November-December 2015 | WINTER WONDERLAND




The palatial masterpiece of Tom & Toni Stuart represents the Berlin community proudly — especially during the holidays

Written By: Nick Brandi | Photographer: GRANT L. GURSKY

Built in 2006, the home of Toni and Tom Stuart in Berlin is a palatial masterpiece that resulted from a collaboration between residential designer Chris Pattey of Becker Morgan Group and Toni herself. The Stuarts report that years of planning, down to the last detail, went into the design and construction of the four-level, 10,000 sq. ft. home — and it shows.

If the stately Doric columns that undergird the grand portico aren’t enough to presage what’s lies within, the triple-tier Napoleonic brass chandelier in the entranceway makes it a certainty. Further inside, beyond the wooden spiral staircase and elevator, 18-foot-high banks of circle-top windows rise in the great room to meet the 21-foot ceiling overhead, revealing spectacular views of Assawoman Bay and the 800-ft. private dock that connects it to the Stuarts’ six-acre plot. The effect leaves the premises is bathed in ambient light even on overcast days.

The home’s openness and intrinsic elegance make it the quintessential venue in which to stage classic Christmases in the grandest traditions. And that’s exactly what the Stuarts do. In the great room, for example, amid the French provincial décor that is the home’s overarching theme, a neat miniature crystal Christmas tree with supporting Santas from the Waterford Santa collection delicately yet tastefully greet visitors and bid them welcome. Looming behind them rather resplendently, the 10-foot blue spruce Christmas tree with oversize glass ornaments and hot-pink-ribbon tree topper overlooks the in-ground swimming pool while warmly embracing those who have come to share in the spirit of Noel. Bolstering the toasty motif are lush Persian area rugs and the rich Brazilian cherry floors that run throughout the home. 

The Stuarts make sure the yuletide spirit permeates the entire premises, even the guest bathroom, an unforgettable little space that features authentic gold-leaf fleurs-de-lis and trim with a black crystal chandelier overhead. Also memorable is the sitting room off the master suite, which Toni dubs the “Santa room” during the holidays, not only for the collection of Santas that adorn the four-foot red Christmas tree but also for the Waterford and Christopher Radko ornaments that brighten the fireplace mantel. Another hidden gem is the butler’s pantry, which Toni uses as the forum for mini-Christmas trees in silver, mercury glass and crystal.

Every year in December, right around their wedding anniversary, the Stuarts throw a big party at their house for as many as 75 people. Fortunately, their spacious and beautiful kitchen is well-suited to the heavy lifting that such events entail. Bedecked in rich cherry-wood cabinetry grown in Snow Hill, the room includes a 12-seat table, a center island in Red Bordeaux granite and a hearth-like range with slate facing. The tile behind the range was imported from Italy, while travertine tile covers the floor.

The dining room, meanwhile, has a cherry-wood table of its own, but this set with Henredon chairs is over 50 years old, a present that Toni had given her mother. The tray ceiling, elegant brass-and-crystal chandelier and Waterford crystal candlesticks form the ideal tableau for dining with loved ones while raising a glass to the joy of the season. The room’s aristocratic ambiance is further enhanced by the four-foot Christmas tree trimmed in gold silk

Of the home’s four fireplaces, the most impressive arguably awaits in the family room. It’s the one to which Tom is most attached, given that properly setting and securing the heavy black granite blocks that constitute it ranged from mere frustration to virtual nightmare for both him and the masons who created it. Though it was apparently touch-and-go for a while, Tom is one former NASA executive who can proudly say “mission accomplished” with regard to this imposing family-room feature.

Making sure it doesn’t overwhelm the rest of the room, meanwhile, are 18-foot cathedral ceilings with rafters, painted white, to keep the ambiance open and approachable. For her part, Toni reinforces this theme with touches that include the discrete deployment of blue-and-white porcelain vases and, during the holidays, adorable faux-gift light boxes in green and red. Most of all, though, her seven handcrafted, one-of-a-kind Santa figures from the original Bethany Lowe “Nostalgia for Nicholas” collection and the 3’ x 5’ Santa portrait that holds court over the mantel are the center-stage conveyors of Christmas in this cozy space.



There are no comments. Be the first to post a comment.