Written by Suzanne Conway
Photos by David Warren

The stately home of Mark Ardin and Leslie Chittam seems to directly channel the Spirit of Christmas. The land on which it sits has been in Chittam’s family for four generations. It has a quiet, peaceful, reflective energy which is especially relevant at this sacred time of year. The calming atmosphere is the perfect backdrop for the amazing, awe-inspiring holiday decorations installed all over the property, both and in and out of doors. The careful placement of the beautiful creations invites you to slow down, and really see what is around. The magical feelings of hope and optimism that attend Christmas are unmistakable.

As the gates open onto their secluded property, you see the house in the distance. It is aglow against the night sky. Soft and lavish light spreads across the fields. Expertly placed flickering lights summon, and then guide you, towards the home. A feeling of nostalgia creeps in – a longing for a time that was unrushed and easy, when we spent time with family and friends amidst festive backgrounds just like this one.

The feeling is magnified once you come inside and warm up by the roaring fire. You can almost smell the marshmallows roasting. The couple’s diverse Christmas collections bring these fond memories alive. Legions of handmade elves mesmerize visitors. Towering trees of perfect poinsettias cause guests to gasp. Glamorous

flower arrangements emerge from Mark’s glorious collection of fine art glass. The wonder of awe-filled childhood holidays is born again.

Mark and Leslie built the expansive manor house around a handsome log cabin original to the property. When you enter, the interior of the cabin feels more like a gentleman’s hunting club than a cabin. You are wrapped in warmth by the rustic wood of the historic, hand hewn beams, walls and floors. Antique oriental

The calming atmosphere is the perfect backdrop for the amazing, awe-inspiring holiday decorations installed all over the property, both in and out of doors.

rugs lay on the floors, magnificent oil paintings in gilded frames dress the walls and Leslie’s grand piano holds center stage in the main room. The room also boasts a partial second story loft, often used as a raised stage for musicians who perform at many of the lavish parties thrown here.

Upon touring the rest of the expansive home, you are wowed by many more well-curated collections that can only be amassed over years of collecting. Meticulously crafted Christmas scenes blend seamlessly with the many important, and often rare, antiques. One remarkable collection is that of Mark’s antique sterling meat domes. Each is unique to its maker and country of origin. Some have family crests, some are quite simple, while others are ornately decorated. History is alive throughout this home.

Being here is an experience for the senses. The delicious fragrance of Mark’s gourmet cooking draws you to their stunning dream-kitchen where a slow-cooked Sunday supper satisfies both body and soul. Even in the massive, elegantly decorated kitchen, there is a feeling of hominess. Though we dine on fine china, eat with sterling flatware and drink from hand-blown crystal stems, the atmosphere is light and lively.

After dinner, if you’re lucky, you will be enchanted by the captivating music of Leslie, a concert pianist. To watch and hear him play is completely spellbinding. You are drawn to just stop and listen to every perfect note. You release your worries, settle in, and absorb the magic of Christmas.

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