From the December/January 2015 Issue:

A Collaborative Christmas

    Writer: Robin Amster | Photographer: Patricia Burke | Decorator: Terri Levinson |

Husband and wife work together to display holiday collectibles in their renovated Middletown home

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enlarge | The wide columns of Terri and Andy Levinson’s home remind her of the Southern style she likes. The Levinsons keep the holiday décor simple with a red-ribboned wreath and greenery in urns by the front door.
Decorating for Christmas is a collaborative affair for Terri and Andy Levinson. That’s appropriate considering the couple also collaborated on the interior design of their three-bedroom Middletown home—a home that Terri Levinson says was “basically a chicken coop” when she and her husband purchased it in 1979.

“In fact, when my in-laws came to see it, they broke down in tears,” she says. “If we had any sense we would have torn it down and started from scratch.”
But they stuck with it, and renovating the home became a labor of love, Levinson says. Several renovations over the next 35 years led to what she says was “the final—and I do mean final—redo.”

That project included tearing down the original front entry, dining room, kitchen and sunroom. Those spaces were reconfigured for a new and larger living room, a dining room and kitchen. An expansion added space to the kitchen and created a screened porch.

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enlarge | White is Terri Levinson’s favorite color, and she uses it throughout her home. Simple arrangements of greenery and flowers, green garlands over the fireplace mantel and poinsettias surrounding the console combine for an uncluttered holiday look against the white background. The tree—one of four in the home—has a distinctive feature: a wood Star of David that Andy Levinson crafted in honor of his Jewish background.
A White Backdrop
Levinson calls the style of the home California casual. “It is open, casual and comfortable,” she says. The primary color? “I love white,” she says. “It serves as a backdrop for everything else.” The living room is the perfect example with white walls, a white sofa and overstuffed white chair. Two brown leather chairs provide contrast and balance.

In the dining room, a large wood table with a light stain and chunky turned legs is flanked by chairs slipcovered in white cotton duck. On the screened porch, off the living room, a sectional and rattan chair have white cushions while captain’s chairs wear white covers. In the kitchen—what Levinson calls “my sweet spot”—there’s white cabinetry with contemporary handles, white marble countertops and a white subway tile backsplash. Brown leather stools at the island break up the expanse of white.

The Levinsons collected most of their furniture over the past 35 years. Their collection includes many finds they refinished and repurposed. Andy Levinson is a talented carpenter, says his wife, and has a talent for finding castaway pieces and the imagination to envision their place in the home.

He found an old pantry cupboard—the kind that used to be built in old kitchens—on the street and “lugged it home,” she says. It now sits on a dining room wall and holds glassware and dishes. Terri Levinson originally refinished the piece and then painted it black. It’s a dramatic presence in the room. A lovely gilt mirror in the entryway was also a find.

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enlarge | The entryway’s Christmas tree holds wood angels that Terri Levinson has collected over the years. A large white angel sits atop a distressed blanket chest topped by a gilt mirror draped with greenery.
Collected Treasures
Like their furnishings, the Levinsons have collected their holiday decorations over the years. “These are little things we’ve picked up here and there that have meaning,” she says. The Levinsons have plenty of space for the decorations, with Christmas trees in the living room, dining room, screened porch and entry. “Crazy, I know, but our home has some high ceilings and open spaces that just beg to be decorated,” she says.

Among the Christmas decorations is a collection of white wood angels that, along with glittering lights, adorn the tree in the entryway. Also in the entryway, a large white angel sits atop a distinctive distressed wood blanket chest. The angels are Terri Levinson’s favorites and, she says regretfully, she can’t find any more of them to add to her collection.

Less is more in their approach to holiday décor. The tree in the screened porch, for example, bears only tiny lights. The living and dining room trees have more decorations, including glass icicles, gold- and silver-sprayed sand dollars, gold balls and antique ornaments.

The Levinsons focus on the natural for the decorations beyond the Christmas tree ornaments. Greenery abounds in garlands, simple drapings and arrangements that include flowers often dressed up with bright red ribbons. The greenery comes from the backyard; the flowers are from a local garden shop.

“It’s not overdone,” she says of the holiday décor. “It’s one little statement in each room instead of a lot of little ornaments scattered around. That brings the spirit alive.”

The living room tree also bears a distinctive touch: a Star of David that Andy Levinson crafted in wood. It crowns the tree. It’s a “shout out” to his Jewish roots, his wife says. He is proud of his heritage but also welcomes the couple’s Christmas celebrations.

“What’s not to have fun with at Christmas,” says Terri Levinson, who adds that the couple have hosted an annual Christmas Eve party for family and friends for the past 42 years. “It’s a magical time of year, and not so much religious as it used to be. For us it’s a celebration of nature and family.”

Robin Amster, a regular contributor to Design NJ, is a Madison-based writer and editor.


Overall: interior design and holiday décor, Terri and Andi Levinson. Foyer: blanket chest, British Cottage in?Red Bank; gilt mirror, a find. Living Room: sofa and oversized chair, Macy’s in Eatontown; console, British Cottage. Dining Room: table and chairs, Platypus in Shrewsbury; black cabinet, a find; chandelier, British Cottage. Screened Porch: sectional and rattan chair, Pottery Barn. Kitchen: cabinetry, Town & Country Kitchen and Bath in Red Bank; countertops, Bedrock Granite in Shrewsbury; counter stools, Platypus.

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