Most people view the holidays as a time for unearthing old traditions. For Birmingham, Alabama, designer Stephanie Lynton, however, those traditions look a little different. “Not much stays the same around here when it comes to Christmas,” she says. “You might say our tradition is change.”
Stephanie begins planning her holiday décor in the summer and purchasing materials in early October. “There are so many things I love about decorating for Christmas,” she says. “I don’t want to be locked into any one thing, so I like to take my time looking at all the possibilities. It’s the same with my design business.”
In 2014, after years of practicing construction law, Stephanie decided to focus her energy on her real passion, interior design. Since then, she has mastered a style that is both colorful and inviting. Behind the playful aesthetic, however, is a driven entrepreneur with a unique set of tools. “I bring a special skill set to the table as a designer because I know about the PSI of concrete and what the geotechnical friction of soil means for your foundation,” she says. “At times, those things have helped me land clients that I wouldn’t have otherwise.”
Stephanie has a prowess for pattern play and unexpected color pairings that is evident throughout her home, as seen in the pink-and-green palette of her foyer covered with Arbre De Vie (tree of life) wallpaper by Clarence House. “I also have an all-pink room, a red room, and a green room,” says the designer. “In each one, I kept layering both color and pattern until I felt I had enough.” Between these colorful spaces, she breaks up the boldness with a few neutral rooms, such as her mostly white kitchen and airy stairwell.
In addition to her vibrant color schemes, Stephanie likes to incorporate one-of-a-kind, character-rich pieces and materials into her designs, as seen in the entryway, where a terra-cotta faux bois planter overflows with wild greenery. Underfoot, the 100-year-old reclaimed Bessemer Grey brick floors create a textured, historic ambience. “Those bricks are pretty tough to come by, so I was lucky to get them,” she says. “To achieve the pillowed look I wanted, I used a tile saw to cut both faces of each brick. Then I flipped them over and tumbled them together to knock the edges off.”
That personal touch and attention to detail pervade the 1930s home, which Stephanie and her husband have renovated and expanded upon since buying it more than 20 years ago. As in most houses, the kitchen is the place where the family spends the most time. The room’s inviting wing chairs are a favorite spot for her husband and daughter to relax. Open shelves full of cake stands speak to the designer’s love of baking.
An adjoining butler’s pantry, painted a playful light green, reflects even more of Stephanie’s interests. “I like to call it the JOATMON room because it’s the Jack of all Trades, Master of None space,” she says. “It’s as much my pantry as it is my wrapping paper niche. And it also holds all of my gardening supplies.”
For the holidays, Stephanie likes to really flex her design muscle and experiment with different themes and influences from around the world. She pulled inspiration from European folk art to create her front door décor, which includes a medallion of amaryllis, sugar pine cones, berries, and evergreens, along with two doves joined by a ruby heart. “Since we still can’t travel much because of COVID, I’m bringing the world to our house,” she says.
Working with her hands and making things is a passion that Stephanie shares with her mother-in-law and daughter, both of whom enjoy helping with the holiday decorations. On the other end of the kitchen, adjacent to the stairwell, the trio created a special tree that they placed on the base of an oversized blue-and-white tulipiere the three women made years ago. “We call this ‘The Nana Tree,’ ” says the designer. “It has become so special to us over the years because we work on it together.”
The round ornaments were hand-painted to look like Dutch art, while the others, in the shapes of hearts, stars, and gingerbread men, were sugared to look like cookies. “We are huge crafters in this family,” Stephanie says. “The Christmas joy for us is doing the project together, coming up with a different theme each year, and seeing it from start to finish. And while we like to change things up, there is one constant: It’s always a family affair.”
Stephanie Lynton’s Tips for Holiday Decorating
When it comes to holiday decorations, it’s hard to go wrong with simple red, green, and white. After all, who doesn’t love fresh green garlands with red berries and sprigs of mistletoe?
While Stephanie enjoys decorating with these classic seasonal colors, she’s not afraid to use her imagination to change things up. Whether she chooses a vintage, hot-pink tree from the 1960s or blue-and-white pottery loaded with red blooms, the designer is a proponent of playful creativity and not taking oneself too seriously. “Start by looking at your own home and experimenting with colors that are already part of your décor,” she says.
Although the designer is known for mixing colors and themes from room to room, she also understands the virtues of simplicity. If that’s what you prefer, she says to “pick one thing, do lots of it, and spread it throughout the house. Then it’s cohesive and easy yet still makes a statement.”
Stephanie also suggests finding inspiration by observing the holiday traditions of other cultures, such as the Dutch use of Delft Blue porcelain.
Organization is the key to stress-free entertaining. Stephanie advises ordering things like flowers 60 to 90 days in advance. “You will be glad you planned ahead,” she says. “That takes so much worry off of you.”
Another tip? Mix real and artificial greenery. The latter can be used year after year and is a lifesaver for family members who suffer from cedar allergies.