A dozen Christmas trees deck the halls of this waterfront home with Gulf views
Mercedes Perez has a passion for decorating. So passionate, that in one of the many rooms and storage areas in her three-story beachfront home, Sunbather Manor, she keeps a collection of full-sized artificial Christmas trees, decorated to the nines, ready to be placed around the manor when the season arrives.
This year, 12 trees deck Sunbather Manor’s halls, each picking up the color or theme of a room’s particular décor.
“My business is advertising, but my passion is decorating,” Perez said.
The owner of an advertising agency in Houston, where she keeps another home, the Cuba native bought her Sands of Kahala Beach home just three years ago and, in that short time, has filled it from top to bottom with her extensive collection of antique furniture, crystal figurines, fairy collectibles, Italian porcelain, hundreds of yards of swirling silk swags and draperies and, yes, a dozen elaborately decorated Christmas trees.
“This place was empty,” she said. “This is all my decorating, my doing, my construction. I had a vision and after three years, it has come to reality.”
Perez lives on the second and third floors of the manor and has turned the first floor into what she envisions as an event space for fundraising dinners, weddings and other special gatherings. She will cater and provide bartending and service, offering a fully turnkey event space, she said.
A large Christmas tree decorated almost completely in gold stands next to the hearth in the front room, furnished with velvet upholstered chairs and sofas. Snowflake-imprinted throw pillows accent the room, leading to a procession of smaller rooms and linked seating areas, all furnished with elaborately set dining tables, overflowing with crystal and silver. At the corner of one dining room, another Christmas tree glows pink with magnolia and poinsettia blossoms set among thick flocking and large dusty rose bows fashioned of antique silk.
Another tree is built on a peacock theme with turquoise and gold ornaments.
On the first floor alone, seven cascading crystal chandeliers glitter overhead. Outside, a tidy but formal garden with ample outside seating stretches to a fence opening directly onto the beach.
“You can just imagine the sunrises and sunsets here,” Perez said.
Upstairs, in her private living area, Perez’s prized collections of porcelain and glass figurines are carefully arranged in lighted cabinets. A Christmas tree near the upstairs kitchen is decorated with wine bottle ornaments and bunches of grapes.
A seashell-themed tree with fish ornaments is done in blue and gold; a butterfly-themed tree picks up shades of gold and purple. On another tree, antique court jester dolls and cupid figurines vie for space. On another, gilded high-heel shoes are the predominant ornaments, highlighted by blue ribbon, edged in gold.
Next to a Spanish porcelain mermaid, a spiral Christmas tree covered in roses completes the theme.
Among Perez’s treasured collections of smaller pieces, several hand-painted, heavy porcelain pots with brass handles, dated 1897, stand solid and distinct. In the cove of one living room, an enormous rosewood cabinet, elaborately carved, is accented with delicate mother-of-pearl silhouettes.
The effect is otherworldly, like stepping off the planet into a wonderland of colors, shapes and textures. Around the house, Christmas tree lights twinkle, catching the reflective surfaces of hundreds of pieces of decorative glass.
A tiny Yorkshire terrier, Mercy, pads along underfoot and in a corner of the first-floor room, Camelot, a 16-year-old white cockatoo, inhabits a large cage amid a small forest of potted palms.
“I wanted to be by the water, even though I’m not a swimming person,” Perez said, her eyes fixed on the view outside a south-facing window.
Beyond the fairyland interior, the soft gray Gulf of Mexico beckons from every window, a vista a passionate decorator can only frame, in flowing folds of silk draperies, all pulled open to sea and sky.