A Rustic Holiday Home
Dr. Ray and Nancy Asay’s Aurora home is decorated in earth tones and collectibles that celebrate Ray’s Native American heritage. But come December, Nancy’s massive collection of Santa Clauses takes over, splashing holiday color everywhere and bringing the place to life with Christmas magic.
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At the foot of the couple’s living room Christmas tree sits a very precious, handmade Santa that Nancy crafted with her mother before she passed away. For his robe, they used an old quilt that belonged to Nancy’s grandmother. Placing it atop a tomato cage gives it structure to stand on its own.
Tucked away in the woods outside the city limits of Aurora is the home of Dr. Ray and Nancy Asay. The exterior is made of redwood, with windows on every side, perfect for pressing your nose against as you gaze at the Christmas Eve sky in hopes of spotting Santa Claus. When Ray had the house built, that wasn’t his intent, but the couple’s two children, like most, couldn’t resist the curiosity, even though they were reminded Santa only comes close when you’re sleeping.
On those nights, when the man in the red suit remained elusive, the family could still feel his magic all around them. Lining the walls, crowded on every table and hanging from the Christmas tree’s branches was Santa’s smiling face in the form of dozens of statuettes and ornaments of his likeness, which Nancy had begun collecting. Today, she displays throughout her home more than 300 Santas in various sizes and shapes.
“I started collecting Santas years ago when I was thinking about a dramatic Christmas decor idea,” she says. “Multiples of an item make an impact, and lots of the same color draws attention,” she says.
As an interior designer and senior instructor in the department of technology and construction management at Missouri State University, Nancy understands interior environments. Her home’s everyday decor is a blend of modern and transitional, with earthy accents and souvenirs that reflect the Native American influence of her husband’s lineage as the grand nephew of an uncle who was adopted by a Sioux Indian chief and became chief of the Sioux nation.
“I worked to put something together showing my husband’s favorite items without making it look like a Southwest place,” she says.
For Christmas, Nancy didn’t want to abandon that aesthetic, but she did want to shift the focus to holiday colors and brighten the earth tones of her living space in an eye-catching way.
Most of her Santas are red with cheerful faces. Her favorites are one made out of a wooden hammer handle, one she made with her mother and one oddball that’s white and gold.
“I’m not very traditional with a lot of things, so I love them because they’re different,” she says.
In the 38 years she and her husband have been married, they’ve updated their home to satisfy their needs, adding a second master bedroom suite and office, as well as relocating a powder room to increase the size of the entry. Renovations have more than doubled the original floor plan’s square footage, so now there’s more room for Nancy’s holiday collectibles—a constant reminder that even though Santa isn’t real, his image still brings joy.
Decorating the outdoor fireplace was a secondary thought but ended up being a great solution for where to put trimmings that don’t fit inside. The red-and-green color scheme adds a festive element, especially when freshly fallen snow covers the stone, while aged copper candlesticks are the perfect accent to rustic elements found all around.
At Christmas, Nancy makes an exception to her rule about not decorating with fake greenery, so she can incorporate these artificial evergreen place mats into the bar’s tablescape. Topped with red-rimmed chargers and glass poinsettia plates, the look connects the living room and kitchen.
Every ornament on Nancy’s tree is a Santa, of course. This bearded fellow is from Silver Dollar City. The ceramic star was a gift. “Sometimes, I have to dig for a spot to put them all, but I will not give up,” she jokes. They all coordinate beautifully with rustic paper ribbon that extends the character’s wishes for a merry Christmas.
Nancy concentrates her Santa collection on the fireplace mantel, as it’s the living room’s focal point. “I try to put them strategically, so we can see everyone,” she says. To accommodate the overflow and balance high ceilings, she installed floating shelves next to the mantel and let one lucky Santa hitch a ride on a goose flying north.