A Historic Holiday in Colonial Williamsburg

As Williamsburg Designer in Residence, Heather Chadduck layers her distinguished quarters with natural, fresh finery for the season.
A white colonial house is dimly lit and surrounded by bare trees.
A man and woman stand in a forest holding foraged branches.
Floral designer Jimmie Henslee and Williamsburg designer in residence Heather Chadduck.

When Heather Chadduck was chosen as a designer in residence at Colonial Williamsburg, it might have seemed a surprising choice to fans of her work. During her years as an editor at Cottage Living and Coastal Living magazines, Heather perfected a style of light, beachy sophistication, which does not immediately come to mind when thinking of Colonial Williamsburg. But before all that, the designer was raised in Virginia. Her father worked at Colonial Williamsburg prior to pursuing a career in medicine. “I grew up in a Williamsburg-style house, and it was steeped in 18th-century decorative arts,” Heather says. “When I left home, I tried to steer away from the aesthetic I grew up with. I went to the Sorbonne, shopped in the flea market, and loaded up on French antiques.”

To design the interiors of the Nelson-Galt House, Heather worked with the licensees of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, including Schumacher fabrics, Mottahedah tableware, and Benjamin Moore paint. Flexing her style muscle memory, she also pulled from the Foundation’s collections of priceless art and ceramics. In addition, local antiquarians loaned her period furnishings that help ground the house in the early 18th century.

A simply decorated dining room table sits in front of a brick fireplace is decorated in greenery.
Formerly the kitchen building, the dining room has an operable walk-in fireplace and connects to the main house by a hallway. Jimmie fashioned a loose garland of pine, magnolia, smilax, and winged elm, as well as a centerpiece full of fruit and foraged greenery.

In the parlor, a subtle paper by Paul Montgomery, a Virginia muralist who holds a license for wallpapers in the town, pays homage to the surrounding forests, and adds a touch of the modern. A Schumacher stripe skirts the chairs in the dining room, while Mottahedeh’s “Imperial Blue” china sets the table. “I tried not to be too precious with the table settings,” Heather says. “Instead of using white linens, I mixed in some other shades of blue to enrich the impact.” In the guest room, a new block print from Schumacher’s Colonial Williamsburg collection, “Lafayette Botanical,” swathes the space in pattern, blurring the distinction between walls and ceiling. Heather designed the tufted headboards covered in the same print to fit precisely under the eaves.

A pink floral wreath hangs above a bamboo console table.
In the parlor, Heather hung an amaryllis and evergreen wreath, sprinkled with berzelia, over the Chinese console table. A collection of prints of the mazes at Versailles (circa 1682), borrowed from Malcolm Magruder Antiques, hangs behind the festive display. Muralist Paul Montgomery created the Kensington Whitework wallpaper in a custom colorway for the room. The woodwork is painted “Finnie Gray” from Benjamin Moore’s Williamsburg Collection.
Blue and white china lays on top of a grey placemat with silverware and flowers surrounding.
Mottahedeh’s “Imperial Blue” china contributes its ageless appeal. Pomegranates, cabbages, juniper, eucalyptus pods, pine cones, and amaryllis form a richly imagined arrangement. Place mats by Loulou La Dune add a note of modern elegance.

At Christmas, all of Colonial Williamsburg goes holiday mad as house tours and the annual wreath competition consume the community. For her part, Heather enlisted the help of an old pal, Jimmie Henslee of Dallas, to work his floral magic on her historic digs. “I’ve never been so honored,” says Jimmie. “I grew up visiting my aunt and uncle in Virginia every summer, and as a child, I was enraptured by the gardens and houses of Colonial Williamsburg.”

To give the holiday decorations local flavor, Heather and Jimmie went on a foraging expedition along the Colonial Parkway, a National Historical Park. “We collected loblolly pine, bay, holly, privet, and seedpods,” says Jimmie. “Lots of seedpods.”

A wreath hangs over a simple white bed.
In the main bedroom, a medallion print adorns the scalloped canopy. Walls in “York Gray” by Benjamin Moore add a soothing backdrop to the rice bed by Baker.
Three wreaths hang in a bedroom with blue floral wallpaper.
“Lafayette Botanical” fabric from Schumacher’s Colonial Williamsburg Collection creates a whimsical “garden” in the guest room.

In the parlor, the floral designer concocted a frothy arrangement of white amaryllis, magnolia branches, and holly mixed with greenery that caught his fancy during the pair’s foraging trip. “I wanted to take inspiration from Colonial Williamsburg’s past,” he says. “But I also wanted to give it a respectful update with a bit of organic wildness.”

A blue room and fireplace mantel are decorated with greenery and oranges.
In the study, painted Benjamin Moore’s “Apollo Blue,” Heather and Jimmie collaborated on a garland bedecked with oranges and satsumas.

For the dining table, Jimmie combined pomegranates, ornamental cabbages, juniper, eucalyptus pods, and bicolor amaryllis as a centerpiece that plays on tradition with an ebullient mix of textures. Throughout the house, fruit also has a starring role, from the satsumas Heather grew herself to the pomegranates placed on platters. The most eye-catching of these decorations may be the bay leaf garland studded with satsumas that meanders across the mantel in the study and then sweeps up to encircle an antique portrait on loan from the Foundation’s collection.

A large bouquet of white flowers are backlit by a window.
Jimmie Henslee filled a large blue jar with pine boughs, holly branches white amaryllis, and a cluster of red berries before hanging silver acorns on white ribbons throughout the arrangement. Photo by David Hillegas
Pink flowers sit in a gold urn on a console.
A bronze-colored urn is filled with salmon amaryllis and surrounded by pots and bottles of paperwhites. Photo by David Hillegas

As Heather and Jimmie completed the seasonal displays and stood back to look at the finished product, one thing was for sure—Heather’s beautiful décor combined with the timeless Christmas decorations is proof positive that she is, indeed, home for the holidays.

A white fireplace is decorated with magnolia leaves.
Photo by David Hillegas

A Whole-House Celebration

Heather shares her tips and tricks for making every room feel merry and bright.


Use clippings of greenery from your yard, along with seedpods and branches with berries, and wire the items into a store-bought fir or boxwood garland. Floral wire can help to attach them firmly.


The classic symbol of Southern hospitality is always a welcome sight at the front door.


As the blooms you forced begin to splay out, cut them and adorn a wreath or garland with them. Water tubes can extend their freshness. Or cluster some blooms in a small container.


Heather gave new life to the ones at the front door that were from an earlier garden club tour of her house. She used sprigs of fresh privet, lady apples wired into the form, and a pair of pineapples perched on top (see Tip 2).


Heather hung a wreath over her bed. Then she added an arrangement of roses, fir, and amaryllis to the bedside table to bring some of the home’s floral themes into the private space.

By Lydia Somerville

Photography by David Hillegas

Follow Heather Chadduck and Jimmie Henslee on Instagram.

See more colonial Christmas in “The Wreaths of Williamsburg.”