November-December 2012 | 'TIS THE SEASON

Vonda Calhoun and Mike Shahan



Vonda Calhoun’s seaford residence is a spectacular winter wonderland during the holidays

Written By: Nick Brandi | Photographer: Stephen Cherry

As anyone who knows Vonda Calhoun would be more than happy to tell you, she is more than just the owner of “Delmarva’s largest casual furniture dealer.” She is also a very special soul who cherishes the holiday season as her favorite time of year. And to the utter delight of the community at large, she makes sure she shows it.
Each year, Vonda goes all out to transform her beautiful white Georgian Colonial in Seaford into a yuletide wonderland that would make certain unnamed white-bearded residents of the North Pole red-and-green with envy. Vonda and her husband, Mike Shahan, acquired the three-level, 2,700 sq. ft. home in 2005, when it was a spritely 104 years old, and completely renovated it.
“Mike and I fell in love with this house because of things like its federal-style construction and 17-foot-high Doric columns in the front,” said Vonda, who is also the proud owner of Tyndall’s Casual Furniture in Laurel, Del. and Lewes. “The house just has so much character. We couldn’t wait to get started and breathe new life into it!”
That breath of new life morphs into a cyclonic gust when the holidays roll around. Vonda has been fanatical about Christmas since she was a little girl, and the Seaford house provided the perfect venue to express her ardor. When Vonda, Mike and aunts Judy Hastings and Elaine Cullen got together for their epic annual task, they began by deploying eight trees with different themes all around the expanse. On the front porch stands a grand 11-foot specimen with large ornaments, whereas the living-room showcases a large white-flocked tree with white lights under festive red ornaments and trimmings, which looks like something out of a Rockwell painting when set against the Pennsylvania fieldstone fireplace with wood mantle and the rich Oriental area rug. The living room also features a baby grand piano with greenery strewn about it and a four-foot Christmas angel perched atop. Elsewhere in the home await a lovely assortment of gold-and-silver-themed trees; in fact, there’seven a small tree in the master-suite bath as well as one in the dressing room, which sports ornaments shaped like little shoes and handbags. The tree on the patio, meanwhile, needed only white lights, as the multicolored lighting scheme that accompanies the heated pool with fountains is more than sufficient to bathe the outdoor entertaining area in a festive glow.
But when it comes to decorating — especially holiday decorating — it’s ultimately the finishing touches that make the experience memorable. In addition to the authentic magnolia wreaths that can be seen in the front windows and throughout the house (some of which were the same as those on display in the White House), the home’s balustrades are decked out with a nifty green scheme that Vonda uses to great effect.
“I like to decorate the staircases with top-quality artificial garland, then infuse them with live cuttings or clippings such as pine and magnolia. When done properly it looks very authentic, yet it holds up exceptionally well during the high-traffic time the holidays represent.”
Another staple of Vonda’s holiday extravaganza comes in the form of her elaborate collection of Christopher Radko ornaments, which never fails to add beauty and sparkle to an already magnificent creation.
“I just love Christopher Radko ornaments,” Vonda said. “I’ve been collecting them pretty much since they came out… must be 28 to 30 years now. I have hundreds, at least, maybe even thousands by now.”
But Vonda’s holiday labor of love doesn’t end with the ornaments, the gingerbread houses, the life-size nutcracker-inspired statue or even the silver-plated candlestick holders topped with cracked-glass orbs with interior silvering in red, silver and gold. It actually spills over onto the next house, which is a 1,400 sq. ft. cottage/guesthouse in which Mike’s father resides. There, you could find more opulent displays of lights, trees and Santas, including an enormous Santa head adorning the front door that bids season’s greetings to all who happen by.
Once fully realized, Vonda’s Christmas spectacle takes on the proportions of a community event, which is definitely a central aspect of the grand plan.
“I do a lot of entertaining during the holidays, more than at any other time of year,” Vonda declared. “Mike and I have had literally hundreds of people over by the time New Year arrives. And that’s the way we like it, keeping things lively and festive and fun. The most gratifying thing, though, is when complete strangers and neighborhood children come by and ask if they can tour the property to see all that we’ve done here. The broad smiles and glimmer of wonder on their faces make every single second of effort all worthwhile.”
For all the broad smiles this sweet-spirited woman encounters during the year’s most joyous time, it’s likely that the most radiant of all waits to greet her every time she passes a mirror.
“There is no other time like the holidays for me for reasons both pragmatic and sentimental,” Vonda shared with genuine ebullience. “Obviously, given what I do for a living, I am rather preoccupied with things related to home décor, and the holidays give me the ideal opportunity to get creative and express myself in the most elaborate ways. But even more than that, I revel in the way people smile and wave more, are generally warmer and friendlier, and the typical hectic pace of life seems to slow down just enough to remind us what really matters most: spending time with the people you love, rejoicing in life’s blessings and sharing that joy with others.”

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