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In Time for Christmas

The simplicity of the front porch decorations offers a hint of the festive yet restrained approach throughout the house.
The simplicity of the front porch decorations offers a hint of the festive yet restrained approach throughout the house.
Lake Huron meets Hook Pond on Hither Lane
Jennifer Landes

    East Hampton may seem a long way from Michigan but for someone like Jill Lasersohn, who grew up on a farm near Lake Huron, the landscape looks remarkably like home. And like her childhood Christmases, Ms. Lasersohn transforms her house here every year from a summery retreat to a warm and inviting Yuletide setting, with wood crackling in the fireplaces, warm wool throws and lap blankets, crisp bows, and thoughtfully arranged evergreens.

    Home was originally Cass City, a small town not far from Frankenmuth, which calls itself Michigan’s Little Bavaria and boasts Bronner’s, the self-described largest Christmas store in the world. East Hampton became home in 1994, when she and her husband, Jack Lasersohn, decided to move here full time to raise their family.

    Ms. Lasersohn said Frankenmuth was the source of many, if not most, of her ornaments: hand-blown glass balls, corncobs, dogs, and other decorations that touch on personal themes. She has several equestrian ornaments from the time when her teenage daughters, Caroline and Jacqueline, were riding.

    Ms. Lasersohn’s approach to Christmas is a perfect match for her 4-year-old, antiques-filled house on Hither Lane in East Hampton Village, which was built by Ben Krupinski and incorporates the best of old and new.

    Christmas mugs and plates her grandmother gave her as a child are mixed in with more recent serving pieces. “When we were kids, we didn’t really get why she was giving these adult things to us, but now, of course, I treasure them.” There are pewter plates in a corner cabinet, bedecked with fronds of evergreens, and a collection of nutcrackers, which also has its origin in Michigan.

    The spirit of the holidays greets a visitor at the front door, where a garden statue of a West Highland terrier is festooned with a bright red bow — and then a real life and rather tall Westie named Duffy, with his own red bow around his neck, comes out to greet you. In the backyard, two Norwich terriers romp and have bows to match. On the porch, garden urns are filled with lush greenery and Christmas ball ornaments. Ms. Lasersohn said she has gathered enough Christmas decorations over the years for two trees, but keeps herself limited to one.

    “My mother likes to do themed trees each year,” she said, “but I’m more of a traditionalist and like to see the same ornaments each year.” She said she has personal favorites, which she puts on the tree every December, and her daughters have their own, which they place on it themselves.

    However, she chooses different colors each year, using a mix of traditional hues, but emphasizing certain ones over others. This year, mixed in with the red, green, and gold are a few less traditional colors, many showing the influence of Lilee Fell, a Bridgehampton floral designer, who is a friend. Ms. Fell helped Ms. Lasersohn with the arrangements of evergreens and ribbon, taking over the design of wreaths of pine, magnolia, and boxwood, which she created, as well as the arrangements of greens in the planters and on the mantels throughout the house.

    One striking touch is a bowl of vibrant orange tangerines to which Ms. Fell added sprigs of deep green boxwood from Ms. Lasersohn’s yard. Imported boxwood with larger leaves, which Ms. Fell brought in, is arranged into three wreaths that hang in a dining nook from ribbon with a dainty orange and white pattern.

    “When I first saw the ribbon, I said, ‘That is not Christmas.’ But Lilee told me to wait until she was finished putting them up, and now I can see she was exactly right.” The deep green of the boxwood against the orange has the same play of opposite colors that red and green does, but it looks fresher and sunnier, particularly against the tall windows in the nook.

    For this year, plaid is a recurring motif, whether it is the tartans of the throws and stadium blankets Ms. Lasersohn has collected for years, or the bows that tie the greens, or the throw pillows she has chosen for the season on the solid color fabric and leather couches and chairs throughout the residence. Plaid is also the theme of the wrapping paper she has chosen this year.

    Ms. Lasersohn said she misses the blue spruce trees of her youth, but has made peace with the balsam firs she buys here and loves their scent. She also misses the long-gone Christmas store in East Hampton Village, where she used to procure many of the things she did not bring from Michigan. Home, James, which closed a few years ago, was also a haunt for her during the holiday season.

    Noting that traditions often vary both between and within families, Ms. Lasersohn said, “When you marry someone, you have to blend your traditions.” For her husband, Christmas’s main event was in the morning. Ms. Lasersohn’s family, however, opened presents and celebrated on Christmas Eve. Now, she said, they divide the celebrations, opening a few gifts in the evening, with a meal of favorite appetizers and hors d’oeuvres, and leaving the rest for Christmas Day, when they have a full turkey dinner with oyster stuffing. Sugar cookies are baked and decorated, too, and Ms. Lasersohn noted, “We are a pumpkin and pecan pie family. Definitely, no apple.”

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