The Dingers’ Holiday Home in Hixson
For the family of Mike and Teresa Dinger, decorating for Christmas has been a serious tradition for years. When they stumbled on their Hixson home three years ago, there was no doubt in their minds that the home would be the perfect backdrop—almost Christmas card-like—for keeping up the holiday festivities. Now the Christmas season unfolds in early November for the Dinger household. Over a period of weeks, the interior and exterior are transformed into a magical landscape until the entire home has become an enchanted Christmas wonderland.
By Rebecca Rochat | Photos by Med Dement
It was actually Mike and Teresa’s daughter, Haille, who first suggested the two story house situated on three-and-a-half acres, with commanding views of Signal Mountain and Chickamauga Lake. Haille wanted a horse, but when the Dingers saw the house, they knew it wouldn’t be the most conducive spot as the house sits high on a hill with a sloping back yard. If the setting was not enough to discourage the Dingers, the house, built in 1969, seemed to be in somewhat of a time warp. Mike described the interior as “part Tara, part Graceland.”
Nevertheless, the Dingers saw past the aesthetics, sensing the house was special and “had a story.” They purchased the home and soon embarked on a total renovation. Shag carpeting was removed and replaced with five-inch hand-scraped wooden plank flooring, a new coat of paint was added to all the rooms, the kitchen and bedrooms were updated, and the basement was transformed into a family entertainment area and guest bedroom.
The Dingers’ kitchen and family room—spanning the rear of the house— were reconfigured from the original layout. Now the open floorplan is separated only by a stacked stone see-through fireplace, where an open fire warms both family room and kitchen.
The family room and kitchen are decorated with a gingerbread theme, perfectly suited to the family’s tradition of hosting a gingerbread-making party every Christmas. In the family room, a leather sectional sofa encircles a circular coffee table with a centerpiece of red and white oversized candy ornaments, topped with a gingerbread man. Four stockings hang from the fireplace, each with an appliqued gingerbread man or woman and a family member’s name. The family room Christmas tree with gingerbread-themed ornaments is topped with candy canes and red striped ribbon. At one end of the family room, a large breakfront cabinet houses miniature English villages on three glass shelves.
Kitchen utensil decorations adorn the kitchen Christmas tree placed next to the fireplace. Nine nutcracker chefs line the fireplace mantle, over which hangs two oversized red and white candy ornaments. The kitchen’s granite countertops and butler’s pantry shelves are decked out with holiday cheer, from gingerbread houses and gingerbread-themed cookie jars and plates to candy cane trees and glass jars filled with candy. Around the raised bar on the center island, four chairs sport red back covers—like the stockings, they are appliqued with gingerbread men and women and personalized with family names.
The elegant dining room with light blue walls and white wainscoting has one of the home’s most beautiful architectural features—a recessed serving buffet, topped with a broken pediment. The buffet’s front doors have plasterwork of wheat bundle motifs, and its mirrored walls reflect light from the room’s chandelier. The top of the buffet is decorated with pine boughs flanked by lighted candles.
The dining table’s festive setting includes centerpieces of glass trees, gold placemats and napkins, and Christmas holly plates on gold chargers. An old-fashioned Santa in a burgundy velvet coat stands next to the room’s Christmas tree, decorated with burgundy and gold ornaments, glass ornaments of sugared fruit, and birds and birdcages. Glittering foliage and berry stems spring from a gold ribbon at the top of the tree.
A small and intimate parlor is situated between the dining room and entrance foyer. Architectural details and elegant furnishings—such a grandfather clock, a gold gilt bombe desk, and two love seats upholstered in blue cut velvet—make the parlor an inviting place to spend the evening relaxing in front of a fire. Soft blue walls are accented by white picture frame molding on the upper walls and white wainscoting on the lower. A white marble fireplace with Ionic columns flanked by handmade custom cabinetry is the architectural focal point of the room. At Christmas, the hearth becomes the decorative focal point of the room as well—twinkling garland cascades from a large gold box and gold Victorian-style shoes hang as “stockings.”
The gold and white color scheme carries beautifully over into the lavish backdrop of the entrance foyer with its spiral staircase, original marble flooring, and crystal chandelier. White wainscoting and Adam style architectural elements—such as triglyph frieze molding and plaster swag ornamentation— accent cornice-crowned paneled doors. The walls, originally papered in red flock, are now painted the same blue color as the dining room with an embossed textural quality that compliments the room’s neoclassical architectural elements. The grand foyer Christmas tree is adorned with gold and white ornaments, miniature white lights, and a gathering of gold ribbon at the top, also used on the stairway newel post. Green garland with white lights is wrapped all along the stair rail and second floor railing.
A small “keeping room,” once used as a nursery, connects the foyer with the master bedroom and bath. The room has its own special Christmas tree decorated with blue and gold ribbons, angel ornaments, and gold and white beaded garlands. The master bedroom’s tree is decked out with elegant mirrored ornaments, gold and white ornaments, miniature Tiffany-style lamps, and gold ribbon cascading from a treetop gold bow. The bedroom chandelier, originally in the dining room, was discovered to be sterling silver when it was moved to the bedroom. The master bath has a glassed-in shower and a Jacuzzi tub. Adding a festive touch, Teresa has “wrapped” folded bath towels with gold ribbon to look like presents.
On the second floor landing, a glowing Christmas tree wrapped with amber and gold velvet ribbon is decorated with nativity and cherub ornaments and gold ornaments proclaiming “peace and joy.” Cornice molding, an original feature of the home, has plaster anthemion detail, and sconces original to the home reveal shiny, solid brass.
The Dingers converted two of the original four bedrooms on the second floor into sitting/play areas for Haille and Hunter. Haille’s bedroom has pink walls, white furniture and white-on-black polka dot draperies. Her stylish tree has pink and green ornaments, pink ribbon and a pink and black bow on top. Haille enjoys entertaining friends in her 1960s retro sitting room with its white, angular couch and black leather ottoman placed on a hot pink shag area rug. A black tree is decorated with pink ornaments, shoe ornaments, and ribbons in zebra print, lime green and pink polka dot.
Hunter’s rooms reflect his personality and interests. His play room is appropriately named “Hunter’s Lego Room,” a title proudly spelled out in Legos on the wall. The room is a Lego mélange of colors, shapes and motion that express Hunter’s ingenuity as much as his creativity. For Christmas, a small village has been added to the Lego landscape as well as a tree decroated with snowmen.
Hunter’s bedroom, painted in bright red, has a pirate theme. The bedroom furniture, hand-carved from solid maple, was passed down from Hunter’s grandfather to Hunter’s father to Hunter. Furniture pulls are in the shape of nautical wheels and sailing ships are carved on the drawers and bed footboard. Over the bed hangs a wooden ship’s wheel, and a “treasure chest” is placed at the foot of the bed. Hunter’s Christmas tree is a non-traditional—but not unexpected—palm tree, decorated with trains, sailboats, hunting paraphernalia, and karate-themed ornaments (he has a black belt).
A winding stairway wrapped in a garland decorated with elves and a curving wall hung with family Christmas pictures leads to the basement. The space has been reconfigured into three separate entertainment areas, each with a unique Christmas motif against a backdrop of lime green walls. “Baylor” is spelled out in glittering red letters on a tree in the game room, hung with red and white ornaments and Haille’s and Hunter’s school pictures. Elves are the holiday motif in the den—they can be found perched on glass shelves and climbing up the Christmas tree. The den’s lime green walls combined with red leather sectional furniture are festive at Christmas, especially when Teresa wraps a black ribbon around the ottoman and adds a silver “buckle” on top. The room also has a fireplace outfitted with Santa andirons and a bar which houses a 1960s Coke machine.
Movie-themed ornaments are apropos in the home theater, where the Dingers enjoy family time watching movies. The theater has two rows of three-seated reclining leather sofas, which at Christmas, are draped with monogrammed Santa “snuggies.” The theater tree is appropriately donned with Coke and candy ornaments and popcorn garlands. There is also a miniature table-top tree adorned with Coke bottle tops and red and white polka dot ribbons. Old movie reels decorate the walls and there is a well-stocked popcorn machine.
On their first Christmas in their new home, the Dingers graciously invited the families of the previous owners to share with them in a Christmas celebration. As the former owners walked through the front doors and saw the transformed house along with the beautiful Christmas decorations, they were deeply moved and in awe of the changes. That evening, the former owners shared special memories of their family history growing up in the home. With that special Christmas gift, the home’s legacy—its very own story—was lovingly passed on to its new family. Today, the Dingers are building their own family traditions and memories in the home, and are creating new ones, not just at Christmas, but year-round.