Some 14 years ago, in a state that has an Arlington, but not this one, Jay Warren decided to ramp up the holiday spirit with the decor in his Virginia home and made the bold move to put up a pair of Christmas trees.
Ride the Magic Time Machine to Holiday Season 2019, and, as you have already discerned by now, Warren has taken the ramping up process to a whole new level – and friends and family members who pay a visit during this time of year are all the better for it.
You likely know Warren, even if you’ve never met him. By day, he is Director of Communication and Legislative Affairs for the City of Arlington. Practically every bit of news you read about the city in newspapers, magazines and online finds its genesis at his desk.
But this story focuses on what you find when he has retired for the evening, and by night – at least by night during the holidays – he is the proud owner of a home in the Waterwood neighborhood on Lake Arlington that sets the standard for Christmas reveling, particularly with regard to those aforementioned trees that set the ball rolling over a decade ago.
“I started going all out with Christmas decorations in my first house in Virginia. I remember the year that I decided to put up two trees,” he recalls. “At the time, I thought that was over the top. Fast forward three houses and 14 years, and I am up to eight fully decorated trees, 25 wreathes and 11 garlands.”
There might even be a partridge in a pear tree at the end of that description; he just didn’t include it.
He does note other animals of pertinence, as he talks about his house during the holidays. Every year, when he puts up the Christmas decorations, the home becomes a dramatically enhanced abode for his three “fur” babies: Russert (a blind, deaf mini dachshund), Jennings (a min pin) and Wallace (a terrier).
Warren can’t vouch for his pets, but he says he fell in love with the potential of their home almost the first time he saw it.
“I was drawn to the design and style of the house,” he says. “Dear friends of mine owned it and did a tremendous job renovating it. They really created what feels like a spa setting in the backyard, and the house is tailor-made for entertaining. When they decided to sell it, it was a no-brainer for me to buy it. In fact, we discussed it at dinner one night and within a week my house in South Arlington was sold, and I had bought their house.”
Each Christmas since, Warren has tried to make it more holiday-esque – but not just for the sake of decorating. “I don’t have a [grand] theme to my Christmas decorations other than trying to make the house feel festive and warm,” he says. “All of the trees and garlands are lit with white lights, which I think makes everything sparkle.”
He says his themes usually match the décor of the room.
“For instance,” he says, “the living room tree uses a mix of ornaments that all match the color of the room (navy blue, light blue, silver and gray). The bedroom trees also match the colors of those rooms and some have a specific theme. The downstairs bedroom is reindeer themed, the dining room tree has a crystal and white color scheme with lot of birds nestled throughout the tree, and upstairs, the den tree has a woodland theme with lots of pine cones, birds and other woodland creatures.”
For Christmas 2019, he introduced a special addition.
“New this year is a political themed tree with ornaments of the White House, presidents, eagles and flags,” he says. “And in the kitchen, a small tree is decorated with cocktail shaker, wine bottle, champagne flute and martini glass ornaments.”
While visitors might waver before declaring a favorite among the various decorated areas of the home, Warren unabashedly has declared his winner.
“Without question, my favorite tree is in the master bedroom,” he says. “It has all of our family ornaments dating back to my mother’s first ornaments in 1930 to the present. My mother started a family tradition years ago of adding an ornament every year for me and my nephew, as well as collecting an ornament on every vacation. I’ve continued the tradition by looking for unique ornaments on my travels. This year, I decided to count how many ornaments cover this tree … and I lost track at 455. I’m pretty sure there is no one spare limb left on it! This tree is so sentimental to me. Every single ornament brings back a memory of family trips, special occasions or Christmases past.”
As might be expected of a manor so brilliantly adorned during the holidays, “Warren’s place” often serves as the site of social gatherings. He has hosted small to large Christmas parties throughout the years.
“I had a stretch where I hosted an annual party for 150 of my friends and colleagues,” he says. “I’ve tamed it down a bit recently. Honestly, small get-togethers during the holidays seem more fun to me. It isn’t as stressful, and you can spend quality time catching up with friends and family.”
This year, in his home for the holidays that has been crafted to highlight tradition and family, Warren will focus on a facet of the former.
“I love our Christmas morning tradition,” he says. “We have pumpkin French toast casserole, bacon and mimosas. The rest of the day is spent in pajamas watching movies. That is a day of complete relaxation.”