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Designer Home with Multi-Hued Holiday Palette

A multicolored palette brings happy times at Christmas and all through the year

Written by Krissa Rossbund
  • John Bessler

    Everyone has a notion of what the season’s palette should be. There are the traditionalists, who celebrate with jewel-toned baubles and stockings in red-and-green plaids; the sophisticates, who prefer an elegant, snow-evoking montage of ivory and beige with the occasional gold sparkle; and those in between, who opt for both color and subtlety with the cool palette of blue and silver.

    Boston-based designer Anthony Catalfano and his partner, Steven Kapfhammer, enjoy variations of all three schemes at Christmastime, permitting each to dazzle with its own point of view. When they bought their Brookline, Massachusetts, home in 2004, they decided to mix palettes in a way that would not only be pleasing all year, but also especially conducive to their enthusiastic holiday decorating and entertaining.

    “There’s no one color that we use in our home, just as I don’t decorate in one signature style,” explains Anthony. “This house has a little bit of everything, but every color accepts Christmas decoration beautifully. The variety of palettes makes the house look happy all year.”

    Although the designer isn’t generally in favor of an “anything goes” approach to color, he believes that the architecture of his home, a 1902 Georgian Colonial, warrants a color change from room to room. Its layout boasts an expansive central stair hall with rooms independently radiating out in several directions.

    Wallpapered in a geometric pattern to enhance the millwork, the neutral-toned entry plays the role of palette cleanser, much like a lemon sorbet served between courses of an elaborate meal. The hall has a rich flavor all its own, anchored with a grand piano on which Anthony plays spirited carols. During the holidays, the piano serves as a base for one of the home’s Christmas trees and a collection of English caroler figurines. This decorative pairing spreads cheer at the seasonal parties that Anthony and Steven throw, sometimes hosting more than 80 people.

    “Everyone has a checklist when they purchase a home, and one of our requirements was a house that could accommodate lots of people,” says Anthony. “For our party, we hire a pianist, and a caterer to make goodies. Everyone has a great time.”

    Window treatments, sofas, and chairs in unmatched fabrics mingle in the living room as congenially as the guests. The space is warm and welcoming with a yellow strié pattern covering the walls. Here, a smaller version of the main Christmas tree sits atop a side table draped with a festive red cloth. An Asian-style garden chair is painted green and cushioned in a silk chinoiserie print on a chocolate brown background.

    A red room is one of the hallmarks of design Anthony takes with him from house to house. It’s also the perfect accompaniment to a profusion of Christmas accessories. In this house, Anthony assigned red to the den, where the classic mantel is bedecked with poinsettias and berry-studded topiaries.

    The color scheme cools down in the dining room. Anthony had long dreamed of creating a robin’s-egg blue dining room, and this well-proportioned space was the ideal place to execute his vision. Two windows lighten one wall, and a three-window bay projects at one end. Luxurious window panels in a soft blue that complements the walls descend from valances in rich silk folds.

    Instead of holiday decor in bold colors, the dining room revels in quiet refinement. A three-panel mirror was created to cover the table, providing a reflective ground for glittery reindeer, silver candlesticks, a candelabra, and a crystal chandelier.

    “I love color, and our Christmas decorations show that,” says Anthony. “At this time of the year, anything goes. We’re really into old-world design, and I never like Christmas decorations to match a room. The goal is for the house to be inviting, full of sparkle, and have our own personal touches—the perfect backdrop for making new memories with family and friends.”

    Photography: John Bessler
    Produced by Estelle Bond Guralnick

  • John Bessler


    Anthony’s signature “red room” is the den, where the crackled wallpaper pattern mimics the movement of flames. Holiday accessories find a home in this cheerful room, where the mantel is festooned with cheerful poinsettias and berries.


  • John Bessler

    Festive Foyer

    In the foyer, an antique Chippendale chair in a festive red cotton with ivory medallions serves as a piano bench, while figurines of carolers cluster around the Christmas tree.

    See details on the following slide.


  • John Bessler

    Tree Details

    The ornaments on the home’s Christmas trees serve as an unconventional scrapbook of memories from years past.


  • John Bessler

    Living Room

    The fireplace mantel in the living room is festooned with greenery, nutcrackers, and Christmas balls. Needlepoint stockings add handcrafted whimsy, while the tree’s colorful Christopher Radko glass ornaments provide more holiday charm.

    See details on the following slide.


  • John Bessler

    Living Room Details

    Colored metallic votives cast a festive glow in red and green.


  • John Bessler

    Decorative Details

    As far as holiday decorations go, Anthony and Steven opt for vintage pieces for an overall classic Christmas feel. Here, a folksy Santa double-checks his list on an upholstered round stool.


  • John Bessler


    The entry displays classic hallmarks of the Georgian Colonial Revival style. Red berries on delicate branches and a simple decorative bow on the wreath add just the right dose of holiday charm.


  • John Bessler


    Designer Anthony Catalfano makes sure that his blown-glass ornaments are hung securely on the Christmas tree in the entry hall.


  • John Bessler

    Dining Room

    The sophisticated dining room palette is enhanced with white hydrangeas in an antique silver epergne. Created in three separate panels to keep weight at a minimum, a mirrored table covering maximizes the luminosity of the silvery decorations, the candles, and the crystal chandelier.

    See details on the following slides.


  • John Bessler

    Dining Room Details

    Silver details abound on the room’s mirror-topped dining table. Glittering woodland creatures roam past wintery candlesticks and mini mint julep cups.


  • John Bessler

    Dining Room Mantel

    The neoclassic fireplace mantel is lined with silver mint julep cups and a silver porringer, all filled with white hydrangeas.


  • John Bessler

    Mantel Details

    Antique gilt sconces look straight out of a fairytale above the dining room’s elegant mantel. Crystal birds perch on luminescent golden tendrils, lending a whimsical feel to the formal space.