LAFAYETTE — There’s no need to wonder if Santa Claus is coming to town. He’s already here.
“I build a new one every year,” said Don Johnson, pointing to the prominent Santa and airplane on the roof of his Kings Road home. “My hobby is flying.”
Designer and landscaper Perry Stelly is the one who got Santa onto his high perch.
“I’ve been up there four times already,” said Stelly, who has taken on the Johnson’s holiday Christmas decorating since 2002.
With the rooftop ready to go, the interior of the home got special consideration this year when the couple volunteered to participate in a Christmas home tour.
“We kicked it up a notch,” said Tish Johnson.
That's something Tish Johnson knows how to do.
The Johnsons bought their home about 20 years ago, then did two years of comprehensive renovations.
“She said she wanted to buy a house, and I said, 'Do what you want,'” recalled Don Johnson. “When I got back from a trip to Canada, she said she’d found one and 'Let’s go look.' I said I loved it. She said, 'No you don’t; we’re going to redo it.'
“Later I asked, 'Do I like it yet?' She said, 'You’re getting close.’ ”
Kevin Gossen and Dan Bouligny designed the overhaul.
“I loved the courtyard-style yard; we opened it up and took out walls,” said Tish Johnson. “Our bedroom was an outside wall; we added a master bedroom and enlarged the upstairs.”
Today, the Johnsons share their home with Mario the cat and Mia and Sophia, a pair of Italian greyhounds who love to entertain almost as much as the couple.
Both Johnsons are retired psychologists whose private counseling business was located in Houston, and there is plenty of warm Texas hospitality.
“When my East Texas family comes in, we have (business) suits here and camouflage over there,” said Don Johnson with a laugh.
When entertaining a crowd, desserts are normally served in the dining room with a buffet placed on the pool table, totally reincarnated once it’s covered and skirted in white. Cases of china accommodate large-scale parties of 100 and change with the seasons.
The approach to holiday décor is definitely maximalist.
“It’s a group concept,” said Stelly. “We collaborate.”
No surface is left untouched, and poinsettias abound both inside and in the backyard.
In the foyer, large greyhound statues sport red ribbons, while antique Oriental rugs and silk upholstery form a traditional backdrop for green balls, maroon fabric and gold deer nestled on the living room coffee table.
The evergreen garlands on the dining room table are real, lending a hint of genuine Christmas fragrance, and the Muirfield china and goblets remain on the table throughout the season.
“Don insists that the centerpiece be low enough for people to talk,” said Tish Johnson.
Elaborate bobeches adorn the candelabras, and chandeliers are festooned with their own holiday finery, including an additional Santa.
Jeremy Williams, Stelly’s associate, does the 8-foot tree that overlooks the dining room and salon.
“I decorate it to look good from every angle,” said Williams. “There are five different styles of ribbon. That’s the decadent element.”
“Every year we refurbish,” added Stelly. “Over 20 years, certain styles of ribbon go out of style … and trends change. We donate some to Goodwill. It changes a bit every year.”
For instance, the stuffed ducks are no longer part of a tabletop centerpiece, having been discovered by Mia.
“When I came home, they told me ‘Mia plucked the ducks,’ ” said Tish Johnson.
The storage is off-site for the 40 large storage bins.
“Every room is boxed, labeled and photographed,” said Stelly. “It takes a week to install. It’s more of a traditional Christmas, red, green, and gold. Red is Tish’s favorite color, and we always try to match. I’ve picked up things in New Orleans.”
In addition to the Johnsons' home, Stelly works in New Orleans three days per week, where he’s been head of horticulture at the Windsor Court Hotel for the past 23 years.
After overseeing Christmas décor both here and at the hotel — where it’s his job to maintain the 21-foot tall tree — does he deck his own halls?
“I do not own a decoration or a wreath, not one item,” said Stelly. Which is just as well, for it appears a decorator’s work is never done.
“I’m turning my dune buggy into a giant sleigh,” said Don Johnson. “Do you have any more of that ribbon?”