For many, the prospect of decorating one’s home for the holidays incites a full-body shudder. Lugging out boxes of breakables. Crack. Smash. Back to Hoagland’s I go. Trekking all over town for gluten-free, nut-free, everything-free cookies. Sorry, sold out! Gift-wrapping teacher presents like a kindergartner, despite the YouTube tutorials. Keep your day job, Mom.
Yet somehow, Greenwich resident Melissa Hawks makes the whole holiday enterprise look simple, inviting, even magical. All it takes are a few clicks through her home décor website, wellappointedhouse.com, or a stroll through her shop at 31 East Elm Street, to know that the entrepreneur is a pro at creating luxe environments prime for Pinterest-worthy celebrations. But Melissa’s love of holiday decor runs deeper than tartan tableware. “To me, the holidays are about family and tradition, regardless of faith,” she says. “My mother put a lot of effort into preparing our house for the holidays and creating memorable meals. She makes the most delicious rum cakes and would give them as hostess gifts to friends and family we were visiting.”
Clearly, the partridge did not fall far from the pear tree. Now with a family of her own that includes husband Carney, daughters Lauren (ten), Katie (nine), and son William (seven), Melissa is carrying on the traditions she so adored as a child, while also creating a few of her own. “I spent half of my childhood in the Northeast and half in the South, so I was able to experience the holidays in both places,” says Melissa. “We usually host family for the holidays here in Greenwich, and I love getting festive.”
Not long after Thanksgiving, Melissa begins dressing up her landmarked Mediterranean estate, the Mary C. Morrison House, c. 1912. “We have a storage room filled with holiday decorations and usually bring them out the first week of December,” she says. “The whole process takes about two days.” The exterior of her home, iced in pale pink stucco like a Marie Antoinette cake topped with tiles of rose petal Ladurée macaroons, is adorned with its own bling: an eight-foot wreath from McArdle’s that is studded with twinkling white lights. As you roll up the gravel driveway at night, it winks at you as if to say, “You have arrived.”
And arrive they do. Friends, family, children and unexpected pop-ins are on a perpetual loop this season. “It’s always a bit of a whirlwind before guests arrive, like it is in any household during the holidays,” Melissa says. Her secret to harnessing the chaos? Two words: shopping bags. “A piece of advice I always give is to throw your mail and paperwork in bags so it’s out of sight before people come in. It’s nice to clear the mind, and the hostess must enjoy the fun, too!”
After all, there are more important things to do, such as cueing up some Harry Connick Jr. and pouring a hot chocolate—or hot toddy, depending on the guest—to accompany the decadent desserts she artfully arranges. “Part of the magic of the holidays is letting yourself indulge and feel like a child, regardless of your age, and truly experience the tastes and smells of the season,” Melissa says. “I have a massive sweet tooth and love a table piled high with decorated Christmas cookies, petit fours, pastries and candies.” Her secret weapons for a fabulous dessert buffet: Black Forest Pastry Shop and Scarsdale Pastry Center.
As January approaches, the feasting winds down and family and friends disperse. Strings upon strings of lights are dismantled; china and silver are cleaned, polished and stored; precious ornaments are tucked back into their boxes like children into their beds; and visions of working off gingerbread men at SoulCycle spin through our heads. It’s time for this multitasking dynamo to finally kick off her Choos and unwind. What is a local post-season lifesaver for the hostess who never does anything halfway or at half-speed? “A good massage at the Delamar!” she laughs. Now that’s one Hawks holiday tradition we’re all quite capable of following.