”