Snowmen and reindeer, Santas in sleighs with gifts piled high, Christmas trees decked out for the holiday, garland and bows galore.
There’s more of everything at this year’s Christmas Fantasy House, starting Oct. 29. It will take place in a 25,000-square-foot lakefront mansion, and one-third more decorators worked to dress the home in holiday style.
Gail Johnson, decorator chairperson for the event, said she expects the Ronald McDonald House Charities Eastern Wisconsin fundraiser to be one of the best showhouses ever because of its venue: the former UWM Alumni House, which is now a private residence.
“We are absolutely hoping and expecting it to be much bigger than events in the past because of the home’s size, location and history,” she said. “How often do people get to see a 25,000-square-foot mansion overlooking Lake Michigan?”
This year, 27 decorators — some of them new to the event — will dress up the mansion for Christmas. Previous events typically had about 20 decorators.
Johnson believes the kitchen, English pub, gentleman’s lounge and theater will be among visitors’ favorite rooms.
“One room I love is the kitchen. It’s newly renovated, so it’s up to date, but it has lots of Old World charm. Because it’s so large, they have much bigger pieces in there, and they are in the more traditional colors, the reds and the greens, that you don’t always see anymore.
“The English pub is also very nicely done. It’s in creams, golds, teals and emerald greens.”
“The gentleman’s lounge was done by new decorators Mitchell Conklin and Jeff Ketterhagen of Luce Lighting & Luxuries in Milwaukee,” she added. “They have Larry the Caribou hanging above the fireplace. The room is all in silvers and golds, and it’s so striking.”
She expects the theater room, by decorators Nikki Bruneau and Nancy Buntrock, also will be a favorite. That room was decorated in a popcorn and movie theater candy theme, with garland and gift-wrap made from paper popcorn bags.
Even though the home was featured this year as the Breast Cancer Showhouse, Johnson said, it’s a must-see for the holiday.
“It will be all decorated, and people can see what’s new and trendy in Christmas decorations. It will give people plenty of ideas,” and it will also provide a glimpse of furnishings selected by its homeowner, the entrepreneur and philanthropist Andy Nunemaker.
“We removed very little of his furniture. He has been wonderful to work with,” she said.
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A kitchen set up for entertaining
The kitchen was decorated by Sheila Kruepke, owner of Urban Farm Girl, a home décor store and gift shop in West Bend.
The room has two large islands with unique pendant chandeliers, two farmhouse sinks, large expanses of cabinets and countertops, an AGA stove with a custom hood, and a wall full of copper cookware.
“We converted one section into a hot cocoa display, we added a lot of trees and Santas, and on the island we did a Santa in a sleigh with his reindeer,” Kruepke said.
The trees range from 10 inches to 3 or 4 feet and represent an array of styles, from wood cutouts to old tinsel trees, she said.
“We also set up one of the counters to look as if we were entertaining. It will have charcuterie boards, dishes and utensils for entertaining.”
The room will have various decor styles but a cohesive look because of the colors she used, she said.
Kruepke, who also owns Urban Loft in West Bend, also decorated the foyer.
“That will be done in creams and whites. It will be natural and more organic. We will decorate the furniture that’s already there.
“There’s a marble table, and that will be the focal point. We’re doing a collection of silver and gold Santas and trees on it,” and a coatrack will hold Santa’s suit.
This is the first time she has decorated a room for the event.
“Not many people get chosen to do this, and we are very honored,” she said.
Bruneau said a Sweet Shoppe will be on the smaller island in the kitchen.
“Each year, we ask our wonderful volunteers to bring in baked goods such as cookies, brownies and cupcakes to be sold in our Sweet Shoppe. … They also bring in caramel corn, taffy, nuts, candy, caramels and specialty Christmas items like Elf Kisses and Reindeer Noses.”
She said committee members and others in the community also contribute goods. This year they include Waukesha County Technical College’s baking and pastry management students, and Jen’s Sweet Treats in Cudahy.
A ‘cozy cottage’ and a playroom
Alicia Dineen and Mary Windall decorated a third-floor bedroom with a theme Dineen called “A Cozy Cottage Christmas.” Dineen and Windall are the owners of A Conversation Piece, a home decor store in West Bend.
“It’s probably the littlest bedroom in the house, but I was very drawn to it,” because of the roofline, the deep windowsill and the coziness, Dineen said. “Every room is so spectacular, but this room had the least amount of pizzazz to it. It is so simple, I could envision our products and decor in it.”
She said the focal point will be a custom-made fireplace and art with a moose in a winter scene.
To go with these pieces, they topped the bed already in the room with a white comforter, a plaid throw and fuzzy pillows; they added a small sleigh and lighted Christmas trees in different sizes that are clustered and decorated with red ornaments for a woodsy feel.
Garland is strung throughout the room, and Christmas and winter floral accents abound.
Dineen said this is the second year her firm has decorated a room for the event.
“We did it last year and we enjoyed it so much. We also love the cause,” she said.
Patty Gilbert, owner of Creatively Yours, a gift store in Mequon, also decorated a small bedroom on the third floor.
There she designed a children’s playroom filled with toys, gnomes, polar bears, snowmen and winter decorations.
“People will see a unique way to do a child’s room. I brought in colors that are very earthy. It’s a winter theme, and the bedspread will be the focal point. It has ice skates and other winter themes on it. The bed will also be piled high with pillows and plush toys. They include a large doll, doll furniture and a wood rocking chair.”
She said a cherrywood chest of drawers already in the room will be topped with decorations, and the room’s decorative window and chandelier will be decorated.
Gilbert said she participated in the event in the past when she owned a store in Cedarburg, but this is the first time her new store has been involved.
A ‘more masculine’ pub area
Kriysti Wick, owner of Crane & Arrow, a home decor and furniture store in West Bend, used a theme she calls “a modern metallic Christmas” when she decorated the pub.
“I used a lot of deep emerald green and gold tones and a lot of faux greenery. There are a lot of different metallic ornaments in there. … It has less-traditional Christmas colors,” she said.
Visitors will see a holiday display on the bar, wreaths and garland on the windows, small faux trees set throughout the room, and a large deer trophy candelabra at the back of the bar, she added.
“We wanted it to be more masculine. We wanted it to be simplistic and modern and to complement the European style of that room,” she said.
Because of the mansion’s scale, even the main stairway was decorated by a professional.
Phil Meyer, floral manger at Bayside Floral Design/Bayside Garden Center, decorated the large front stairway, which has both upper and lower landings.
“I went with a more natural theme with grapevines and red accents. There are a lot of beautiful paintings in the second-floor hallway, and I didn’t want to compete with them,” he said.
He chose cone Christmas trees wrapped with grapevines, lanterns with candles in them and, on the lower landing, two large grapevine orbs with holiday lights set on black wrought-iron planters.
The railings of the curved stairway are decorated with grapevines, red bows and sprigs of artificial evergreens.
If you go
What: Christmas Fantasy House 2022. Tour a recently restored 25,000-square-foot east side mansion filled with holiday décor from design professionals. The former UWM Alumni House is now owned by philanthropist Andy Nunemaker.
Where: Shuttles will run continuously during the event. Parking will be at Lake Park on Saturdays (at East Newberry Boulevard and North Lake Drive). Parking for all other days will be at Veterans Park/McKinley Marina (at Lincoln Memorial Drive and Lagoon Drive).
When: Oct. 29 to Nov. 6. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 29 and 30 and Nov. 5 and 6. 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 31, Nov. 1, 3 and. 4. Closed Nov. 2.
Tickets: $25. The event benefits the Ronald McDonald House Charities Eastern Wisconsin. Tickets will be sold at the door, at some participating decorators and some Pick N’ Save and Metro Market stores, among other locations, and online.
For more information: christmasfantasyhouse.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fantasy House needs volunteers
Hundreds of volunteers are need for the Christmas Fantasy House, more than usual because of the size of the house.
Volunteers will sell raffle tickets for holiday baskets, trees and wreaths; work in the boutique or the sweet shop, act as docents; or drive shuttle buses.
“There are two benefits. One is they are helping us reach our goal of helping the Ronald McDonald House financially. The second is that they are able to tour the house before or after their shift for free,” she said.
To volunteer go to christmasfantasyhouse.com.