Santa Claus has come to town in a big way at the Los Altos Hills home of Sue and Bill Jarvis.
Not just one Santa, but a cast of hundreds. Perhaps this is a slight exaggeration, but Sue’s father kept count and stopped at 200 a few years ago.
They populate nearly every room in the Jarvises’ 8,700-square-foot house, which, despite its size, is a warm and cozy backdrop for the jolly men. And they have a choice of chimneys, although the one leading from the two-story roof to the basement fireplace might be problematic.
An army of nutcrackers keeps the Santas company. Fifty of them have taken over Bill’s home office (he is a sales executive in networking and telecommunications), and two stand guard beside the 16-foot-tall double front doors made of wrought iron and glass.
“I love the richness and the heaviness of the doors,” Sue said. “We designed the doors and built the house around them.”
The couple also designed the house.
“I wanted something simple that would make sense and be comfortable,” she said. “We couldn’t find what we wanted when we moved back from Texas, so we built it.”
The house has a French Normandy influence with its stone facade, wood shutters and hipped roof. The massive front doors open to a soaring entryway with a barreled ceiling, which gives it a European feel.
A 15-foot Christmas tree now stands in the center of the entry, and garlands are entwined on the banister of the sweeping staircase. In fact, there are garlands everywhere in the house and nine more Christmas trees, each with a theme.
Lighted garlands with sugared fruit (Sue’s handiwork) top the cream-colored cabinets in the gourmet kitchen, and a 3-foot tree decorated with cupcakes, silverware and kitchen gadgets stands on the earth-toned granite peninsula that separates the kitchen from the great room.
Sue cleared the shelves in the glass-fronted kitchen cabinets as well as the shelves on either side of the great room fireplace to make way for her Santa Claus collection and other holiday treasures.
In the great room, burgundy leather sofas with colorful pillows invite guests to relax in front of the fire, admire the red-and-gold Christmas tree and gaze up at the unique raised ceiling. An open area – similar to a lightwell with windows at the top – rises 25 feet.
Windows in the great room and kitchen look over the hillside vineyard they planted. They make a meritage blend from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot grapes under their own label, Tre Solé, which features three suns representing their three sons – Scotty, a sophomore at the University of Colorado at Boulder; Blake, a senior at St. Francis High School; and Brent, a junior at St. Francis.
Scotty, who was captain of both the football and baseball teams at St. Francis, drew the label, which is copied in the stained-glass window at the end of the hall between the kitchen and bar.
They decorated the Christmas tree in the bar with miniature wine and beer bottles, glasses and mugs. And, of course, Santa has found his way to the bar.
“I never intended to collect Santas. It probably began when we got married,” Sue said. “I picked up a few to decorate the house and then I would see one that was different or interesting or had special significance.”
For example, she has a cowboy Santa for Texas, a police Santa because her father was a sheriff and baseball and football Santas.
And so it went – to the point that when the family moved from Texas, the movers asked if she had “ever heard of ‘Christmas Anonymous.’”
“I have always loved Christmas,” Sue said. “It was always a big deal to decorate, and we (she and her three siblings) liked putting the candy ornaments on the tree and putting out our nativity scene and our musical Santa that we received from our grandma.”
Her mother, Pat Hisey, who lives in Sunnyvale, still has the musical Santa.
It takes the Jarvises approximately a week to decorate the house with everyone helping – Hisey, Bill and the boys.
“The boys are responsible for bringing the Santas up from the basement for me,” Sue said.
This year, Blake was exempt from heavy duties because he tore his shoulder playing football. But he had to unpack them and get them ready.
The basement is not just for storing Christmas decorations. It houses a wine cellar, game room with pool table, workout room, sauna and two-tiered home theater with leather recliners. With the exception of the wine cellar, it is carpeted in what Sue calls “casino carpet.”
It’s the perfect venue for kids – and adults, too. The Jarvises recently hosted 60 students for the St. Francis homecoming. And members of the football team enjoy hanging out after a game, spending the night and having Bill cook them breakfast.
When the house was in the planning stages, Sue wanted it to feel “warm and cozy” and wanted the kids “to be comfortable.”
She succeeded on both counts.
Take a virtual tour of the Jarvis home to see and hear the santas, nutcrackers and Christmas trees up close.
Sue Jarvis’ holiday decorating tips
• Make decorating fun and get the family involved, even if it is just carrying the decorations from one place to another.
• Don’t forget the Christmas music and eggnog.
• If there is something you did that you really like, take a picture of it so you can replicate it the following year.
• When putting away decorations, organize them by room instead of separating by ornaments, lights, etc.
• Get rid of things you don’t use anymore or pass them along to someone who might enjoy them.