Decking the halls: The Oak Park River Forest Infant Welfare Society will host its annual Holiday Housewalk and Market in early December.Photos courtesy Oak Park River Forest Infant Welfare Society

What happens when you combine a market and a housewalk? Good things, apparently.

The Oak Park River Forest Infant Welfare Society will host its 13th Annual Holiday Housewalk and Market Dec. 2-3. The event is sure to give participants a fun night out with friends, which ultimately fuels holiday cheer. The early-bird shopping usually guarantees the availability of unique gifts. Not to mention, the incredible home holiday decorations offer inspiration for every homeowner.

As in years past, the housewalk tour will begin at Concordia University in River Forest, with the Holiday Market taking place in the university’s Koehneke Center. With over 40 juried artisan vendors, the market continues to offer distinctive gifts, but the festivities aren’t limited to shopping.

This year’s market includes “celebration tables,” five beautifully decorated tables on display throughout the market and raffled off to winning ticket holders. Live music and celebratory food and beverages also make the market a destination in and of itself.

This year, the market will also feature a special guest in Jan Parr, editor of Chicago Home and Garden Magazine. Parr will be at the party to sign her new book, Chicago Spaces Inspiring Interiors, a perfect gift for any home design enthusiast.

Becky Brofman, the 2011 vendor coordinator and a welfare society volunteer, notes that the market will provide plenty of opportunity to find the perfect gift for someone on your list.

“This year’s holiday market hosts over 40 vendors with high quality, artisan made goods, including delectable gourmet items, perfect for holiday giving.”

The market will feature new and returning vendors, all with wares ready to fill up your holiday shopping bags. Rea Koutsogiorgas, of BR Designs, returns with her hand-made scarves, shawls, knitted goods and leather purses and bags. Newcomer Ryan Fitzgerald, of Man vs. George, will be selling his fun line of greeting cards and prints, printed on 100 percent recycled paper. On the food side, Katherine Duncan, of Katherine Anne Confections, will be offering her homemade truffles and caramels made in interesting flavors from local ingredients.

After filling up on treats and crossing gift items off shopping lists at the market, the housewalk beckons with plenty of holiday design inspiration. This year, it will feature five private homes in Oak Park and River Forest, each decorated in a unique holiday theme. Debbie Blanco, co-chair of this year’s housewalk and market, is excited about the homes on the tour.

“It is amazing how each year we are able to find five more spectacular homes in Oak Park and River Forest,” she says. “This year our guests will experience a home with earthly woven objects, a home representing all corners of the world, and other homes sharing their family traditions. All of these generous homeowners make the event possible and more successful each year.”

One of the homes, a River Forest Talmadge and Watson architectural classic, will feature a Christmas Around the World theme. The home’s décor reflects the family’s time living in Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong, and their decorations showcase their appreciation of European, Baltic and Nordic cultures.

Inspired by the Children’s Clinic mission of providing healthcare for children in need, the homeowners were delighted to showcase their holiday traditions. By combining their Asian-influenced furnishings, Danish ornaments and straw animals, a Latvian Santa Claus and the handmade needlepoint stockings and ornaments, a Christmas vision with a traditional yet international feel has been created.

Another River Forest home allows visitors a glimpse into a lovingly restored Tudor, while the home’s bird-themed décor create a holiday backdrop. Pheasant feathers in the library, cardinals in the living room and a partridge in a pear tree celebrating the 12 days of Christmas are just a few of the inspiring decorations. Snowflakes and other seasonal décor will take visitors through the home’s interesting history, complete with original features such as a wood-paneled library featuring scenes from the Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, ceiling beams and impressive stone work.

An Oak Park E.E. Roberts gem will be decked out with handmade artistic creations by the owner, who also happens to be a natural fibers artist. Throughout the home, handmade decorations will feature a variety of natural materials from vines and gourds to berries and pine cones. In the living room, three trees, each with its own theme, will bring the outdoors inside. The outside of the home will offer plenty of inspiration as well with handmade sculptures, lawn ornaments and amazing lighting to welcome visitors into the home.

All proceeds from the events will benefit The Children’s Clinic, a community-sponsored health care organization that provides medical, dental and social services for children in Chicago and Cook County suburbs whose families cannot afford private health care. The Oak Park River Forest Infant Welfare Society is a 95-year-old organization composed of volunteers dedicated to supporting the well-being of children through its sponsorship of The Children’s Clinic.

Holiday Housewalk and Market

Where: Concordia University's Koehneke Center.

Sugar Plum Preview Party: Thurs., Dec. 1, 6-9 p.m.

Housewalk: Friday, Dec. 2, 5-9 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, 1-5 p.m.

Market: Friday, Dec. 2, 3-9 p.m. Sat., Dec. 3, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Ticket costs: Sugar Plum party: $10.
Housewalk: $40 in advance/$45 at door.
Market: $5. Tickets can be purchased online at childrenscliniciws.org

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