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Simple decorations make for elegant Christmas in Stanwood family's Victorian Gothic house

  • The Sobotta family chose a noble fir this year.

    Dan Bates/The Herald

    The Sobotta family chose a noble fir this year.

  • Carved giraffes, wearing Santa caps, stand by the front door.

    Carved giraffes, wearing Santa caps, stand by the front door.

  • Melanie Sobotta's children, Michael, 12, and Sofie, 15, helped her decorate the family home for Christmas.

    Dan Bates/The Herald

    Melanie Sobotta's children, Michael, 12, and Sofie, 15, helped her decorate the family home for Christmas.

  • Melanie and Paul Sobotta built this spectacular house in rural Stanwood themselves.

    Dan Bates/The Herald

    Melanie and Paul Sobotta built this spectacular house in rural Stanwood themselves.

  • The fireplace mantle is decorated with holly and other greenery that Melanie Sobotta planted years ago.

    Dan Bates/The Herald

    The fireplace mantle is decorated with holly and other greenery that Melanie Sobotta planted years ago.

  • Three-foot nutcrackers stand at attention at the corners of the fireplace hearth, where stockings are hung with care for both people and pets.

    Dan Bates/The Herald

    Three-foot nutcrackers stand at attention at the corners of the fireplace hearth, where stockings are hung with care for both people and pets.

  • An elegant table is set with a ceramic Fitz and Floyd Santa as the centerpiece.

    Dan Bates/The Herald

    An elegant table is set with a ceramic Fitz and Floyd Santa as the centerpiece.

  • Christmas decorations are placed near front windows on a beautiful black grand piano.

    Dan Bates / The Herald

    Christmas decorations are placed near front windows on a beautiful black grand piano.

  • An elegant dragonfly sits on one of the heavy noble fir boughs.

    An elegant dragonfly sits on one of the heavy noble fir boughs.

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By Sarah Jackson
Herald Writer
Published:
  • The Sobotta family chose a noble fir this year.

    Dan Bates/The Herald

    The Sobotta family chose a noble fir this year.

  • Carved giraffes, wearing Santa caps, stand by the front door.

    Carved giraffes, wearing Santa caps, stand by the front door.

  • Melanie Sobotta's children, Michael, 12, and Sofie, 15, helped her decorate the family home for Christmas.

    Dan Bates/The Herald

    Melanie Sobotta's children, Michael, 12, and Sofie, 15, helped her decorate the family home for Christmas.

  • Melanie and Paul Sobotta built this spectacular house in rural Stanwood themselves.

    Dan Bates/The Herald

    Melanie and Paul Sobotta built this spectacular house in rural Stanwood themselves.

  • The fireplace mantle is decorated with holly and other greenery that Melanie Sobotta planted years ago.

    Dan Bates/The Herald

    The fireplace mantle is decorated with holly and other greenery that Melanie Sobotta planted years ago.

  • Three-foot nutcrackers stand at attention at the corners of the fireplace hearth, where stockings are hung with care for both people and pets.

    Dan Bates/The Herald

    Three-foot nutcrackers stand at attention at the corners of the fireplace hearth, where stockings are hung with care for both people and pets.

  • An elegant table is set with a ceramic Fitz and Floyd Santa as the centerpiece.

    Dan Bates/The Herald

    An elegant table is set with a ceramic Fitz and Floyd Santa as the centerpiece.

  • Christmas decorations are placed near front windows on a beautiful black grand piano.

    Dan Bates / The Herald

    Christmas decorations are placed near front windows on a beautiful black grand piano.

  • An elegant dragonfly sits on one of the heavy noble fir boughs.

    An elegant dragonfly sits on one of the heavy noble fir boughs.

Melanie Sobotta doesn't have to copy holiday vignettes from catalogs when it comes time to do her holiday decorating.
She and her family -- husband, Paul, 48, daughter, Sofie, 15, and son, Michael, 12 -- instead find inspiration at home.
"I like to be creative with what we have or use what's in the family. I just mix and match," she said. "I like it to feel like home, not like a store."
Though Sobotta is trained in mechanical engineering, not interior design, the 47-year-old has a knack for incorporating elegant yet casual holiday cheer into their rural Stanwood home.
It doesn't hurt that their abode is a one-of-a-kind, three-story Victorian Gothic, nestled at the bottom of a slope next to an old mill pond.
Paul and Melanie Sobotta built the home themselves (yes, with their own hands) before their children were born in the mid-1990s.
It's a stunning, wraparound-porch kind of place. Modeled after an 1880s parsonage in Jackson, Miss., it's an architectural style rarely seen in the Northwest.
Though it's a relatively new home, it feels a century old, thanks to Victorian architecture, custom-milled fir floors and doors, antique furniture and fixtures and lavish millwork.
Its architecture is just right for strings of icicle lights and fresh garlands from the many trees on the property's 10 acres.
Melanie Sobotta, an avid gardener, planted three holly trees on the grounds more than 10 years ago to provide natural greens and berries during the holidays, including a variegated variety with splashes of creamy white on the leaves.
"They flower in the summer and they berry up in the wintertime," she said. "I like to have berries for Christmas." In the Sobottas' parlor, fresh greens and berries decorate the mantel; 3-foot-tall nutcrackers, both holding service trays, flank the hearth.
The Sobotta family Christmas tree, an unsheared noble fir from a local farm, is decorated with glass ornaments collected over the years.
Around its base is a red and green cotton tree skirt Melanie Sobotta sewed after finding all the store-bought skirts far too small.
This year, Michael brought his Lionel model train set down from the attic and set it up around the skirt.
Its black steam engine chugs, puffs fake smoke and whistles loudly as it circles, quickly disappearing behind the tree on the left reappearing just as speedily on the right.
Across the hall in the formal dining room, a large table is set for six with gold-and-white wedding dishes and glassware, inherited silver and little red salad plates.
Red beaded placemats add extra sparkle.
In the center of the table, a ceramic Fitz and Floyd Santa stands fat and jolly with a set of reindeer.
Each dining chair is upholstered in a Napoleonic gold queen bee pattern on a red background.
Swags of dark red velvet adorn the room's soaring windows, along with heavy red and gold ropes and tassels.
If it all just seems too storybook perfect, just pop into the entry, where two 10-foot wooden giraffes, purchased at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show years ago, stand on each side of the home's double front doors for year-round comic relief.
This year, both are wearing little Santa hats, a perfect last-minute touch of whimsy, courtesy of Paul Sobotta.
White lights are Sofie Sobotta's favorite part of decorating.
She scaled the porch roof to get the outside lights just right and worked her magic on the tree inside, wrapping the strands tight down each branch.
Throughout the house, subtle holiday accents are seamlessly blended into the spaces, including bows on table legs, Santas on stands and other treasured decorations.
One favorite is a wooden Countdown to Christmas tree with 25 hidden doors. Inside each is a wooden ornament to hang on one of 25 wooden pegs.
It's simple but special, and it comes out only at Christmas when the family of four gathers to decorate the tree.
"It was fun to get all the stuff out again," said Melanie Sobotta, who was overruled, yet again, when it came time to top the family Christmas tree this year.
"I always want the angel, but the kids always want the star," she said.
Sarah Jackson: 425-339-3037, sjackson@heraldnet.com.







Story tags » ArchitectureStanwoodHome ImprovementInterior decoratingChristmas

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