MaryAnne and Mark Roethle won’t be able to gather all their loved ones together at their home for the holidays this year due to the COVID crisis. But that doesn’t mean they won’t fill their Wauwatosa home with striking holiday decorations.
“Decorating makes the house wonderfully cozy and warm, and it celebrates the season,” she said. “There is nothing more enjoyable and homey to me than sitting in the living room looking around at the garland, the trees and the fireplace. …
“Each year we have a big celebration with my husband’s family. This year is our year to host it, but unless the weather is nice and we can stay outside, I don’t think we’ll be doing that,” she added.
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Roethle, an artist and the founder of Rockway Pottery, said this year they are likely to enjoy their decorations with their adult daughter, Maggie, and their son, Michael, who is a sophomore in high school. Mark is a researcher at the Medical College of Wisconsin.
Her artwork will be featured at the 38th Annual Monches Artisans Holiday Open House Dec. 4 to 6.
And her home is a perfect space to decorate.
MaryAnn said the classic Lannon stone colonial they bought in 2003 was built in 1927 and she knew it would look great during the holidays.
“When we first saw it, I was charmed with its character and how it would lend itself to the beauty of holiday decorating,” she said.
Some amenities in the 2,800-square foot, five bedroom, 2½ bath home are textured walls, decorative plaster and wood crown molding, parquet and tile floors in unique patterns, arched doorways, large arched and leaded glass windows, a decorative staircase, a wood-burning fireplace/heater, and a sunroom that’s perfect for one of the three artificial Christmas trees they set out each year.
MaryAnne, who does the bulk of the decorating, said she decorates every room on the first floor, including the powder room. She started decorating as a young girl with her mom, the late Margaret Streff, who lived in Wauwatosa and Elm Grove.
“Now, a lot of the pieces we have are pieces my mom made. She was a ceramicist. She would get bisque pieces that had been molded and would paint and glaze and fire them. She loved to make Father Christmases, Santas and little Christmas houses.
“She made a lot of them for me, I inherited hers, and she also made a lot of them for our children. She also loved to make ornaments, so we have a lot of them on our family Christmas tree,” she said.
That tree, which sits in the living room, has multicolored lights, is wide, and reaches about 7 feet.
She said it also has ornaments from when she and her husband were children, and ornaments their children made when they were young.
The other trees in her home include tall, thin pencil trees in the living room and sunroom.
In addition to the trees, she adds string ornaments in the windows in the sunroom that hang at different levels, decorates the fireplace, dining room table, radiator covers, sets out holiday pillows, and decorates the tops of her kitchen cabinets.
After all those pieces are up, she adds more color by putting poinsettias in every room.
“I love to do the real big red ones, but sometimes I’ll get a collection of smaller ones and group those together,” she said.
She recently talked about holiday decorating at her home and the upcoming Monches tour.
Question: What kind of pottery do you make and where is it available?
Answer: I make stoneware pottery. It’s wheel-thrown, hand-carved, glazed and fired. It’s sold through my website and at craft fairs and art shows such as the Monches tour. At this year’s tour I’ll be selling a variety of pottery pieces and some holiday pieces.
Q: How do you decorate the other two trees in your home?
A: The one in the sunroom has white lights and very traditional European ornaments that are from a dear friend of mine who remembers them being on her grandmother’s tree. She gave them to me and they’re gorgeous. They’re all old and fragile. We have a cream colored skirt under it with garlands and pinecones.
The tree in the living room has white lights and silver, red and green ornaments that are traditional. It also some whimsical tear drops in silver and whimsical wrapped candy shaped ornaments. They make the tree look like an old-fashioned candy store. That tree gets a red skirt under it, and one of my mom’s Santas is next to it. It’s the largest one she made at 2 feet.
Q: What are some of your favorite accent pieces?
A: Mom’s Santas and her traditional Father Christmases. I have over a dozen of them. … There is a Russian Father Christmas holding a unique scepter and a nesting doll. There’s a Father Christmas from Switzerland that has a dog with a barrel under its neck and he is also holding skis. There are also whimsical ones like a Santa holding golf clubs.
Q: Any favorite ornaments?
A We have some antique ornaments on the family tree from my husband’s family. They are very traditional glass ornaments with red on the bottom and silver on the top and some gold glitter. They were pieces his parents treasured. Other favorites are a collection of snow babies my mom made. They’re ceramic ornaments of babies. One is in pajamas, one has snow boots on, there is one that’s holding a bat, one holding a bird, one with a paintbrush, one holding a Christmas tree, and one has a backpack with books.
Q Can you describe the pieces over your kitchen cabinets?
A: On some of the cabinets there are the Christmas houses my mom made. They light up. I also put garland up there for a backdrop, artificial snow, votives and a string of lights. The lights on the houses and a string of lights create some depth. On the other cabinets we have a Father Christmas, a ceramic Christmas tree with lights, and my mom made a house with snow babies on it.
Q: Do you decorate your staircase?
A: It’s different every year. This year I added ornaments between the spindles, a small wooden Christmas tree on the landing, and there are candles and some pottery on the steps. The radiator alongside the staircase spindles has a vase with ornament, a floral arraignment, and a piece showing the Holy Family that my Mom made.
Q: How do you accent your dining room?
A: This year I have two bowls with pinecones in them in the center of the table and a set of dinnerware I custom made for a client. It’s a blue and beige combination and it has pasta bowls. I decided to set it out this year because I wanted to highlight my work in a table scape over these holidays. Some years I just put out the two bowls with the pinecones. I also put garland around the mirror and the sconces are accented with bouquets of berries and holly. All the sconces in the house are decorated.
Q: What kind of garland did you add to the three curved doorways in the living room?
A: Two are magnolia and holly and the other is a gold berry.
Q: Your table settings aren’t in holiday colors. Do you like to mix your colors this time of year?
A: I like to mix non-holiday colors with holiday colors. It gives more variety. I think certain things should go with the house and don’t have to be a part of the holiday décor. I don’t do a holiday table because I feel the place settings should match the vibe of the house, not necessarily the season.
Q: Do you feature your pottery in other areas of the house during the holidays?
A: Yes. I set out mugs I made in the kitchen for anyone who wants coffee.
Q: How do you decorate your powder room?
A: I’ve got a glass container with ornaments in it, and my mom made a Santa in an outhouse and he’s in there. I also have holiday towels. It’s a small room so there’s not much we can do in there.
Q: How do you accent the fireplace in your living room?
A: I have stockings on it that we got as wedding gifts, and stockings we bought for the kids. On the mantel we’ve got sprigs of pine boughs, there’s a pretty red vase, candles and some other holiday pieces. I put the Father Christmas with the St. Bernard up there. We like to spend time together in front of the fireplace this time of year.
Q: How do you decorate the exterior of your home?
A: We keep the exterior clean. We just put up lights on the Japanese maple, then I have two pots on either side of the front door and I put traditional pine boughs, birch branches and ribbons in them.
Q: Where do you store your decorations?
A: In the attic. We have about 18 tubs or boxes.
Q: When do you start decorating?
A: Typically after Thanksgiving. Usually we have a big Thanksgiving and the next day I start decorating. Mark brings all the stuff down and both of the kids enjoy decorating. Our daughter especially likes to come over and help.
Q: How long does it take?
A: Usually a little over a weekend. I have it down to a science.
Q: What’s your style of decorating year round?
A: Arts and crafts and traditional. A lot of our pieces were handed down from family members. I’m not the kind that goes out and gets a whole new dining room set when we have functional pieces from great-aunt Sofia or Grandma and Grandpa.
Q: Do the colors you decorate with year round go well with your holiday décor?
A: Yes, the reds and greens match the décor. In the living room we painted part of the fireplace green, and that matches the green in the rug and they both pick up the greens in the garland. And the couch and chair are burgundy. In the dining room I also have tablecloths in burgundy and those colors are in the Santas and Father Christmases in there.
Q: Do you plan to have special holiday meals for your immediate family?
A: We will still do a traditional holiday dinner that is unique to the family. Grandma always cooked sauerbraten, so I will get that going shortly after Thanksgiving for Christmas Eve. We will do a traditional turkey for Christmas day.
Q: Have you participated in the Monches tour before?
A: Yes, this is my second year. I will be at the Monches Mill house this year. I was there last year.
Monches Artisans Holiday Open House.
What: 38th Annual Monches Artisans Holiday Open House. A driving tour through the historic Monches and scenic Holy Hill areas with six stops, among them artists’ studios businesses and restaurants. Each artist location will have unique gift items for sale.
When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 4 through 6. (Hours may vary at some sites)
For more information: See www.monchesartisans.com. From the site you can print out a map of locations. Maps will also be available at each of the tour stops as well.
Notes: Only the workshops and galleries of the business will be open to the public.
For the safety of both the artists and patrons, CDC guidelines should be followed. Social distancing is encouraged. Facemasks are required at all stops. Hand sanitizer will be available. Some studios will limit guests to allow for the social distancing recommendation.
This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: She’s an artist, part of the Monches tour, but her home Christmas decor is mostly about Mom