“What I love the most are the family pieces or the pieces my family has gifted me over the years,” says Medford artist Carrie Kaufman. - Photo by Julia Moore

Surrounded by Beauty

Every holiday season, mixed-media artist Carrie Kaufman brings out her Christmas collection: The carefully packed boxes hold as many memories as they do ribbons, handcrafted ornaments, family heirlooms and eclectic accessories.

Rich, deep, jewel tones offset with metallics and greenery set the season's stage in this 1,700-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bath Medford home. Two lute-playing cherubs greet guests from atop a glass entry table; a doorway to the left leads into an intimate, formal living room.

The room's vaulted ceiling and paneled windows make a picture-perfect holiday backdrop. A lifetime of collected artwork suddenly becomes festive, as greenery and a trio of musically inclined cherubs surround a mid-20th century painting of a French village scene on the Roman fireplace mantel.

Art-glass bowls arranged on a gentleman's chest repurposed as an "offbeat china cabinet" add shots of color to the neutral walls and furniture; so does a timeless pastel gouache called "The Jugglers" by Raul Anguiano. The painting was a gift to Kaufman's parents from a distant uncle who was a contemporary of Mexican artist Diego Rivera.

"What I love the most are the family pieces or the pieces my family has gifted me over the years," says Kaufman, whose father was an architect and whose mother was an artist and musician.

A 4-foot, artificial tree perches on a side table next to the fireplace. Kaufman cherishes her ornament collection.

"My mother collected miniature chairs, so I have a tiny, burgundy and gold chair in her honor," says Kaufman. "The adorable flying pig is from a group of women friends in Hawaii, and we called ourselves the Fun Hogs. And my gold and purple shoe is from my husband because he always said I have a shoe fetish."

A feathered, golden bird; a pink pineapple; itsy-bitsy, beaded lampshades; and padded hearts join the romantic menagerie. On the sofa and coffee tables are tableaus of sparkling stars, stark architectural pieces and crystal and marble candlesticks, creating a blend of classic and contemporary.

"I'm an artist so I don't do things traditionally," says Kaufman, who is also the business and donor manager at Living Opportunities in Medford. "I want to incorporate elements that are out of the ordinary."

The approach is apparent on Kaufman's special Christmas banner; crafted from swaths of luxurious textiles, handmade paper and baubles, it helps define the dining room. A bay window and another abstract painting fill the room. Kaufman calls the vertical artwork a "collaborative piece with my deceased mother," who painted it 30 years ago for Kaufman's house in Hawaii. When Kaufman brought it out of the garage in Medford, it looked faded and dated, so she added layers of paper, gold leaf and even metal washers.

Centered under the chandelier is a 7-foot-long glass tabletop set on pillars and surrounded by antiqued chairs upholstered in silver and gold fabric. It's dressed to the hilt for the holidays: Each setting is composed of a purple charger atop a purple place mat, with a white dish crowned by an artful, Asian-inspired salad plate made by Kaufman's ceramicist brother, Christopher Kienle of Portland.

"I love entertaining — it's the thing that makes me happiest in life — and I love setting a beautiful table," says Kaufman, showing off star-shaped napkin rings, glass hurricane lamps, cut-glass candleholders and a green-and-gold arrangement woven into the chandelier.

"In my family, we celebrate on Christmas Eve with our gift exchange and then a late dinner of cioppino, tossed salad and crusty French bread."

Preparation takes place in the adjacent kitchen, which Kaufman updated a few years ago.

"I removed the plastic light screen and fluorescents on the ceiling and made it into a rectangular cove with track lights," says the homeowner. "I also hand-antiqued the typical oak cabinets and added bronze hardware."

A large opening makes the kitchen accessible to the red, sage, gold and brown family room, where Kaufman's "painted furniture phase" is on display in the form of a colorful treasure chest, whimsically decorated with shapes and squiggles.

A hallway off the entry holds a selection of Kaufman's inspired artwork. "Carrie's B&B" guest room is painted bright green with floral accents and touches of nature; a nearby powder room features shells, dried hydrangea and cunningly framed pictures of architectural details — taken from a calendar.

Kaufman's studio overflows with cabinets of supplies, a work table, sewing machine and stacks of materials.

At the end of the hall is the master suite where a bamboo, four-poster bed from Hawaii takes center stage. Black and white, fleur de lys-patterned linens set a classic tone which plays off a stenciled armoire, a decorative bird cage made of sticks and stippled, faux-painted walls.

An artist from Salem painted the serene picture of a small, white bench set alongside lush lavender fields; the painting is especially meaningful to Kaufman, who envisions her late husband sitting on the bench and keeping her company.

"My message is that with a little creativity, you can do things that look expensive and you can live in a modest house," says Kaufman, who downsized with her husband from a 3,600-square-foot house four years ago. "The secret is to live with the things you love and to surround yourself with beauty."

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