HOME DECORATED IN THE SPIRIT OF HOLIDAYS PAST
Nestled on a winding tree-lined street in Allendale sits a charming Nantucket shingled-style cottage festooned in holiday finery, which is home to Cheryll and Tim Vellek.
Ten years ago, the couple relocated to New Jersey after having lived in Belgium and Atlanta, but their familial roots are deeply imbedded in Bergen County. “Life has come full circle,” says Cheryll, who grew up in northern Virginia, of her family’s ultimate move to the small borough where her grandparents lived with her grandfather serving as chief of police. “My husband, Tim, grew up in Upper Saddle River, so when it came time to look for a home he was really familiar with the area and we fell in love with this house on Powell Road.”
Having a dad serve in the military meant several relocations during her childhood years, but one thing she says her father insisted on was that the family always be home together for the holidays – no matter what.
“Home for the holidays is very important to me,” says Cheryll, who begins prepping for the season right after Thanksgiving. “Even though our two children, Jeff and Lauren, are grown, they always make it home for Christmas. I always tell them that us all being together, year after year, is the best gift ever.”
The smooth-silky jazz strains of a Chris Botti holiday tune, twinkling trees trimmed in bows and ribbons and tables laden with confectionary delights set a picture-perfect holiday postcard for this family.
“When I am decorating the house for Christmas and looking at ornaments and photos from holidays past, it never ceases to amaze me that feeling of simple joy,” Cheryll says. “It truly is the most wonderful time of the year.”
Looking to upgrade the trims and ribbons for her holiday trees, Cheryll enlisted the decorating design eye of Natalie Warchola, owner of Warchola’s Holiday Design. “I had run into Backyard Living in Ridgewood to have someone redo the bows on my wreaths, and there was Natalie, who was crafting these beautiful wreaths using fabulous trims and ribbons. I asked her to help me and here we are, five years later, always tweaking this and that.” The dining room is striking with its red walls, gold accents and snowman tree, lending an air of whimsy with its branches laden with snow people of every shape and size. “It is a 30-year collection, one that I started when mmy son, Jeff, was born. There are more than 200 ornaments in different texture, glass, cloth, clay, and each and every one has a special meaning to our family.” The piece de resistance is the tree topper: a Frosty the Snowman hat. “When you walk into our home, which features an open floor plan, this is the first tree you will see. It always makes me smile.” Christmas dinner is served, formally, in the dining room. “I love bringing out the Christmas Spode china and the crystal and silver to the table,” Cheryll says. Her husband is the cook in the family. “As soon as morning festivities are over he pops into the kitchen to start preparing the holiday meal – leg of lamb and roasted potatoes – which, over time, has become our tradition,” she says. “It all started because of a turkey. When we lived in Brussels we could never get a turkey. They were virtually non-existent over there so we had to adapt to the food culture of where we lived. Now, all these years later, we don’t think twice about it. We place our lamb order with a local butcher in Wyckoff and two days before Christmas Tim picks it up. Oh, and we can’t forget Timmy’s famous apple pie for dessert. We can’t seem to get enough of it.”
The heart of the home – the kitchen – showcases the White House tree. “These ornaments, which are designed and released each year by the White House Historical Association, will forever have a special place in my heart because my mom started this collection for me in 1988,” Cheryll says. “My parents used to live in Alexandria, Va., and my mom would go to the Mount Vernon gift shop each year and buy me the White House ornament of that year. My dad, having served in the military, makes this tree even more meaningful to my family. We always look forward to receiving each new ornament, and it’s fun to talk about the historical significance.”
The kitchen, which serves as command central for the family, sports a festive holiday look – every nook and cranny says Christmas is coming. Windows are bedecked with fresh wreaths from Rohsler’s Nursery & Florist in Allendale and fashioned with plump velvet red bows. The room’s chandelier is treated to a handcrafted swag of live greens, holly and the signature Warchola red bow.
“My family starts groaning the weekend before Thanksgiving when I change out all the dishes in my kitchen cabinets and put in my holiday Christmas Spode china and platters. It’s numerous trips to the basement, but once it is all done it really pulls the room together,” says Cheryll. In early December, daughter Lauren will come in from Manhattan to bake up several batches of assorted holiday cookies, which delight family and guests throughout the season. After stockings and gifts are exchanged in front of the roaring fire in the adjacent family room, the couple and their children head to the kitchen table where a fresh raw bar, a cheese and cracker tray and the prerequisite champagne tasting and toasting take place.