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A Country French Holiday
By Carol McGarvey | Photography by Tim Abramowitz
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A gracious home in West Des Moines wears Christmas in a colorful fashion.

Marsha and Ray Scott’s home in West Des Moines carries all the earmarks of country French design:

  • Warm and comfortable
  • Simple yet elegant
  • Timeless and tasteful
  • Lovely fabrics and layering
  • Garden inspiration

Add Christmas to the mix and you have a beautiful holiday look. “I just love puttering and decorating,” says Marsha. And it shows. She has experience; she owned the Fancy Folks bridal shop in Valley Junction for 13 years. Now she works in the insurance business operated by her husband and son, Scott Insurance Services in West Des Moines.

With three grown children, their spouses, and eight grandkids, the Scotts delight in the season. “It’s all about getting together and about saying thank you to people for their friendship throughout the year,” she says. And the lucky recipients often get a taste of Marsha’s holiday baking, including chocolate cake, praline bars, and cookies, all family recipes.

Evolving style

Her holiday accessories have evolved over the years, from houses to Santa Claus figures to angels and children’s items. She loves perusing tag sales and estate sales for antiques and has amassed a large collection of red glass.

Guests arriving at the front door are greeted by holiday items in the front courtyard. Some old and some new blend easily.

The home’s main holiday tree in the living room is decked out in teal and silver and a variety of peacock ornaments. Marsha says she got started with a gift on that tree and has continued with the color scheme.

Nearby, an elaborate decorated house made by a friend gets special treatment on the coffee table. The house is covered by a cloche, or clear dome, to show it off.

A toy coach, which belonged to Marsha’s father during the Depression, gets a special place of honor.

Marsha enjoys cooking—she loves the serenity of it, she says, so decorating the dining room table for a special meal is fun for her. She uses gold chargers and utensils and lots of her red glassware. Bottle-brush trees decorate the table, which is set with white napkins trimmed with greenery and shiny ornaments.

Treats for grandchildren

A hot chocolate bar with all the marshmallow and sprinkles for garnish that kids of any age would love is a tradition for the grandkids. Marsha makes sure they all have new pajamas for the holiday, even though they now range from 6 to 20. On an old marble-topped pastry table stand photos of the grandchildren over the years.

In the kitchen a breakfast table is set with red chargers, festive holiday salad plates, and gold mugs. A small chandelier over the table is trimmed with black and white ribbons, pearls, and crystals for an especially festive look. The pristine white kitchen itself puts out a holiday glow with red and white accents. A round table with black and white wicker chairs is set with a black and white MacKenzie-Childs coffeepot and poinsettias for a crisp-looking contrast.

The nearby family room has a table set with a s’more machine, so much fun for grandkids. This room has an extra-long mantel, just right for hanging stockings, bows, and greenery. A skinny tree displays baby items such as cups and spoons.

Marsha loves gardening, too, so over the sectional sofa hangs a gigantic wreath made of hydrangeas, mostly from her backyard, where she also grows roses. In the front courtyard she harvests lots of herbs.

In a guest bedroom a silver tabletop tree adds a holiday glow. There’s even a wreath in an open armoire that houses a TV. On the bed is a “present” made of wire with twinkle lights inside.

Vintage touches

The master bedroom, decorated in shades of white, features a wreath over the window behind the headboard. Intricate jewelry trees give a vintage look, as do antique brush, comb, and mirror sets on display.

A Christmas tree decorated with vintage handkerchiefs honors Marsha’s mother’s collection. In Victorian times white hankies stood for good health, cheer, and friendship. Nearby, a white feather tree stands on a white wicker cart.

A pillow on the bed reflects the Scotts’ feeling about family—“Grandchildren fill a place in your heart you never knew was empty.”

Marsha loves beautiful things, and she loves to arrange them. “Incorporating old and new items at the holidays is important,” she says. “It’s all about making family memories.”


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