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Deck the Halls

By Nathan Coker
In Bayou Home
Dec 4th, 2020

Interior decorator Shawn Brazzell helped Kerry and Theresa McCoy expand the timeless sophistication of their stately home with yuletide accents, spreading the delights of the season from the inside out.

WRITTEN BY Vanelis Rivera
PHOTOGRAPHY BY Kelly Moore Clark

Outdoor Christmas decorations get more outstanding every year–giant, inflatable Santas stuffed with LED lights, glimmering tinsel reindeers, and pathway candy-cane lightings. The more challenging the times, the more expansive our Christmas wonderlands become. We know the spirit of the season lives within us, but sometimes an array of twinkling lights alongside imitation pine wreaths amplifies the distinctive feeling palpable in the air–holiday cheer. Such outdoor Christmas displays spread joy to a passersby, but that doesn’t mean a home’s interior should be left wanting; after all, that’s where the most merriment takes place. The heart of a home is where the pulse of Christmas should exist, as much in practice as in aesthetics. Adopting this tenet, interior decorator Shawn Brazzell helped Kerry and Theresa McCoy expand the timeless sophistication of their stately home with yuletide accents, spreading the delights of the season from the inside out.

Theresa, seeing Shawn’s work on other projects contacted her while designing the plans for their “dream home,” located in West Monroe. Once construction was underway, Shawn swooped in and began working on choosing all the home’s finishes. Led by the McCoys’ vision of elegant sophistication–a measure of refinement and subtlety–Shawn chose a light and neutral palette, further emphasized with stunning quartzite and marble throughout the interior’s surfaces, creating an unmistakable and charming continuity. “It is one of the projects I’m most proud of,” says Shawn. Her success at the McCoy home has a lot to do with the time she spent  getting to know the couple in order for certain aspects of the design to really speak to them. For instance, the moment you open the wrought iron entry doors, you are met with a marble-wrapped stairway with a classic-style iron railing. This was a special request by Kerry, who has wanted an entryway marble staircase since he was a child. Another deep-seated detail can be found in the dining room. Theresa’s father had black walnut lumber in his workshop, and when he passed away, it was important for her to make use of that wood in a special part of their home. The pieces were turned into cabinetry, finely constructed by Mayo Custom Cabinets. Wanting to mimic the arches in the rest of the home, Shawn created a similar shape in the cabinets, which now hold fine porcelain dinnerware and crystal once belonging to Theresa’s mother. “There is a lot of history in the details incorporated in the house,” says Shawn with admiration.

Though many personal items are thoughtfully spread in the family’s space, the more obvious pieces were painstakingly chosen by Shawn and Theresa. “I can’t explain it, but when I walk in a space I can see what it’s supposed to look like,” she says, though she admits it’s not always easy narrowing down selections of fashionable furniture, sleek lighting accents, or stone detailing. There are so many choices.  At times it can be overwhelming, but it’s my job to make that easier. Furniture hunting took place around town and in Dallas, greatly widening their selections. Shawn chose pieces based on texture and color. “I always try to have a common feature in the furniture or some detail that runs throughout the house, whether it be a color palette or the lines,” she says, particularly referring to the home’s archways, the curves of which are mimicked in cabinet doors, delicate candelabras, hoop-style chandeliers, and even the backs of some chairs. “Sometimes I’ll choose things curved a certain way, or something that creates repetition of a particular detail,” she says. Establishing a common thread throughout the home is part of Shawn’s creative process. “I always keep a common palette.” Color is a major player in her design approach, as well. Shades of light blue, as well as a neutral linen color, run from room to room. One of Shawn’s favorite aspects is the backsplash in the kitchen. There is a focal point behind the stove of a delicately styled water jet cut marble mosaic, adding an artistic flair to the sleek space most notable for its walnut stained kitchen island with ornate corbels. The expansive island has a beautiful Sea Pearl Quartzite stone countertop.

From an early age, Shawn was interested in the “construction of all things.” Her father and grandfather were both in the construction business and her mother is an incredible seamstress and quilter. “It’s in my blood,” she says. Putting things together is not just about a space, as much as it is about who will eventually occupy that space. She strives to design kitchen and dining room areas that don’t feel  tucked away because to her they are the heart of the home: “I think we’ve lost that family connection.” Even with five children, she makes sure to prioritize her family eating together, regardless of whether she orders carry-out or cooks dinner. “Incorporating that dining space or space you can commune together is important,” she says. It wasn’t a challenge designing such areas for the McCoys, as they are a close family and also enjoy entertaining. With that in mind, Shawn curated gathering spaces. One of the largest, the living room, has a roomy sectional with relaxed sofa chairs, a perfect fit for comfortably watching a movie or game nights, especially when the McCoys’ two daughters are home from college. 

“I love every part of a project. Holiday decor just fell into the mix,” she says. She noted that many of her clients wanted holiday decor to go with the interiors she had created. “I guess it was a natural progression,” she says. “I tend to do a house from start to finish, including furnishings and landscaping,” she continues, adding she also designed the McCoys’ landscaping, installed by her husband’s company Northeast Lawn Service. Though she has designed many modern homes, both locally and out-of-state, with attention to fads and trends, Shawn has an affinity for time-honored aesthetics, especially concerning Christmas adornment. “My spin on the way that I do Christmas decor is a more traditional type of decor that incorporates more memories because I think we’ve lost a love and value of traditional things,” she says. Christmas is about comfort for Shawn, so when decorating for the McCoys she made sure to incorporate family collectibles: “Something I really enjoy is unwrapping existing Christmas decor, especially with my client.”

The dining room’s Christmas tree (one of approximately nine in the entire home), uses Theresa’s ornament collections all in the theme of the twelve days of Christmas. The main tree, gracing the living room, integrates a whimsical collection of blown glass, hand-painted Old World ornaments. The brightly colored ornaments are joined by a stream of crushed ice crystals and red berries spiraling from the top to the bottom of the tree. “The tree is a significant symbol of Christmas,” affirms Shawn, who tends to keep a balance between the ornaments and the branches of pine peeking through. “I want to see the tree,” she adds, admitting that while she doesn’t mind cramming a tree with shimmering delights, she prefers “a more natural approach to design.” 

Though there may be only one Christmas tree everyone gathers around, that doesn’t mean one is enough. “I love to trickle Christmas throughout the entire house,” says Shawn. Each bedroom is embellished with a personalized tree and a few jolly accents. Macey, whose bedroom reflects her chic and glitzy style, has a tree bedecked with blush pink, gold, and silver decorations; whereas, Morgan, whose bedroom is more natural,  and edgier, has a more organic tree, with red and white ornaments, and marked by details that connect to her hobby of music and her love of the outdoors. The master bedroom–a semi-modern, French country style bedroom with light hardwood flooring, and tons of natural light from large French doors–has a 12 foot, thin pine tree that ever so slightly brushes the top of the rib vaulted ceiling. “There is something in every corner,” says Shawn. A walk through the butler’s pantry reveals a few amusing elves, festively clad in holly, jingle bells, and gilded frocks. Shawn considers these “Christmas reminders.” They take the form of figurines, garlands, wreaths, nativity sets, red and white striped ribbon, and even bowls of antique glass-ball ornaments, which intentionally peek-a-boo on countertop corners, bathrooms, nightstands, and even sections of the outdoor patio. Having a sense of Christmas in every room doesn’t necessarily mean to “throw-up Christmas everywhere,” laughs Shawn, though she enjoys bringing spaces to life, even with just touches of fresh greenery and flowers. “So much of our Christmas decor is artificial,” she says, emphasizing how it doesn’t take away from the warmth and elegance of the home. Once again, Christmas decorating for Shawn is about taking a trip down memory lane, standing in the glory of the “richest blessings” of the Christmas season. “I wanted their decor to spark those happy Christmas memories of their family and friends.”

Walking toward the McCoys’s grand entry, intricately designed with brick, stone, and precast concrete detailing, it’s easy to get lost in its opulence. Yet, inside an unexpected feeling of comfort prevails. The simplicity of its interior is not designed for show. Shawn intended for it to be a reflection of the McCoy family. The whole design, including the added seasonal charms, large and small, are elements of who they are. Shawn has taken the unique collectibles and treasures of the McCoys and turned them into her favorite part of Christmas–“Hearing the stories and memories behind ornaments and traditions is one of the gifts of the holidays. It’s a little bit of therapy I believe. It brings us back. I like to think it helps us remember what this season is about.”