Simple Holiday Splendor for a Historic Home

By Nancy Miller

Photos by Jolea Brown

Paig and Robert Trinkle wait until December 1 to begin decorating their Greek Revival house for Christmas. For the next week, as beloved decorations are brought out of storage and a few new items are added to the holiday collection, the New Albany home is filled with merriment that becomes Christmas magic.

Their daughters, nine-year-old Scarlet and thirteen-year-old Pennelope, are active participants in the family ritual. Tradition abounds, but Paig, a floral designer at Lavender Hill Flower Shop, twists the expected with delights and charm.   

The house is a resplendent backdrop for seasonal décor. It was built between 1852 and 1855 and separated around 1901 from the adjoining residence by owner and architect Paul Moosmiller, who is credited with designing the New Albany Carnegie Library and portions of the Seelbach Hotel. The home has period details such as an open staircase with a 1901 newel post, woodwork and hardware dating from the 1850s, a turn-of-the-century fireplace mantel on the first floor, strip oak flooring and cast-iron floor grates throughout the house, and an 1870 marble fireplace mantle on the second floor.

Robert, a partner in PriceWeber advertising agency, points with fondness to the marriage license for Moosmiller and Mary Day who were married on April 25. The Trinkles were married on that date 102 years later.

When they were considering purchasing the home a couple years ago, they knew the “bones” were great but had reservations about what a renovation would entail. They invited Barry Wooley and his partner, Jude Loew, Paig’s brother, to offer their opinions. Wooley and Loew are New Albany residents who own the Louisville interior design firm Barry Wooley Designs.

Barry pulled off wallpaper to have a look at the plaster underneath, and walked through the home to inspect details large and small. “I told Paig and Robert the project would involve a lot of work, but the house would be extraordinary after the restoration,” says Barry.

Today, the Trinkles’ art collection is a distinctive feature of the home. Several of Paig’s paintings hang on the walls as do pieces the couple have collected. Robert traded a snow blower and an antique cash register to acquire a work from the personal collection of New Albany artist Dave Thrasher. “He wouldn’t sell it to me for over a year, then I realized he is just more into trading,” says Robert. It is believed to be a close-up view of the inner workings of a mid-century radio. On the back of a piece by an unknown artist are decoupaged pages from 1960s editions of The Courier-Journal. The collection is also populated by the art of Joseph Meert, Jerome Seckler, Orville Carroll and Harold Laynor.

Christmas decorating is another type of art the Trinkles covet. Paig and Robert approach Christmas decorating with a sense of adventure and a shared passion for the holiday. “We love decorating our home for the holiday because it’s such a special time to let people feel our personality,” says Paig. Robert adds, “We fill our home with things that make us happy.”

The Trinkle home will have five Christmas trees this year: one each in the study, the master bedroom and tea room. Scarlet’s will be in the den.  Pennelope’s will be in her room.

Scarlet has been collecting rocks and antique glass from the banks of the Ohio River. “New Albany was the largest manufacturer of plate glass in America during the late 1800s. Who knows how old the glass is that she finds? To a nine-year-old, it looks like a real treasure,” says Robert. Scarlet and Paig wrapped paddle wire around the green, amber and clear glass that became unique Christmas ornaments.

An accomplished knitter, Pennelope and her Nana knitted squares to serve as folk ornaments while braided wool yarn serpentine down a “Charlie Brown” tree.

At Lavender Hill, Paig creates holiday arrangements for at least thirty clients and will decorate as many as ten Christmas trees for those who would rather leave the task to a professional. She also makes many custom tablescapes, mantel décor, tree toppers, wreaths and swags. But that isn’t the extent of her decorating for others. She volunteers to be in charge of Christmas floral arrangements at her church, St. Mary of the Knobs.

“Everything I learned in art school at Indiana University—balance, composition, subject matter, focal point—I apply to floral design,” she says. Her expertise coupled with that of Barry’s made them a pair of décor dynamos when she worked with him at Barry Wooley Designs. This season, they are collaborating on the Christmas décor for her house.

“I used to say that no ledge should be left uncovered when decorating for Christmas. But, with high quality materials, not as much is needed to make an impact. Still, I do love drippy, I can’t deny it,” says Barry. “And remember, spray paint goes a long way. Gold it up, honey.”

As he and Paig recalled the budget-tight, early days of Barry Wooley Designs, they described a simple decoration that had high-powered wow factor. They filled empty coffee cans with gravel, then inserted branches spray-painted gold and silver. Wiring on Christmas lights was the final touch.

Paig and Barry offer a few décor ideas to add sparkle and character to your home:

Look to family members’ hobbies as inspiration for a themed Christmas tree.

When you’re able to display more than one Christmas tree in your home, go all-red with a non-traditional aesthetic that allows color to play a celebrated role. In the Trinkles’ study, red lights, vintage red ornaments and red velvet bows serve as the tree’s foundation while loud patterns of red ribbon cascade from the custom topper.

Think outside the vase. For a local, hometown connection, Paig and Barry clipped magnolia branches to fill Art Deco soda bottles, circa 1930, from the Renn Bottling Works in New Albany.

Let it burn. Nothing is more traditional than decorating with candles for the holidays. To avoid candles looking pristine, light them for visual and literal warmth.

In a room full of architectural details, keep decorations to a minimum. But, in a room where less is more, ‘tis the season to snazz it up with holiday cheer.

Rather than single scattering, cluster ornaments or greenery for instant lush.

Don’t decorate alone! Turn on the carols, pour the eggnog and invite friends and family to join in the fun.