T here’s a cherished Christmas tradition in Vancouver that celebrates the season’s beauty — its warm and festive décor, its twinkling lights and glittering ornaments — while fostering the giving spirit that abounds this time of year.
Homes for the Holidays is an annual philanthropic event that offers tours of the city’s most stylish homes decorated for the holidays by celebrated designers. Proceeds go to Kids Help Phone, a counselling service that stretches across Canada, always open to provide a safe and trusted place for young people in any moment of crisis or need.
Bianca Fusco Zanatta is chair of the event and a member of the national board of directors for Kids Help Phone. She is also a designer, principal of M. Zanatta Homes & Design. She has found a way to unite her love of architectural design with a desire to help children.
To make Homes for the Holidays happen, Fusco Zanatta enlists homeowners, designers, decorators, retailers, sponsors, florists, and over 150 volunteers, working from January until the grand reveal. “And they all have one thing in common — the wellbeing of kids and youth in Canada,” she says.
Last year’s stunning finale home told a chic Christmas story. Designer Jamie Banfield decorated three stories of the house to illustrate his favourite parts of Christmas, “the anticipation of the night before, Christmas Day with family, and then having a good party for the New Year.”
The top floor was bedecked for Christmas Eve, with cookies and milk set out next to a note for Santa and his reindeer. The main floor featured a more formal design and sophisticated colour palette of golds, greens, and purples, but remained approachable with traditional touches, such as a vintage train set under the tree and bountiful, beautifully wrapped presents.
Banfield wanted the décor to read “more formal than cliché,” so he incorporated oversized flower arrangements and champagne glasses. “Glam for Christmas instead of red and green,” he says.
The lower floor was dressed for a rocking New Years Eve celebration to round out the season.
For those looking for their own holiday inspiration, Banfield recommends adding personal touches, such as making cookies with guests’ names on them and using them as place cards. “People will remember those,” he says.
“Take something and make it new,” he says. For example, in this house, Banfield had a new take on the traditional drummer boy figure; he painted an oversized drummer boy a sophisticated gold.
For the colour scheme, he says little accents of red and green can create a Christmas feeling, but you can bring in harvest colours too.
“Work in pieces you already have, then bump it up,” he says. He worked with the décor that was already in place. The original interior designer for the home was Tanya Ali, of the design firm TALI+ROCHE, collaborating with designer Ronee Cheung.
“Jamie [Banfield] helped to make the design shine,” Ali says. “He tied his concept into the look of the home.”
The 3,000-square-foot home is a master class in contrast. The bold, black cabinetry of the kitchen and striking black-and-gold marble fireplace are balanced by airy white woodwork and flooring.
Flourishes like the rose-gold faucet really shine against the dark cabinets, which are ebony-stained white oak. “We really try to focus on interiors that exude quality and timelessness,” Ali says, describing her firm’s overall design aesthetic.
Banfield worked with the colour palette already in the home — he made black a sleek and sophisticated, yet somehow warm and comforting, Christmas colour — and weaved the holiday décor in with its aesthetic.
“Our goal is to get people talking, and get them back the next year and help the cause,” Ali says. “Everyone wants to be inspired and feel that spirit of giving.”
Now in its 14th year, Kids Help Phone Homes for the Holidays has raised over $980,000 and has become a fashionable part of Vancouver’s holiday tradition.
Photography by Janis Nicolay
To learn more about Kids Help Phone Homes for the Holidays or to make a donation, please visit www.homesfortheholidays.ca.