Photographs by Gordon Beall
Written by Sandra S. Soria
Produced by Sandra Mohlmann
When the calendar flips to December in Charlotte, North Carolina, the forecast might read 80 degrees and sunny. But no matter. Inside Sam and Glenda Greeson’s home, lush garlands, gleaming mercury glass, glints of gold, and flashes of red herald the holiday season in a quiet but definitive way.
Decorating for the seasons—all of them—comes easily in this house. Both avid gardeners, Sam and Glenda enjoy rotating fresh flowers, plantings, and other natural expressions of the time at hand. Strategically placed urns, vases, and surfaces stand ready for the changing scenes. In the entry, for instance, a terra-cotta urn’s branches of winter berries will be replaced by forced apple blossoms in the early spring. A favorite bronze compote may hold glass hearts, marble eggs, or, as now, vintage mercury-glass balls.
The hushed interiors themselves make a clean stage for the revolving roster of accents. Sam, a residential architect, chose the neutral backdrop, but for season-related reasons that have little to do with Christmas. “We use a lot of greens, golds, and other neutrals,” he says. “In a hot climate such as Charlotte’s, I feel it’s better to keep things cool and light inside.”
Sam designed much of the clean-lined and comfortable upholstery pieces in the couple’s home—and the home itself. Completed four years ago, it was built in the Charleston Single House vernacular, a 19th-century architectural style in which houses reached to the sky from a small footprint. Typically one room wide and two deep, with the narrow side facing the street, the classic floor plan was altered by Sam into a square, making it two rooms wide as well as two rooms deep. But the couple stayed true to the design by creating a gated entrance on one side of the house that leads to a loggia, or covered side porch. The main entry to the house is centered on the side, within the loggia.
Though the small, narrow wooded lot dictated the verticality of the house, it also fulfilled a design wish list for the two. “We have always loved Charleston and the intimacy of a courtyard house,” says Sam. “It creates a kind of seclusion. We’ve long admired, and really desired, that style of home. When the lot we wanted dictated this style, the time had come.” As a practical matter, he adds with a laugh, “The gated front entrance cuts down on solicitors, because we can trigger the gate to open electronically—or not—depending on who we see there.”
The house stacks to a full four stories, starting with a basement and garage accessed at the rear of the home. The main level hosts the public spaces. Above that are the master suite and guest rooms. Finally, at the home’s lofty peak, are a study and library. To ensure that their residence lives as agelessly as it looks, the Greesons installed a small elevator that runs from garage to attic. “It’s used mostly for cargo at this point,” reports Sam. “But occasionally I’ll hop in.”
With ceilings that reach to ten and a half feet, verticality plays a design role inside the house as well. “I like the effect of a tall vertical,” says Sam. “It creates drama without losing intimacy.” ?Tall double-hung windows enhance that effect and, equally important, scoop in maximum light from the surrounding woods. Drapery rods mounted close to the ceiling literally heighten the drama.
The couple’s collection of Biedermeier furniture punctuates many rooms, lending its amber hues to the pale aquas and tawny shades downstairs and to the mellow golds and sparkling champagne fabrics in the upstairs master bedroom. “Architects tend to like Biedermeier design,” says Sam, “and the American Federal style, because they have an architectural base. The clean structures and light wood also mix well with the contemporary aspects of our upholstery.”
Pattern is used judiciously so as not to jar the serenity of the tone-on-tone palette. But this design strategy also serves another purpose. The limited patterns, like the chosen holiday touches, then become standouts. In the master bedroom, a velvet brocade fabric is framed like fine art by the fluted and gilded frame of a fauteuil.
The intimate scale and soft interiors of the Greeson home are well-suited to the holidays as well as to the couple’s day-to-day lifestyle. Small definitely has its advantages. “Like most people, we entertain on a much smaller scale,” says Glenda, “which I think is much more satisfying because you actually are able to visit with your guests. I think the days of the large, elaborate parties are winding down.”
Architect, interior designer: Sam Greeson, AIA, Meyer Greeson Paullin Benson Architecture/Interior Design, 320 S. Tryon St., Suite 222, Charlotte, NC 28202; 704/375-1001; mgpba.com 
A twinkling tree hosts a collection of old and new glass ornaments. “We’re at the place in life when our tree is full of memories and meaning,” says Glenda Greeson.
Classic Christmas cookies reflect the same tastefully simple decorating as the rest of the home, with ornamental silver beads and a pop of brightly colored frosting.
To underscore the symmetry of his home, Sam Greeson flanked the simple mantel that he designed himself with two slender exterior doors topped with classically inspired transoms. Where typical French doors would have been difficult to design around, this pair of openings allows the mantel to be centered on the wall.
This charming home is a variation of the Charleston Single House style, evidenced by its verticality and telltale gated side entrance, which opens to a loggia and the real “front” door.
Muted stone fixtures on the patio allow for the homeowners to switch up their style based on the changing Charlotte seasons. The white frame against red brick brings this small window to life day and night.
Mirror-image boxwood wreaths hang back to back on the inside and outside of the tall, slender windows in a nod to Southern tradition. Elsewhere in the formal living room, natural touches and vintage mercury glass stand out against clean backdrops and soft colors.
Ebonized wood floors in a Versailles parquet pattern ground the formal entry, where fresh greens and silver glints announce the holidays.
Glittering pear ornaments in a wooden bowl warm a marble countertop.
Glenda at the gated entrance to her classic home. The greenery outside festively offsets the red brick of the house’s exterior. Details on the following slide.
Cherubs flanking the main entrance herald friends and visitors; magnolia and holly are signature holiday greens of the South.
This outdoor space glows merrily after the sun goes down, illuminating the backyard. Note the “X” pattern on the bottom of the Christmas tree, which matches the window transoms of the exterior doors.
“Not being tied to a strong color scheme allows our rooms to change with the seasons. We like to mix things up,” says homeowner Sam Greeson.
An elegant mirrored vanity in a small bath visually enlarges the limited space.
Homeowners Sam and Glenda Greeson celebrate the season.
Traditional furnishings pair with contemporary amenities in this sunny kitchen. An antique bureau provides a colorful focus and a unique counter space.
Silver pieces on the mantel catch the fire’s glow.
A distinguished side table is both a space saver as well as a conversation piece in the living room. It seamlessly blends the ebony of the floors with the gilded frames above.
Moldings in the master bedroom are downsized in proportion to the smaller scale of the bedrooms. A hushed palette keeps things clean and serene here; a mix of textures and carefully chosen pops of pattern add a bit of eye candy.
A few splashes of color and light are enough to hint at the holidays in the master bedroom.
Gift trim complements the decor.
Patterned upholstery adds a touch of surprise to this elegant living room without distracting from the seasonal décor.
Symmetry, structure, and a soft palette are design effects that soothe. Biedermeier pieces punctuate this strategy in the dining room and throughout the house.