Growing up, Ashley Ross chose a Christmas ornament every year for her family tree. Now, she lets her two daughters, Ever and Story, continue the tradition while she decorates the rest of the Ross family home for the holidays. Hanging outdoor lights is the purview of husband Andrew Ross.
“Christmas is obviously the biggest [holiday],” Ashley says, “and our favorite.”
For this “most wonderful time” last year, the Ross family began decorating the first of December.
“I am one of those ‘right after Thanksgiving’ people, because I want the whole month of December to feel like Christmas,” Ashley says.
The Ross’ custom 1 1/2-story home has an open floor plan, allowing their large Christmas tree to be viewed from the foyer, kitchen, and living, dining, and play rooms. Last year the home was decked in living evergreen boughs and wreaths, including a centerpiece for the dining room table, fireplace mantle, and touches in the kitchen.
“I like the live garlands,” Andrew says. “When you walk into the house, you know it’s Christmastime.”
White walls “keep the house bright and happy,” while neutral accents make changing decorations for the season easy. Wooden tones on the mantle, exposed ceiling beams, shelves, and leather furnishings warm the space. They also complement the organic decorations and lighter tints of red, rich greens, silvers, golds, and even pinks in the Ross’ Christmas decor palette.
“Whimsical is kind of the look we have,” Ashley says. “It just feels magical with everything up.”
While the main tree and wreaths may be the headliners of the Ross’ decor, Ashley points to little details her husband and daughters enjoy. Changing out books in her children’s reading nook with holiday titles and adding a festive Scandinavian-style throw blanket and seasonal pillows to the couch are a few ways she brings the Christmas spirit alive.
“It is kind of like a giant puzzle…Just making everything work,” says Ashley, for whom interior design has always been a keen interest. She expresses her creativity and fine eye for detail through photography as well, capturing family moments and sharing them on her Instagram account.
Andrew and Ashley, who both have degrees in journalism and were raised in the Millard area, met after college through mutual friends. They finished the basement of their first home together, getting a “taste” for a custom build.
“My main thing was the lot,” Andrew says. “I spent a lot of time driving through neighborhoods.”
The Ross family lives within walking distance of grandparents and friends in Elkhorn. Their backyard opens into lush greenery formerly of Skyline Woods golf course, whose developers lost a lawsuit to the Skyline Woods Homeowners Association in 2008, reinforcing land use limitations. Andrew is a golfer, but is satisfied his daughters have outdoor and indoor spaces to play.
“We decided we wanted a different style of home,” Ashley says. “We worked with the architect. We would bring in pictures, show him, and he would draw it up—a lot of back and forth.”
From planning to building, the process took two years working with Garrett Friesen of Dreamhome Drafting in Elkhorn, and Denali Homes of Omaha. Design elements include natural light, a connected laundry room and master closet, a home office, and an open floor plan.
“I knew I wanted that [first floor] open to the second story with the play loft upstairs,” Ashley says, “so [the kids] could play and have their own space, but we could keep an eye on them.”
The Christmas decorations permeate every room, with small trees in the kids’ rooms, potted holiday plants in the bathrooms, and mistletoe above the front door in the foyer. With two toy poodles, two rescue cats, and two children, decorations sometimes take abuse and need replacing.
“We’ve had to say, ‘Don’t put the ornaments on the very bottom of the tree because the kids or cats will bat them off,’” Ashley says. “There is nothing we have that is crazy priceless. That’s kind of how you have to live your life when you have little kids.
We always lose a few ornaments.”
One of the kids’ favorite activities every year is unboxing all the decorations. Ashley saves most items, adding a new one if it “just fits,” such as a new tree topper for the 2020 season. She finds pieces locally at the Fremont boutique fia + belle, “The Studio” by jh Design Studio, and Mulhall’s, as well as through national retailers and online Instagram makers.
“If I like it, I don’t really care where it came from,” Ashley says. “Every year I get a little bit more.”
Ashley suggests designing a room by selecting a favored item, then “focusing the rest of the room around that piece.” The Ross’ ability to both work from home provides them with time to enjoy the decorations, Christmas and otherwise, for many weeks.
“If the decorations are all done, it gives you more time to shop, spend time with family, and all the fun Christmas stuff you want to do,” Ashley says.
For the Ross family, this means hot chocolate and Christmas light-viewing drives, watching holiday movies, viewing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer at the Orpheum Theater, visiting Santa, and opening advent calendars.
“You know it’s going to be a lot of family time,” Andrew says. “A lot of traditions you do every year. A feeling of happiness.”
“You slow down a little,” Ashley says. “With Christmas, it’s whatever makes you happy.”