Seen and Hurd

By Rita Halter Thomas

Dragging out boxes of Christmas decorations can turn some into grumpy ole Grinches instead of jolly ole St. Nicks. However, one historic home in Conway is transformed for all seasons and holidays, especially Christmas, as if elves appeared sprinkling holiday cheer everywhere. Assuredly, no elves live in the historic home, just Steve and Denise Hurd with a Lab named Sadie, and three cats: Judy, Bob and Ginger.

Photos by Makenzie Evans

“When it comes to Christmas decorating, I love to use what I have. I love old things…and anywhere I go, I’m always looking for old things,” Denise said.

Decorating the 110-year-old home and showcasing its stately beauty, brings her great joy, but she insists that transforming the 3,200-square-foot home doesn’t take as long as one might assume.

“If you were to walk in with it fully decorated, you would think it took months to do it all, but it’s really not that much. Just the little things here and there can make any room look festive,” she said.

“I decorate a little at a time. I like to use a lot of what I have and just exchange things.” 

Denise shared a few tips, saying anyone can transform a space by moving things around and changing out a few items in each room.

Throw pillows can be exchanged seasonally, using red ones with white snowflakes, for example. Vases are great for seasonal silk flowers, such as poinsettias for Christmas, or other red and white flowers with a pop of sparkle. Sprigs of holly, real or artificial, can be placed over pictures or along shelves. 

Exchange pumpkins scattered about from Thanksgiving for bush bottle trees, garland or a handful of ornaments. “Antique ornaments in an antique bowl set on the table will make a great centerpiece or is perfect for a side table. Table settings are one of my favorite things to do at Christmas time,” Denise said.

She sometimes even hangs ornaments from some of the sturdier house plants and ties ribbons around things that stay out all year. “You can make anything festive by adding something sparkly or something red.” Once, Denise took hand-painted clear and plastic ornaments made by Steve’s children when they were little, paired them with the rose window ornaments Steve makes and strung them on some pretty ribbon. She then hung them from the antique chandelier above the table, one of three chandeliers original to the home. “With everything else I had in there, it just made a really neat area.”

Lights are also key, not just on porches, but in bookcases, shelves or around the perimeter of a room at the ceiling. Denise uses clear lights all year as part of her normal décor, inside and out.

She decorates seasonally in every room of the home. Even an old sleeping porch off the master bedroom receives Christmas love. “That’s my happy place,” she said of the cozy area full of plants. “It’s such a neat space.”

Denise starts the day after Thanksgiving, taking about three weeks and leaving decorations until near the end of January. Her eye for such artful transformations comes partly from living in Williamsburg for 20 years. “Colonial Williamsburg decorates with all-natural things like seed pods, branches and fruit. I try to incorporate some of that,” she said.

According to Steve, their home is Conway’s only true American Foursquare home and has been on the National Registry of Historic Places since 1996. He purchased the home in 1992 from the family of the original owners, D.O. Harton and his wife, Hattie. The Hartons built the house and moved in on Dec. 31, 1913, the day after the couple married.

Remodels and additions make it more like an “eight-square,” including 10-foot ceilings on the upper and lower levels. One addition on the ground floor includes a family room the Hurds use as their music room. For the holidays, Denise decorates a tree with music ornaments and uses silk poinsettias as a filler. She also places poinsettia branches around the room with the same artful eye.

“We’re members of the Rackensack Folklore Society, which started with Jimmy Driftwood in the Mountain View area. George Fisher (cartoonist) started the Pulaski County Rackensack chapter in 1963 and my father was one of the original founders. He’s passed away now and I’m playing his fiddle, just trying to keep it going,” Denise said. The group plays all over, including Christmas songs they refresh each year.

“We love to host lots of music gatherings, family and friends,” she said. “This house is happiest when it’s full of people, especially when we’re making music.”

For Denise and Steve, caring for and sharing the stories of this architectural treasure bring them as much joy as the season itself.