For 30 holiday seasons, Court Appointed Special Advocates of Shawnee County has sponsored a cherished Topeka tradition, with proceeds being used to train volunteers working with abused and neglected children in the court and foster care systems.
The CASA Homes for the Holidays Tour celebrates its 30th anniversary on Nov. 18 and 19. In honor of the milestone, CASA has named David Porterfield, owner of Porterfield’s Flowers &Gifts, as its first honorary chair. Porterfield has dedicated his time and talents to decorating homes for all 30 tours. This year, he will return to the first home he decorated for the holidays as a teenager in the mid-1960s.
“I couldn’t imagine that anyone hired such a thing done and certainly not for the whole house,” said Porterfield, who today decorates more than 65 homes and businesses annually for the holiday season. “Who on Earth would hire someone to put up their Christmas tree?”
At 1550 S.W. Westover Road in the Westboro neighborhood, the home was built in 1941 by Maxine and Willis Anton. The Antons, who owned Topeka Tent and Awning, were known for their generosity to the community.
“Working with Mrs. Anton was more a benefit to me than it was to her,” said Porterfield. “Her knowledge and taste combined in a way that truly helped me understand style, fashion and grace, and she was more than happy to share that knowledge.”
At the time, Porterfield was working for his parents, Brooke and Virginia Porterfield, who had recently opened a shop on S.W. 21st Street. He was given the task of designing the Antons’ interior Christmas decor.
Maxine Anton provided the young apprentice direction, beginning with her preference for Christmas trees.
“It was always a long-needle pine, but not just one tree. We had the nursery take two trees in similar height and remove just enough branches to allow them to be pushed together. When the trunks were as close together as possible, they were strapped together tightly at several points down the trunks. The finished look was glorious. It really seemed as if we found an impossibly fat tree out in the woods somewhere,” Porterfield recalled.
Now owned by Michelle Butler and her husband, Tyler Johnson, who are only the second owners of the home, the holiday decor is no less glorious than it was all those years ago. This year’s design, a collaboration between Butler and Porterfield, is sure to delight tour patrons.
“It has been such a treat working with David on the CASA holiday homes tour — his creativity is endless,” said Butler. “He has also been a wealth of information when it came to the history of our home, as he spent countless hours with the original homeowner.”
Perhaps the most striking feature of the Southern plantation-style Colonial greets guests when they step inside the main entrance hall. A grand curved staircase is the centerpiece of the house, and Butler and Porterfield have treated it as such, utilizing a sophisticated black-and-white color scheme incorporated with boughs of fir and delicate silver orbs.
Butler still has the original plans for the staircase, but not that long ago, owning the house seemed like a pipe dream. She and Johnson had already purchased and renovated one Westboro home, and 1550 S.W. Westover Road had been vacant for 14 years when it finally went on the market in 2014.
Butler asked her husband, a Realtor, to show her the house, and Johnson agreed, on one condition: They were not buying it.
The couple purchased the house 3½ months later and began renovations in January 2015, which included electrical and plumbing work, plaster repair and work to the windows. They removed walls between what was once a butler’s pantry and the original kitchen to create a spacious open-floor plan for entertaining.
When it came time to choose cabinet trim for the kitchen, Johnson discovered several boxes in the basement, which appeared to contain the trim used in the great room addition of the 1960s. Although it seemed perfect, the couple discovered they were short on the amount that would be needed to complete the kitchen project.
Even though it was a long shot, Johnson contacted the company whose name was on the boxes from the 1960s and they were able to send enough trim to complete the project.
According to Butler, the great room, along with a stately brick courtyard at the back of the house, was added in later years by Maxine Anton to increase the space she had to entertain guests. The great room is entirely paneled in wormy chestnut, a rare and valuable wood that Johnson stained to be darker. Butler and Johnson also added windows, which result in natural light throughout the room.
The hand-carved, antique mantel is the focal point of the great room, and it has been adorned this holiday season in traditional reds and greens. A Christmas tree stands in the corner of the room, bedecked in red and white ornaments and topped with a red plaid ribbon. Hints of red and cream can be found in decorative pillows and throws throughout the room, melding the everyday with the seasonal.
Other rooms on tour include:
— The living room, which houses Butler’s “everything tree,” decorated with Old World Santas and ornaments from her childhood and finished with a green bow topper.
— The library, or morning room, is done in a rustic style with reindeer antlers, pinecones and persimmons, and features a tree topper designed from pheasant feathers.
— The formal dining room, decorated by Porterfield, is classic elegance, with magnolia leaves, pears, golden orbs and cherubs, which draw attention to the antique buffet and crystal chandelier without overpowering them.
Four other homes throughout Topeka also will be on the CASA Homes for the Holidays Tour, with holiday designs by Red Door Home Store, M. Street Interiors of Lawrence and Portico.
In addition to the proceeds raised from the tour, the annual Patron Party will be from 8 to 10 p.m. Nov. 17 at the Topeka Country Club.
Patron party ticket holders get a sneak preview of all of the tour homes that night from 6 to 8 p.m. and can use their tickets to tour the homes the entire weekend.
The CASA Boutique will feature a variety of unique items from 20 local artists, including jewelry, fiber art, candles, pottery, stoneware, hand-made ornaments, handbags, garden decor, pet treats, books and paintings.
Tour ticket holders can visit the boutique at the home of Brad and Amanda Poole, 3516 S.W. 55th St. Forty percent of all proceeds from the boutique go to CASA’s mission of advocating for area youth, which for Michelle Butler is the most important reason for her participation.
“We are huge supporters of CASA. They do wonderful work with children,” said Butler. “We are honored to be a part of the 30th anniversary CASA holiday home tour and are pleased we can make a small contribution to such an important organization to our community.”
Shanna Sloyer is a freelance writer from Topeka. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.