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Home - Posted November 24, 2017 10:10 a.m.
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Photos by Shannon Richardson

A Christmas Retreat

A few miles northeast of Canyon, Texas, the Prairie Dog Fork of the Red River begins to carve into the Panhandle landscape. Follow the water and you’ll reach the Timbercreek Canyon community, Lake Tanglewood, and eventually the spectacular walls and hoodoos of Palo Duro Canyon. But at the starting point is a small lake and private community of homes known as the Palo Duro Club. Dating back to 1905, the neighborhood was established as a weekend getaway for families in Amarillo and Canyon, and remains so to this day.

Josh and Kasey Tam recently purchased one of the community’s oldest cabins. Built in the 1930s, the two-bedroom, 800-square-foot home overlooks the main road into the canyon, and is surrounded by trees and canyon walls. “We’re one of the newest members out here,” says Kasey, an interior designer at Nest Interiors and Construction and owner of The Nat, the landmark antique store on Sixth. “We’re just waiting for our kids to get a little bit older so they can romp around and enjoy the club.”

The couple has two children – the youngest, Townes, is 18 months old – and last year Kasey was excited to establish the cabin as the family’s Christmas getaway. “We spent Christmas morning out here last year and it’s wonderful,” she says. “Our house in town is staged all the time, but out here we try to keep it as low-maintenance and kid-friendly as possible.”

While the couple’s Amarillo home has a Spanish-mission feel, the cabin’s decor is decidedly mid-century modern. “I took a lot of our mid-century items out to the cabin, so it’s not your traditional Texas cabin. It’s a little Danish modern retreat. You kind of feel like you’re going back into Mad Men,” she says. Kasey walked us through the small, charming cabin to show us a few of her kid-appropriate Christmas decorating tips and traditions.


The cabin’s living room’s large windows allow the kids to keep tabs on a family of foxes that live across the street. The vintage console record player was an antique-store find. Kasey has collected Christmas albums over the years, and listening to them is a family tradition. “There’s no cable and no internet here. It’s nice to completely unplug.”


“We always do a real tree at our house in town, but because we aren’t here full-time to water it, we do an artificial tree,” Kasey says. She decided upon a flocked tree because she believes the style embraces its artificiality. “It’s not trying to be a real tree! If you’re going to go fake, then go all fake,” she says with a laugh. Each Christmas, she and her children go foraging for pinecones or yucca blooms and turn them into ornaments. “I try every year to get my kids to make an ornament with me instead of just buying one,” she says. “So we do that on Christmas day and put it on the tree the next year.”
As for Christmas lights, Kasey doesn’t have a preference between new LED lights or older incandescent ones. She recognizes that most families probably have a collection of both. In these cases, she advocates for consistency. “If you’re going to use both, that’s awesome,” she says. But don’t combine them in the same room. “If you buy LED for your tree, then buy LED for your garland if they’re in the same area.”


Kasey loves using all-natural decorations, like the pear leaves and pine topping a Santa Claus painting or the cotton stalks woven into a wreath. From cotton as tree-trimming to its placement in vases above the fireplace, these elements are repeated throughout her decorating. “It’s important to tie it all in together,” she says, especially for adjoining spaces like the living room and den. “People will put something on their tree and then go a totally different direction in an adjacent room. I think it’s good to constantly go back to a theme.”


“I’m a big fan of gift-wrap. It’s one of the best things about Christmas,” Kasey says. Every year, she scours etsy.com, the handmade craft site, for custom wrapping paper. “They have great paper-makers.” Rather than putting presents under the tree – where little hands might reach them – she suggests turning gifts into a display on the mantle or piano. She likes to wrap with coordinated paper, using yarn, ribbons, and other accessories to add flair. “I usually get pretty fancy on the tags. Some years, if I have a lot of time, I make unique ceramic tags they can use as a Christmas ornament.” Occasionally, Kasey repurposes found items, like stalks of wheat, with her packaging.


As the owner of a local antique store, Kasey admits she has unique access to eye-catching decorations. “I sell a lot of Christmas products, but I do the same thing here I try to do at home – I try to buy as many things as possible that have a story or are handmade or support a local artist,” she says. “I’m on Sixth Street and do a ton of my shopping there.”

At the cabin as well as for her decorating clients, Kasey relies on cable ties to attach the ornaments to the garland. The inexpensive plastic straps are also her tree-trimming secret. “Zip ties are my absolute, No. 1 best friend at Christmas,” she says. “They’re super-easy and make putting ornaments on the tree faster than even using a hook.” She says kids are unable to yank them from trees or garland, but they can easily be cut off when Christmas is over.


The screened-in porch is one of the Tam family’s favorite aspects of the home. Because it is situated apart from the living room and den, she decorates it with a more whimsical approach from the rest of the cabin. “We don’t have a porch like this in town,” she says. “It feels like old Amarillo, where things slow down.” In the summer, the family spends most of its time outside and on the porch. “The wildlife out here is insane. When you’re on the screened porch, they don’t even know you’re there.”

by Jason Boyett

Jason has written more than a dozen books and is the host and creator of “Hey Amarillo”, a local interview podcast. Visit heyamarillo.com and jasonboyett.com.
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