Presidential Open House


My dear friend, Kay O’Brien, definitely has a Christmas heart — and it serves her well in her role as First Lady of Carson-Newman College. The college’s mission is to help students reach their full potential as educated citizens and worldwide servant leaders by integrating academic excellence and Christian commitment within a caring community — and Kay and her husband, Randall, are wonderful role models for the students they serve. Recently, while busy decorating the President’s Home for Christmas events, Kay was gracious to let me stop by and take pictures to share with you. She even let me play with her dishes! I can’t begin to show you the entire house, but I’ll give you a peek — after I tell you a little interesting house history…


Back in the early 1930s when the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) was established, some 15,000 families were to be displaced by the building of the necessary dams and resulting lakes. But before that could happen, one of the families (the Fain family) salvaged the woodwork from their circa 1850 soon-to-be-under-water home — then moved inland and used their legacy in wood to build another residence on 10+ acres in Jefferson City, Tennessee. This second structure, built in 1941, is an entirely different floor plan from the original; I’m fascinated by the creative thinking it must have taken to construct it! Remaining in the Fain family for the majority of the next several decades, it was purchased by Carson-Newman College in 2008 for use as a President’s Home. The O’Briens assisted the College with the updating of the house, including adding a sunroom which immeasurably improved the house’s traffic flow and provided better options for all of the entertaining that is part of the President’s and First Lady’s pleasure … and responsibility.
For you, my blog readers, there was no arm twisting. It’s strictly with pleasure that the First Lady opens her home to us for a visit … and with gratitude that we accept her kindness! (If you want to see something more closely, just click on the picture once to enlarge it … or twice to enlarge it even more!)

What you see is what you get … a festive, friendly, family-style welcome — with a traditional flair!
O'Brien Xmas 2010 Exterior

A Christmas heart … with open arms
O'Brien Ext Details

As we step inside the front door, we’re immediately greeted by Kay’s angel statue … and a staircase traditionally draped with garland. (Notice how the garland gently makes its way down the steps?)
O'Brien Xmas 2010 Entry

To our right, we see the living room with its beautifully decorated mantel, olive wood nativity from Bethlehem…and the charm of outdoor wreaths visible through the windows.

On the other side of the entry is a fabulous study where Kay set up her Christmas village. I was there before she added the snow for texture, but I’ll go ahead and let you see her collection…
O'Brien Xmas 2010 Village

And all through the house — little touches of Christmas…
O'Brien Xmas 2010 Int Dets

Although I am an old house lover at heart, I have to admit that the new sunroom at the President’s Home is one of my favorite parts of this house. It’s probably because it so beautifully displays Kay’s collection of blue and white…and the original exterior brick walls.
O'Brien Xmas 2010 Sunroom

For now, it’s also where the family Christmas tree resides … the one that holds the ornaments with all of the memories and magic created by years of “being family.”
O'Brien Xmas 2010 Sunroom Tree

And today there’s also a simple, festive tablescape that would make anyone feel welcome!

Speaking of tablescapes, let’s work our way around to the dining room where you can see one of my favorite mantels in the house. (I’m so glad the Fain family salvaged all this fabulous wood!)
O'Brien Xmas 2010 Dining Rm


We also see more of Kay’s angels — this time on the Christmas tree…
O'Brien Xmas 2010 Angels

And because Kay knows you love tablescapes, she’s set a table with her Christmas dishes — especially for you! I’ll just let you look…






It’s getting late, and we don’t want to wear out our welcome, so we’d better think about saying our goodbyes…



Thank you so much for stopping by in the midst of this busy season! I’ll be linking this post to Tablescape Thursday at Between Naps on the Porch where you can see many more beautiful holiday tablescapes.

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this final open house of the Christmas season…and your heart is now a Christmas heart — open and ready to share joy and hope with those around you.
O'BrienXmas2010 PorchPM

Merry Christmas to each of you…and may God’s richest blessings be yours in the year ahead.

I’ll see you soon!

Looking ahead …
This fabulous old barn sits on the President’s Home property. Kay would like to fix it up and host student events there. Maybe some day that will happen–and I’ll share the metamorphosis with you…


  1. What a beautiful home and very interesing history!
    This little tour would get anyone in the Christmas spirit.

    Merry Christmas!

  2. love your swing and porch pics, and the red barn, so christmasy~

  3. Thank you for such a wonderful tour and history of this lovely home! The Christmas decorations are enchanting. The porch says it all!

    From Virginia

  4. Loved your post!! What a treat to see this wonderful home. Beautifully decorated too. Wow. the dining room is so warm and inviting. I love the Christmas tree dishes with the gold! Merry Christmas.

  5. What a beautiful home filled with lovely touches of CHristmas everywhere!

  6. What a warm and lovely home 🙂

    Merry CHRISTmas!

  7. What a wonderful home, dressed in sparkling Christmas finery…the woodwork is absolutely beautiful. The table is gorgeous, love the stemware…
    Merry Christmas, Susan!

  8. I’m so glad that she let you give us a tour because it’s really lovely. The tablescape is icing on the cake. Loved it all.


  9. How beautiful. . Thank you for sharing such a beautiful home. Merry Christmas

  10. How fun was that! Thanks so much for brining us along. I want to see the barn turned into something wonderful too. Her table is just exquisite. The color of the glasses is amazing and her centerpiece is wonderful too. Have a very wonderful Christmas.

  11. What a delight to read your post this morning! We knew Kay and Randall when they were at Baylor and enjoyed festive meals in their home. I know Carson-Newman is blessed by their leadership. Do tell them hello from Tricia Tolbert!

  12. What a beautiful home and table . I loved all your photos. Have a Merry Christmas.

  13. So pretty~~I am in love with the porch!!

    Happy Tablescape Thursday~~~and Merry Christmas!!

    Thank you for the beautiful tour :))

    Blessings to you…
    Kay Ellen

  14. You were especially blessed with an invitation to view such a beautiful Christmas home. Thank you for sharing your photos of the tour with us. Happy New Year! Cherry Kay

  15. Thank you for the tour of this very beautiful home. The history is so interesting and it’s wonderful that they salvaged the wood from the original homestead. Pamela