Holiday Decor Inspired by the Coast
Christmas is equal parts haute, ho ho ho and happy home for a young B.C. family.
Three-year-old Grayson gets some help from dad, Wayne McGill, trimming the tree. Grayson suffers from a rare genetic disorder, so his parents make sure the holidays are extra special for him.
It had been years since Wayne McGill and Chad Farquharson bothered to put up a Christmas tree. The couple got their fill of non-stop carols and over-the-top trinkets while working in downtown Vancouver during the holiday blitz. After 16 years together, putting on a show at home just wasn’t a priority. Until Grayson.
Their son, now a three-year-old toddler, rekindled the holiday spirit. “We haven’t had a tree for probably 12 years,” says Chad, “and then we got two. They’re for him.”
Wayne and Chad had been trying to adopt a child for a while before they found Grayson. After their first experience of holding him when he was just hours old, they had a battle to continue holding on to his precious life—Grayson had a severe heart defect that required life-saving surgery. Then, after the surgery, they discovered Grayson also had a rare metabolic disorder, Maple Syrup Urine Disease, or MSUD (named for its characteristic symptom of sweet-smelling urine), in which a protein-restricted diet is necessary to prevent brain damage and death.
“The heart surgery turned out to be the easy part,” says Wayne. Since then, Grayson has spent much of his life at BC Children’s Hospital—62 visits in the last year alone. When the couple brought their boy home for his second Christmas, he still had a feeding tube. So when they were finally able to enjoy a full-on family Christmas at home last year, they went all out.
“We want him to have great at-home experiences that are so memorable, so fantastic, so over the top that it’s easy for him not to think of how frequently we’re going to his other home, which is BC Children’s,” says Chad. Part of that was making the move from downtown Vancouver to South Surrey, to a 1,961-square-foot four-bedroom townhouse that was both sanctuary and blank slate—a new beginning.
The couple painted over the builder’s beige walls with white, then added a mix of three very different pieces: a vintage wall hutch, a Saarinen dining table and a vivid blue area rug.
“We often springboard from a pattern or from a piece,” says Chad, who notes, for example, how the blue in the carpet is repeated throughout—a pouf, pillows, artwork and, of course, ornaments come Christmas.
In the master bath, an old lawyer’s bookcase (the first piece of furniture Chad bought, more than 20 years ago) holds towels and soap while two off-the-shelf round mirrors are layered over the existing builder’s mirror. A vintage army chest sits next to a plush, custom-upholstered headboard in the bedroom. A cowhide rug lies in front of an Asian armoire, alongside a giant fabric reindeer that comes out for the holidays.
High style shares space with mementos. In Grayson’s room, a stuffed elephant gifted at his birth (it’s Chad and Grayson’s favourite animal) sits under a series of chalkboards graced with sayings the couple whispers to their son every night: you are kind, you are smart, you are brave, you are important. Tucked into one of the frames is a photo of Wayne and Chad holding Grayson after he was born.
“We really like to mix pieces,” says Wayne, “so it doesn’t look like you bought the set of anything, but it all looks like it belongs together at the same time.” It’s a highly personal collection of old and new, high and low, accessories and furniture. Chad equates the family’s style with a certain fashion sense: “We don’t commit to a single uniform-like thing. We have lots of looks we enjoy pulling off, so our house is the same.”
And the holiday decor? “Oh, it’s everywhere,” laughs Wayne. Traditionally, many of the celebrations of the holidays are so much about food; since Grayson’s condition severely restricts his diet, says Wayne, “we’ve been trying to make everything extra awesome for him in terms of the visual.”
Those two Christmas trees are flocked and fake, for a lush look with fuss-free maintenance. On one tree, a miniature stone cottage makes an atypical topper. “It’s like a church on top,” says Wayne—but one that fits in here, near South Surrey’s driftwood-strewn beaches. “The decorations go with our style and represent it,” he says. “We’re on the water, on the coast; we wanted pieces that felt like where we live, not the North Pole.”
But alongside the pops of blue throughout the home, including nautical-themed ornaments of whales, octopuses and jellyfish (another favourite of Chad’s, and a nod to his childhood dream of being a marine biologist), the couple did go so far as to add some traditional red for Christmas, from baubles to sparkly reindeer pillows (beloved by Grayson). As for Wayne, he loves everything, he says, but adds, “I could get rid of all of it and do a whole new collection”—and Chad agrees. It seems the couple is not particularly loyal when it comes to design. Wayne even describes their aesthetic as noncommittal. Fitting, it seems, after the couple found Grayson: it’s all about familial commitment now.