When Christmas comes to Dwayne and Connie Langille’s house, it leaves no surface untouched. But in perfect Connie-style, it doesn’t feel over the top in their Maple Street, Tatamagouche home.

This past Christmas, decorating took on special meaning as Connie took part in the annual House Tour that takes place in Tatamagouche as a fund-raiser for the local food bank. It took her weeks to prepare but wouldn’t you agree it was worth it? This year she upped the tree count to eight for the House Tour, but usually reigns it in to just four trees.

When Connie decorates, every room gets included. The bathroom is ready for Santa to take a bath, their bedroom is a glittery wonderland and even the laundry room was decked out, with a special theme just for the cats. Connie’s son’s mittens from years past get used season after season in the Christmas decorating, marking the years since he was a tiny boy who eagerly waited for Santa. The front porch is welcoming, and colourful with buffalo check, giving you the indication that you are in for a treat if you drop by.

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The spacious island is the hub of the kitchen, giving Connie lots of room to work on custom orders. Even the kitchen is feeling very festive with snowflakes overhead, under cabinet lighting that can change colour and pretty vignettes that are filled with sparkle.

Now, this isn’t Connie’s first Christmas that she’s decorated for. For six years, she owned and operated Gingerbread Lane on Main Street in Tatamagouche, a shop filled with country accents, many of them painted by Connie herself. Her spare time was filled with doing custom orders, which got especially busy leading up to Christmas. And even after her shop closed, Dwayne built a garage to house her workshop, where she held the occasional sale and they lived in the upstairs apartment while they built their existing home.

When I say they built their existing home, that’s exactly what I mean. Dwayne and Connie are responsible not only for the design of their home, but also the majority of the construction. Five years ago, they broke ground for their new bungalow that has all the charm of a century farm house. They called in the professionals for things like the foundation, some of the plumbing and the heating system. But Dwayne, being an electrician by trade, took on that part of the construction process, too. Doing the work themselves meant that the process would take longer as they worked their regular jobs and built the house. In the end, it took them 14 months from start to finish. And Connie was right there, alongside Dwayne for the entire build, Connie laughed as she talked about being on the roof, buttering the shingles so Dwayne could lay them.

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Baubles hang from a pretty chandelier, shining over the festive table that Connie is setting with pieces that hold fond memories. The village perches on the shelf while the buffet is a winter wonderful of boughs, snow and soft light.

When you do your own building, it means you truly get the final say in each decision that comes along, which can be a blessing and a curse. But the interior finishes were left to Connie and she knew how she wanted the home to feel on completion. She oversaw all the little details, down to the one inch mosaic tiles laid between the white base tiles on the bathroom floor, and by oversaw, really, she laid them herself.

Though this bungalow is new, it has lots of character throughout. Painted wood walls in the bathroom, dining area and front entry add lots of texture. The details in the kitchen cabinetry, which was built by Quest Kitchen in Elmsdale, were the combination of Connie’s and Quest Kitchen’s ideas and add that character that makes a house a home. From the cup pulls to under cabinet lighting that changes colour and the glass display cabinets, it is a real show stopper in the space. Even the details in the toe kick show just how much thought and attention was given to this project. The large island is a gathering point, like in any east coast kitchen, but it also gives Connie a space to spread out and work on painting her custom signs.

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The master bedroom is a dreamy, soft retreat, filled with sparkle and glitter. Architectural salvage acts as a headboard while the stockings are hung with care off a sweet, white fireplace.

Throughout their home, there are touches of history, items that remind them of their past but still fit in today with Connie’s style. The old phone and glasses on the dining room table belonged to Dwayne’s grandmother while other treasures come from across the road at Connie’s stepfather’s place. The postal boxes that house the television and components were used by Connie’s stepgrandmother who ran the Northport Post Office in years gone by but now have been repurposed. Even the village on the dining room shelf was collected by Dwayne over the years and looks very much at home perched above, overseeing the happenings in the home.

Not all the treasures have ties to their past, though, they love to spend their spare time scouring the antique shops in Great Village and in Tatamagouche for the perfect piece to finish off this or that vision that Connie has for their home. And if Connie has an idea, Dwayne is sure to lend a hand to make sure it comes to fruition, whether it’s rebuilding an old Mustang, installing sparkly chandeliers or cutting out hundreds of wooden stockings for the Christmas sign orders.

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Dwayne and Connie repurposed a stunning cabinet to create a unique vanity. The red pops nicely against the cool aqua and white of the fixtures of the bathroom, perfect for this time of year, but restful and relaxing the rest of the time.
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The tub is filled with bubbles, Santa’s suit hangs close by and the Naughty and Nice list is ready for him to check twice.

The use of white walls throughout their home was intentional, Connie knows how often she likes to switch things up. Having white walls means that she can easily change the colour of the cushions on the couch or change out the curtains and the walls don’t have to be painted with every whim. The blank canvas of their home allows Connie to really personalize it but not be limited, either. It’s not uncommon for Connie to change up the decorations on the front porch, either. What is beautifully decorated for Christmas now, could easily be changed up based on the season and be equally as inviting and filled with the character that Connie is known for.

Christmas is a special time for family, but spending time together in a beautifully decorated home just makes it all the more enjoyable. Dwayne and Connie are fortunate enough to have both.

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Filled with colour, the entry beckons you in, letting you know you are in for a special treat. A window bench between the closets is the perfect spot to sit and pull off your boots or admire the real tree covered in candy themed, colourful decorations.

USING ARCHITECTURAL SALVAGE

If you are looking for instant age and character in a new build, using architectural salvage is a great way to bring that into your home.  Salvage can be found at antique shops or through dealers or at a store like Phillips & Chestnut in Truro which specializes in salvage. What do we mean when we use the term salvage? Basically, anything worth removing from an old building that is deemed for demolition. A few examples would be hardwood flooring, window frames, doors, fireplaces, cabinetry and moldings. Even old lighting, cabinet hardware, tin tile, or door hinges hold appeal and can be marketed.

So what are some ways to bring salvage into a home? Old corbels could be used to support the extension of an island, doors can be reused to add character to your existing doorways, and old wood makes for a great accent wall or shelving. Door knobs can be repurposed as hooks, tin tile can be used as a back splash, and molding makes great frames. There are lots of great ideas out there!

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Lori Byrne
Lori Byrne is an Interior Decorator and a country-girl at heart. Fall is a personal favourite – rich colours, warm layers and a good reason to snuggle in! Exploring the Stewiacke Valley Barn Quilt tour has already been a highlight of my Fall since learning more about the history of barn quilts. If you need me, I’ll be planning decorating projects or painting more barn quilts in the studio! You can find me over at www.farmfreshstyle.ca