Holiday house tour in Sea Cliff inspires, aids the neediest

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While many residents are trading in their turkeys for tinsel and are beginning to decorate for the holidays, some local homeowners have been hard at work since August. On Saturday, the village’s Mutual Concerns Committee will host its annual Holiday House Tour, inviting visitors from near and far to tour turn-of-the-century villas throughout Sea Cliff that have been decorated in intricate, seasonal displays.

“People will call up in the summer asking about it,” said Peggie Como, the committee director. She originally proposed the idea as a way to raise money for the organization, which helps stock food pantries and provides programming for seniors in the community. “That gives me the inspiration to go on with it.”

During the summer, Como seeks interested residents to take part, giving them plenty of time to design their dream homes for the December date. This year, six homes will be featured on the tour, including Como’s. The Herald Gazette got a sneak peek at some of the décor that will be on display and spoke with homeowners about the importance of sharing during the season of giving.

289 8th Ave.

Como’s 1898 Victorian overlooks Hempstead Harbor. As a return participant, she challenged herself to “change it up” when it came to sprucing up.

The living room is adorned in classic pine cuttings, with hints of red warming the space. On the mantel, corals, seashells and starfish allude to the nearby beach, and miniature Christmas trees crafted from paper books sit atop gold candlesticks.

In the foyer, a Christmas tree laced with silver ribbons, snowflakes and stars stands as the central point of the “bling room,” named in honor of Como’s 3-year-old granddaughter, Maggie, who, she says, has an affinity for rummaging through her vintage jewelry box.

The décor in the dining room signals the start of a New Year, with pops of silver and gold running throughout. Hourglasses and clocks fill the mantelpiece, their hands about to strike midnight. On the table is a crystal punch bowl surrounded by bottles of champagne, and intricate, paper party hats await the celebration, too.

262 8th Ave.

Just up the street is the violet-hued home of Iris Targoff. A first-year participant, Targoff, a former natural designer, incorporates exotic plant and flower buds into her holiday design. “I love having the buds as much as the flowers because it’s something to anticipate,” she said.

Throughout the home, amaryllis and narcissus plants add green to the predominantly purple interior. Targoff said the color play “creates drama and excitement.” “I don’t adhere to the ‘Christmas colors,’” she said, “I do my own thing.”

The main event is a moss-scape upstairs, which includes narcissus sprouts, woven baskets, silken pillows, “floating” candles and spherical fishbowls, creating an ethereal garden scene.

Using nature to hone her designs comes naturally to Targoff. “I like to bring joy into my house, and that’s what I’ll be doing,” she said. “Adding sparkle, color, light — all of those things are important to me.”

307 8th Ave.

Down the hill, a quaint, baby blue cottage — the new home of Kevin and Jane McGilloway — is done up in seaside décor to reflect the chosen theme: Scandinavian beach, a nod to Jane’s upbringing.

This is the McGilloways’ third year showing their home on the tour. Jane’s vision for the new house, she said, was to stray from the traditional. “I really think that this [design] reflects us,” she said. “With this one, I can have a quirky Christmas.”

In the foyer, a bronze Christmas tree is adorned with seashells, beach chairs and starfish ornaments. Glass light bulbs containing frosted pines and miniature snowmen are hung in the windows. The home’s stable furnishings — lobster baskets, nautical clocks, framed ship passports and family photos from Sea Cliff Beach — elevate the sea-inspired design.

“This is for such a good cause and this is my little part to help,” McGilloway said of opening her home to visitors. “My attitude is, let’s share it.”

115 Central Ave.

A summer boarding house once known as Woodshed is now the home of Iris and Wehbeh Wehbeh, who moved to the village last year. Determined to fulfill her vision of a “universal Christmas,” Iris enlisted the help of her friend and event designer Robert D’Alessandro.

“We were thinking out of the box and trying to come up with something original that was really Iris’s aesthetic,” he said. “It’s about all the different cultures and working with elements that were inspired by native traditions, but also thinking festive for the holidays.”

“My husband is from the Middle East,” Wehbeh added, “and we have this global feel always going on in our house.”

Past the threshold stands a towering Christmas tree filled with festive ornaments spanning cultures worldwide. Some were shaped like hamsas, Buddha statues, Day of the Dead skulls and fortune cookies. In the living room, Persian rugs blend with tribal accents creating a chic, Bohemian vibe. On the mantel, a colossal gold “dream catcher” that D’Alessandro handcrafted from silk feathers and capiz shells stands out.

The gift of giving back

Though a treasured Sea Cliff tradition, the house tour offers more than decorating ideas. It gives participants the chance to help others in the spirit of giving. “There’s this misconception that everybody here is wealthy, and that isn’t the case,” Como said.

She spoke of the committee’s efforts to comfort, clothe and feed the less fortunate, not just during the holidays, but also all year long. “There are people that need a helping hand every now and then,” Como said. “If somebody is in need of anything, we can help them somehow.”