Hol­i­day HOME AWAY from Home

A va­ca­tion rental prop­erty in Texas treats guests to a cozy Christ­mas.


Christ­mas movies and greet­ing cards show fam­i­lies nes­tled in their brightly

be­decked homes, sit­ting by the tree or a crack­ling fire, and that’s likely how you en­vi­sion spend­ing the hol­i­day as well. But some­times we find our­selves on the road at Christ­mas­time. The Blue Bun­ga­low va­ca­tion rental prop­erty in Mck­in­ney, Texas, wants to make sure their guests en­joy the fes­tive dé­cor of the sea­son while they’re away from home, so the own­ers go the ex­tra mile—with­out go­ing

over the top—to have an in­te­rior de­signer cre­ate the Christ­mas look for hol­i­day trav­el­ers.

Karen Otto was more than the de­signer for the rooms: Her mother, Merci, owns the home as an in­vest­ment prop­erty, and it is used ex­clu­sively as a fam­ily va­ca­tion prop­erty and short-term rental. Karen and her hus­band, Ed­die, man­age the Airbnb -listed prop­erty. The cou­ple also own and op­er­ate a home-stag­ing com­pany, Home Star Stag­ing, based in Texas.

“Mck­in­ney has a ro­bust wed­ding venue mar­ket along with the draw of the his­toric down­town with all the shops, an­tiques and won­der­ful restau­rants,” Karen says. “We get guests who come in town for wed­dings, girl­friends’ week­ends, stays be­tween homes, busi­ness trav­el­ers, writ­ers, fam­ily vis­it­ing dur­ing the hol­i­days and even folks who come down for big foot­ball games. We wanted to make the home feel very cozy—not just a place to sleep, like a ho­tel. Trav­el­ers who choose Airbnb or the like are a dif­fer­ent kind of

guest, and we want to ex­ceed their ex­pec­ta­tions and make them truly feel at home.”

Karen de­signed the rooms with Christ­mas dé­cor that has both tra­di­tional and non­tra­di­tional el­e­ments, but all the rooms have one thing in com­mon: They are not decked out in an over­pow­er­ing style but rather in a cozy yet cu­rated fes­tive fash­ion.

“While it’s not over-the-top dé­cor, we do like to have vi­sions of Christ­mas danc­ing in [our guests’] heads when they walk through the door, es­pe­cially be­cause you can see the whole liv­ing/ din­ing space as you en­ter the house,” Karen says. “It doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily take a lot to make the sea­son merry and bright. Taste­ful touches work well with­out over­whelm­ing the senses. As a

KAREN warmly wel­comes hol­i­day guests to the Blue Bun­ga­low BY SHAR­ING THE VIN­TAGE HOL­I­DAY PIECES AND COL­LEC­TIONS she has ac­quired over the years

pro­fes­sional home stager, I’ve learned the bal­ance of edit­ing when sell­ing a home.”

One of the ways Karen warmly wel­comes hol­i­day guests to The Blue Bun­ga­low is by shar­ing the vin­tage hol­i­day pieces and col­lec­tions she has ac­quired over the years. “I’m a be­liever that you need to use, dis­play and share your col­lec­tions with oth­ers. Oth­er­wise, what pur­pose do they re­ally serve?” she says. “While guests may or may not be col­lec­tors, I’ve re­ceived notes that say they’ve been in­spired by our home and dé­cor. It makes me so happy to know that they find that it’s some­thing they too could do in their own homes.”

Karen likes to com­bine dec­o­ra­tive pieces from dif­fer­ent pe­ri­ods and styles for a col­lected-over-time look that adds a home-away-from-home feel­ing for guests. The great room is an eclec­tic mix of vin­tage, sec­ond­hand and new pieces. “The sofa and cof­fee table are new pieces from Ne­braska Fur­ni­ture Mart. They looked a bit mid­cen­tury, and the home was built in that era. Com­bin­ing styles is 100 per­cent okay. It’s scale, bal­ance and color that are of­ten the most crit­i­cal pieces of the blend­ing of styles puz­zle,” Karen says.

"While it's not over-the-top DECOR WE DO LIKE TO HAVE VI­SIONS OF CHRIST­MAS danc­ing in [our guests] heads when they walk through the door."

Tran­si­tion­ing the 1,300-square-foot home from its stan­dard dé­cor to Christ­mas styling isn’t dif­fi­cult for Karen, thanks to its pri­mary color pal­ette. “I like to keep the red, white and blue color theme go­ing year-round, so I used a mix of vin­tage and new or­na­ments as filler in a wreath box along with antler sheds, sil­ver jin­gle bells and pinecones,” Karen says. “Red and blue are stan­dard in The Blue Bun­ga­low year-round, so it makes hol­i­day dec­o­rat­ing from the Fourth of July to Christ­mas seam­less and sim­ple.”

From the mo­ment guests ar­rive, they can feel right at home. They en­ter through the back mud­room, which leads them into the kitchen. “We love to wel­come them in from the cold with a sim­ple wreath, some vin­tage cool­ers (which they can use) and a hot co­coa sta­tion ready for them when they ar­rive,” Karen says. “Guests are free to use any­thing in the home, so if they’re head­ing for an out­door event and need a ther­mos or blan­ket, it’s theirs for the day.”

The Blue Bun­ga­low has in­deed found ways through its cu­rated yet charm­ing dé­cor to share the fes­tive spirit of the hol­i­day sea­son with its guests.

top right: “I STARTED A COL­LEC­TION of what I like to call ‘sketchy San­tas,’” says Karen. “My hus­band, Ed­die, gave me a book with the same ti­tle one Christ­mas, and I just loved it. I like the ex­pres­sions they make, like Santa’s al­ways up to some­thing, which he is, right?”

top left: KAREN LIKES TO KEEP THE RED, white and blue color theme go­ing year round, so she used a mix of vin­tage and new or­na­ments as filler in a wreath box along with antler sheds, sil­ver jin­gle bells and pinecones.

op­po­site: “AS TEXAS HOME STAGERS, we own three sets of the faux-hide brindle arm chairs, which we love!” Karen says. “What says Texas more than a hide? And no an­i­mal was harmed in the process.” The sofa and cof­fee table are new pieces from Ne­braska Fur­ni­ture Mart.

ON THE COUNTER is a re­pur­posed am­mu­ni­tions con­tainer. “The only weapons in there now are uten­sils,” Karen says. There is a box of ‘Snow’ and a vin­tage tin cake car­rier. “We al­ways leave a sweet bread or snack to wel­come our guests to the home, and the cake plate is usu­ally where they find it, un­less it’s muffins—and we put those in an old cov­ered camp­ing pot.

THE FROSTY MUGS WITH TOP HATS were an­other thrift-store find, but they are orig­i­nally from Williams-sonoma. The enam­el­ware tray they are rest­ing on was an an­tiques-mall pur­chase. “Enam­el­ware is not only func­tional and stylish but su­per easy to clean as well and vir­tu­ally in­de­struc­tible,” Karen says. “It’s an easy starter col­lec­tion too. I like to set up the hot co­coa bar for guests to feel wel­come to make their own.”

“SINCE MY SIS­TER HAD TWIN BOYS, we nat­u­rally had to have a room with twin beds for when they visit. And trav­el­ers in groups ap­pre­ci­ate that they can have their own bed if needed, too,” Karen says. “There’s a fun, youth­ful mix of col­ors and pat­terns in this space.”

THIS ROOM ORIG­I­NALLY HAD PINE PAN­EL­ING that was dark and dated. Karen re­painted it a crisp white to re­fresh the space so it feels light and airy. The only new pieces are the iron bed and mat­tress, the lamps and the bed linens. Ev­ery­thing else in the space is sec­ond­hand and vin­tage, in­clud­ing the wreath. At the base of the bed is an old wash­stand that Karen found an­tiquing. Un­der­neath the stand is a set of old leather suit­cases she found that have made the rounds as end ta­bles, toy stor­age and even gift-hid­ing spots. “The wash­stand is for trav­el­ers to set their bags on, and the lug­gage is a re­minder to them that they can use it!” Karen says.

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