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.