A New England home sings Christmas with a quietly melodious palette
With Santa twinkling from store aisles in his crimson suit, red velvet ribbons tied to evergreen wreaths, and holly berries wired into mistletoe, a red-and- green combo at Christmas is a cardinal rule.
New England designer Tanya Capello breaks it beautifully in the Wellesley, Massachusetts, home she shares with husband Jeff and their three sons. There, her elegant scheme steals one’s breath as quietly as the crisp air outdoors. In fact, nature is where Tanya turns for color inspiration.
“I’m not a big fan of red at Christmas,” she says. “My decorations tend more toward green, white, and silver, with natural elements that include eucalyptus, cedar, and other greens mixed throughout our home.”
At a time when all of the senses are on joyful overload, this designer creates a sense of sanctuary in which to celebrate and reflect upon the season’s meaning. The foundation is a soft neutral dining room base that is ideal for the interplay of sights, sounds, and aromas that emblemize the season—from sparkling lights and carols to holiday baking sprees and the gatherings that follow.
Because she traveled extensively as a child, Tanya was exposed early on to varied palettes and visual styles. Born to British parents, she spent much of her youth touring Europe. She grew up among the edgy urban grays of New York. As a newlywed, she lived with Jeff in Holland, where color is industriously cultivated in the hues of flowers, brilliant against the quieter tones of canal homes.
That global exposure to color helped channel her innate talent and taste into an aesthetic of comfortable sophistication. Holland is where Tanya started acquiring antique furniture, much of which is Swedish in origin. Her collection of Swedish antiques helps lighten the spaces and enhances the flow from room to room. Tanya’s hushed style is apparent from the moment the front door (adorned with white bows, not red) opens. In the entry hall, an 18th-century secretary in a light honey finish and a Swedish chair from the same era greet visitors with traditional Scandinavian charm. To elevate the front entrance to Christmas glory, Tanya spotlights the newel post with a garland of greenery studded with artichokes and a silver ribbon bow.
The living room glows with cream-colored walls and a grouping of furniture upholstered in warm gray fabrics that range from sumptuous velvet to restrained linen. Although Tanya maintains a mostly neutral color scheme throughout the house, she also uses subtle tints of blue to cool the predominantly warm tones of her palette. The blue appears initially in an abstract painting that rests on the living room mantel.
Blue reappears in the dining room on 19th-century French chairs covered in crushed velvet. More soft-spoken color is underfoot in a Persian rug with an open pattern in gentle hues of teal and saffron. Silvery mercury-glass Christmas trees and vases filled with greenery also inhabit the space, heightening the shimmer of an antique chandelier.
Robin’s-egg blue paints the kitchen walls, highlighting the antiqued cream finish of the cabinets as well as the light stone pavers on the floor. For the season, Tanya tucks evergreens into stone urns that flank the stove. The windows are dressed with wreaths. A dedicated cook and hostess, Tanya especially enjoys her kitchen at Christmas. “It’s where everyone congregates when we have a party,” she says. The adjoining breakfast room wears the same blue as the kitchen, but this time contrasts with dark walnut furniture.
Wreaths and floral arrangements extend holiday flair to the private rooms. In the master bedroom, where Tanya drums up ideas for holiday gatherings, ice-blue abounds in the wallpaper and in the silk stripes of window and bed treatments.
Tanya prides herself on her ability to design interiors for busy growing families. Perhaps that’s why her own home shines with Christmas spirit from every nook and cranny during the holidays.
“With three boys, I have a good idea of a how a busy home operates,” she says. “During the holidays, people are always coming and going, so all the principles of good design and functionality count doubly. It’s wonderful to help a family live well any time, but during Christmas—when special traditions and memories come into play—it’s especially meaningful.”
Photography: Eric Roth
Produced by Estelle Bond Guralnick
Interior design: Tanya Capello, Capello Design, 15 Sumner Road, Wellesley, MA 02481; 781/910-2920, capellodesign.com 
Holiday trimmings adorning antiques from Tanya Capellos’s travels welcome guests. Tanya spotlights the newel post with a garland of greenery studded with artichokes and a silver ribbon bow.
The Christmas tree, hung with ornaments made by the Capello boys, flickers in cream and gold that complements brocade drapery panels at the windows. Quilted velvet stockings hang on the limestone fireplace mantel. Mismatched sofas wearing beige upholstery and a rush-seat armchair from Formations provide comfy seating around the fireplace.
Under the tree, Reid and Olivia, the family dog, anxiously await Christmas.
Shimmering silver and white ornaments create a simple, festive palette.
French chairs covered in Colefax and Fowler velvet fabric surround a double pedestal table by Council.
Another view of the dining room is on the following slide.
A beautiful antique French chandelier illuminates the room. Creamy Dedar draperies add intimacy to the space.
A pairing of chargers from Pottery Barn with vintage Wedgwood china marries casual and formal.
Clever Use For Ornaments
Tree ornaments are an attractive and festive way to display place cards; Tanya uses small mercury glass balls.
Awash in creamy ivory paint, the kitchen cabinets provide a subtle contrast to the room’s blue walls.
At the island, bar stools are covered in a cheery polka-dot fabric from Kravet; pendants are from Circa lighting. Olivia patiently waits underfoot.
Adorning a glass front cabinet in the butler’s pantry is a gorgeous wreath full of cedar, spruce and pine branches, and evergreen berries.
The breakfast room incorporates antiques the Capellos found in Holland while they lived abroad, including the mirrored Swedish buffet, the dining chairs, and the antique Swedish clock. The oceanic painting features Tanya’s favorite shade of blue, which echoes the tones found in the striped wool rug and in the floral fabric of the window treatments.
Breakfast Room Vignette
An antique Swedish clock blends coolly into the custom blue walls; large-scale printed cotton draperies are reminiscent of crewel embroidery. Vintage terra cotta pots on the buffet hold holiday arrangements featuring hydrangeas, twigs, and cedar.
Lovely Living Room
Silver and mercury glass plus a glittery Christmas tree build sparkle into the area. Comfortable seating includes a sofa from The Charles Stewart Company in a chenille fabric from Kravet, a bench from Dennis & Leen, and side chairs that Tanya discovered on One Kings Lane. An antique Biedermeier chest adds character to the room.
Fluted blue glass balls and mercury glass ornaments grace the living room mantle.
Upscale Mud Room
The mudroom hints at Christmas celebrations to come with gaily-wrapped gifts piled up immediately inside the door. Reclaimed ceramic pavers line the floor while an antique Gustavian bench features under-seat storage, a feature Tanya says she could not live without.
Stunning Master Bedroom
A favorite antique that Tanya found in Europe—the Swedish bed—is set off by a corona in blue and cream silk stripes by Cowtan & Tout. Sconces from Circa Lighting illuminate side tables from Global Views.
Master Bedroom Bench
A tufted bench from Wisteria provides seating (and a place for presents) at the foot of the bed.
Oh-So-Soft and Pretty!
Purchased in Holland, the Louis XVI chest purchased offers storage space. A pair of chairs in leopard print flank the chest and are a wild touch against the aqua wallpaper.
Master Bedroom Details
A dainty linen pillow hangs from a door in the master suite.
In the bath, reproduction Venetian mirrors reflect a white marble vanity. A bayberry wreath hung from the shutters adds seasonal flair.
Tanya and Jeff Capello with sons Christian, 15; Tyler, 13; Reid, 10; and Olivia, the yellow lab.