WASHINGTON — When others are taking down lights, packing up ornaments and dragging dry trees to the curb, Suzanne Eblen and Amy Whyte are just starting on their Christmas shopping.
Each January, the business partners head out to trade shows and load up on the latest in garland, pillows, lights, blankets, scarves and trinkets — all to deck the halls of an 11-room design house for the next holiday season.
“If you like Christmas, it is like a dream come true,” said Eblen, founder of The Old Lucketts Store, a furniture and homegoods haven in Leesburg, Virginia.
Eblen got her start in home design in Los Angeles, where she worked for a man who restored and resold art deco pieces to high-end clients. When she got married and moved to Virginia, Eblen noticed that the styles she was selling in LA for thousands of dollars were going for $1 and $2 at auctions. So slowly, she started buying, flipping and selling furniture.
“It’s also really great to not have any money, because if you have money, you’re sloppy,” said Eblen, whose initial goal was to turn a $2 purchase into a $5 sale.
Eventually, she was fixing up furniture full time out of a small store on Route 15 in Catoctin, Virginia. When a nearby abandoned general store went on the market in 1996, Eblen made an offer. Like much of the furniture she salvages, she saw promise.
“It was just left, and I was like, ‘I think we can do something with this,’” she said.
In the last 20 years, The Old Lucketts Store has grown to include more than 35 dealers who sell everything from chandeliers to candles. It hosts workshops and flea markets, and thanks to its proximity to wineries and breweries, the store has become a day-trip destination for those living in the DMV.
There’s also a 3,000-square-foot design house at Lucketts, which Eblen purchased in 2004 and flips 10 times a year (140 times, to date) to showcase items for sale in their finished state.
“Pretty soon the rooms are going to be getting smaller,” Eblen said about the layers of paint and wallpaper that have been added over the years.
But Christmas is the biggest flip of them all. Throughout summer, the staff at Lucketts spends its days pricing holiday inventory as it comes in. After Labor Day, the design house is gutted, and Eblen and Whyte start to set the scene for each room’s theme.
The dining room might be a winter wonderland; a bedroom, country chic. And every square inch is adorned with seasonal merchandise — from ornaments to earmuffs.
“Every room you walk into has its completely own vibe,” said Eblen, who added that she is always amazed at how the vision comes together.
“We’ve seen it, touched it, felt it, bought it, had it, and we’re going through the rooms like, ‘Ahhhh!’”
Outside the house, the Lucketts crew paints elaborate holiday vignettes on the sides of its barns, which attracts families and professionals to the grounds for photos. This year’s big reveal is Nov. 9 through 11 at the annual Lucketts winter market and open house. Visitors can expect more than 50 vendors, fresh doughnuts and an on-site beer garden.
If you can’t make it to this year’s winter market and design open house, Eblen said you’re probably better off. Word about the design house has spread, and last year, holiday hopefuls waited about two hours to wind through the farmhouse to collect holiday gifts and inspiration.
Instead, Eblen suggests making the trek another weekend — the design house will be decked out in lights, greenery and vintage-hip holiday finds throughout the season.
“It’s the look, the price, the homeyness, the yumminess, the elegance, the country vibe … it is like a dream come true,” Eblen said.