In a home in the hills outside Blacksburg, Christmas decorations are tastefully displayed, traditions have been handed down and created anew, and the holiday spirit fills every space. This classy, contemporary family house blends rustic elements with modern living for a sophisticated country lifestyle. Chris and Mary Kate Gaines revel in the joy of family all year long and in the special Christmas season.
Chris’s mom, June, painted a little bear with a blue hat for his first Christmas. She painted an ornament each year until she passed away when he was 20. “The sweetest part of this story,” Mary Kate explains, “is finding two, and only two, little bear ornaments in a Floyd antique store shopping with my mother. Though we had been struggling with infertility for years, I bought them, praying that one day I might have children for whom to paint them.” She discovered she was pregnant in October of 2011, and her mom, Dawn, passed away from cancer the next month.
“It was such a blessing to paint that bear ornament and remember the hope I shared with my mom years earlier,” Mary Kate recalls. They named their daughter Evelyn Dawn June after both her late grandmothers. In these photos, taken one year ago, Mary Kate is pregnant with her second child, Broderick Paul, born in the spring. She might be painting the other bear ornament right now, as you are reading her story.
The Gaines family begins decorating the day after Thanksgiving. “We’re the people who never tire of early Christmas music or cringe at seeing Christmas decor come out in September. We love it,” exclaims Mary Kate. Their own family traditions now include involvement with the Live Drive Thru Nativity the second weekend in December and the candlelight Christmas Eve service, both at Gateway Baptist Church. Back home on Christmas Eve they put on their “jingle jammies”, set out cookies, carrots and milk and read “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.”
“My husband and I love that our kids can see the Christmas tree in the great room below as soon as they walk out of their bedrooms. Christmas morning always has cinnamon rolls and a breakfast casserole. We read Luke 2:1-14 before opening presents. It’s low key after that with family time with Nana and Pap and lots of coffee.” Pap is Chris’s dad, Paul Gaines. Nana is Linda, his second wife with big shoes to fill as the only Grandma. “She is amazing and we just adore her … she is our rock,” Mary Kate says.
The couple purchased the 3,000-square-foot house in 2010; it was built in 1982. “The moment I walked in, I felt at home,” Mary Kate remembers, despite stained blue carpet, dark beams, a pink sink and toilet and other things. “All of 1980’s finest! It looked more like a lodge, but I had a vision.” It’s definitely been a labor of love to change every room in the house. Today, it is a bright, open, inviting home with beautiful, rustic antique pieces in unexpected places and built-in shelves for style and function.
The wood fireplace enclosure in the living room keeps the family warm and toasty all winter, and the view overlooking the forest to the Hahn farm is Mary Kate’s happy place. “I would love to add a dormer upstairs with a Juliet balcony to take in more of that heavenly view,” she says. But the open kitchen, vaulted beamed great room ceiling, stone fireplace, inlaid wood floors, crown molding, mud room, covered and open decks and a new playground area makes every day akin to Christmas for this abundantly thankful family with the bear with the blue hat ornaments, now plural.
Text by Joanne M. Anderson | Photos by Kristie Lea Photography