Following a long-held dream, U.S. Army veteran and interior designer Bonnie Heebner brings a slice of Christmas in New England to the Eastern Shore of Delaware
Bonnie Heeber had wanted to purchase a beach house for a long time, but a very mobile 30-year career in the Army always seemed to make the timing less than opportune. Once retirement came along, however, there was nothing standing in Bonnie’s way, so she got serious about fulfilling her long-held and very patient dream.
“After lots of looking, we found Lewes and felt it was the ideal spot,” offered Bonnie, who has a daughter and a son. “I spent much of my childhood in Cape Cod, and Lewes kind of has that feel, yet it has the advantages of being on the Eastern Shore of Delaware.”
It was actually in 2002 that she picked up a modest 1940s-era cottage home on New Jersey Avenue. When she finally finished the renovations in 2006, the two-bedroom structure had been elevated, providing a second-floor view of the ocean, and a large wing was expanded, which now includes the kitchen and its two 13-foot counters. The home also features two porches, one enclosed and the other screened, as well as other great places to which she, family and friends can escape.
Bonnie is a professional interior designer who likes to mix her themes in the avoidance of sameness. Come the holidays, she enjoys a multitude of trees, some real, some artificial. In addition to a seashore tree, a Santa tree and a gold-and-angel tree, Bonnie deploys whatever others strike her fancy, sometimes totaling more than a half-dozen, with heights up to 10 feet. Her main challenge each year, she says, is finding a different theme for each tree, though she always makes sure one of them is adorned with a combination of handmade and gift ornaments. The self-styled Christmas grove is supported by a nativity scene and no fewer than 52 Santas — with elves, of course.
“I love the glow of white lights and use them everywhere,” Bonnie said. “I use real greens and mix them with the artificial ones. I just love the smell.”
Another thing Bonnie loves is having people over and seeing them smile as they enjoy what she calls her “Christmas tour.”
“Friends and family have always been a part of our traditions,” she said, “and along the way we have had other military families join us for Christmas dinner.”
On Christmas Eve, Bonnie enjoys church services before returning back to the house for cocoa and cookies. Later on, the family and guests are usually treated to a reading of “A Visit from St. Nicholas” as a fire warms hearts and hands from the fireplace. Bonnie reports that even after all these years, she still stays up to the wee hours on Christmas Eve, wrapping presents for her four grandchildren to open in the morning. Several years ago, she began incorporating brown paper with raffia string as Santa’s gifts, with a different hand to write out each child’s name, so they can’t tell who wrote it.
“I love having this cottage and sharing it with my family and friends, especially during the holidays,” Bonnie said. “It’s during these times, perhaps more than any other, that you are reminded what really matters in life.”
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