Deck the halls with boughs of holiday

'Tis the season for Infant Welfare's Holiday Housewalk

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By Lacey Sikora

The Oak Park-River Forest Infant Welfare Society (IWS) is kicking off the holiday season in high style with its 18th annual Holiday Housewalk and Market this weekend. The fundraiser for IWS's Children's Clinic not only provides glimpses into five beautifully decorated homes but also benefits 3,500 children who use the Children's Clinic each year for more than 10,000 medical, dental and social services visits.

Housewalk Chair Sarina Butler calls the Holiday Housewalk a local tradition with heart. 

"The Holiday Housewalk launches the holiday season," she said. "Many of our families have been on our walk every year. Part of the reason more than 200 volunteers work on this every year is because our Children's Clinic is one of the few places that kids can go to for dental, mental and physical health services."

Butler is particularly excited about this year's crop of houses, which she said are representative of the rich architectural diversity in Oak Park and River Forest. 

"We have five really spectacular houses. Along with the holiday decorations in each house, you really get a sense of the heritage of each family's traditions."

Tudor tutorial

Greg and Lorraine Domanowski are sharing their River Forest Tudor-style home, designed in 1929 by architect Samuel Bird. Restoring the brick home has been a labor of love for the couple who purchased it shortly after a nearby gas explosion produced extensive damage.

"All of the floors were covered with purple shag carpeting," Greg recalled, "more than 40 windows were broken or damaged from the explosion, and there was water in the basement."

The original ceiling beams, beautiful leaded-glass French doors, and archways throughout the house inspired them, so they purchased the home and set about bringing it back to its original glory. Greg, a mechanical engineer enjoyed the challenge of making the basement water-tight, and Lorraine used her design skills to reimagine the kitchen and the decorative elements of the home.

During the holidays, Lorraine displays her nutcracker collection throughout the house, with a "chef" nutcracker collection displayed in the kitchen alongside gingerbread houses and sugared fruit wreaths. Greg uses his engineering skills to ensure that the 12- to 14-foot tree in their living room front window stands straight and tall.

Christmas old and new

In Oak Park, Josephine Porter and Renee Davis have both house and family holiday traditions that combine the best of the old and new. Their 1926 Colonial-style home sports 1920s elegance in the front half of the house, and their 2016 addition family room and kitchen remodel brought in modern conveniences for their family of five.

Porter and Davis enjoy sharing their respective family traditions with their three children, and the festivities begin the day after Thanksgiving when they decorate gingerbread houses. The family room is decorated with Advent calendars, trains and arks (as in Noah), reflecting the children's love of the holidays.

Family stockings, needle-pointed by Josephine's mother, hang from the living room mantle and are a reminder of family heritage. Renee's Santa collection decorates the kitchen. In the newly-finished great room, a roaring fire in the fireplace and the view of the snow-covered yard from three walls of windows make the room cozy yet open, as do the family heirlooms of a needle-pointed ottoman and pillow, plus art created by Josephine's family.

Every year, the family marks the passage of time and the importance of memories throughout the house at the holidays. The children each get a new ornament for the living room tree that reflects their interests. 

"One thing that's unique," Josephine said, "is that we put all of our Christmas cards from our friends draped around the den so we can see them all season."

Gilded glamor

In Oak Park, Tammy Rogalla has picked up much of her Christmas decorating inspiration from her years of attending the Holiday Housewalk. This year, she'll be on the walk and will be decorating her 1909 Max Dunning-designed home in shades of gold, bronze and chocolate, with the help of IWS President Lynne Williams.

A 9-foot Frazier fir will grace the home's living room and greenery will decorate the stair rail in the home's grand foyer. A second tree in the family room with a sports theme reflects the interests of Tammy and Bill Rogalla's three grown sons. The dining room will be set for Christmas dinner with blue and gold china — a treasured wedding gift — and Tammy will also display a nativity scene that her mother made for her when she got married. 

In the newly remodeled kitchen, a hot chocolate and champagne bar await the guests.


Prairie-style elegance

In River Forest, Jean Buckley and Dennis Michon built their dream house with a heavy dose of inspiration from Frank Lloyd Wright. From the woodwork to the art glass to the use of Roman brick and built-ins, the home channels Wright's style, but updated with modern elegance.

The dining room with its Stickley furniture and built-in china cabinet will be set with the Frank Lloyd Wright Celebration table setting that Buckley won at last year's IWS Holiday Market. She focuses on bringing nature inside to complement her holiday decorations and they adorn multiple Christmas trees with snow and earth tones. This year, she looks forward to welcoming home her two grown sons and celebrating with her book club's holiday party.


Family memories

In Oak Park, Lisa and Rick Cederoth fill their 1909 Talmadge & Watson home with memories every Christmas. Their family of six sets the dining room table — a white-oak beauty built by Lisa's father as a wedding gift — with their family Christmas china. Lisa celebrates her Italian heritage every year by serving the traditional Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve.

Throughout the extensively remodeled Prairie-style home, the Cederoths display cherished family icons. The living room mantle is decorated with a nativity scene that son Paul received from his grandmother, and the family room tree shows off the children's collections of ornaments.

Lisa said a big part of their holiday décor involves Rick's contribution to the living room. 

"My husband likes to fill the picture window with the tree," she said. "We call it the 'Christmas bush' because it's so wide."


The Holiday Housewalk and Market takes place Dec. 1- 3. The Market Preview Party is at the Nineteenth Century Charitable Association on Thursday, Dec. 1 from 6 to 9:30 p.m. Tickets for the Preview Party are $15. The Holiday Housewalk takes place Friday, Dec. 2 from 5 to 9 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 3 from 1 to 5 p.m. Tickets for the Housewalk are $45 in advance and $50 at the door. The Holiday Market is open at the Nineteenth Century Club, 178 Forest Ave., on Friday, Dec. 2 from 4 to 9 p.m. and on Saturday, Dec. 3 from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Entrance to the market is free on Friday and Saturday. For more information and to purchase tickets online, visit Tickets are also available at Tulipia Floral Design, Careful Peach, and Geppetto's Toy Box.

Throughout the weekend, housewalk participants can give back a second time through the Dine and Share Program. Local restaurants will contribute 10% of dining purchases to the IWS Children's Clinic when participants present their housewalk guidebooks while dining Friday through Saturday. Participating restaurants are: Citrine Café, Cucina Paradiso, Fat Duck Tavern and Grill (Forest Park), Hemmingway's Bistro, Maya del Sol, Novo, Q BBQ and Winberie's.

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