Holiday grandeur at a cozy colonial-style cottage.

A home is created by traditions, memories, and the people who make them. Without these things, a house can just be a rather expensive box. These feelings of home are often most prevalent during the holidays as friends and family gather together.

Kevin Thompson, John Cook, and their two dogs, Louis and Bruiser, have been making their sweet 1940s cottage in Jefferson City a home for the past 13 years. The cottage is on the smaller side at around 1,000 square feet, so entertaining on a grand scale is a bit out of the question. Working within their space limitations, the couple organize small gatherings instead.

Holiday home in Jefferson City, Missouri

“Once a year, we host an open house where we invite family and friends to visit over a few hours and share some holiday cheer with us,” says John. “It keeps the flow of people going instead of overwhelming the house.”

After all, this is the point of the holidays — to gather, share, celebrate each other, and grow closer. John shares that his family and friends gather at different parts of the year, but something about the holidays helps them create a more direct, intimate connection with each other.“

It gives us time to see each other,” John says of the open house tradition. “We see each other a lot on Facebook, but not so often in person.

John also adds that when people leave his home, he hopes they leave feeling a sense of true friendship and affection.

Holiday home in Jefferson City, Missouri
Holiday home in Jefferson City, Missouri

But John and Kevin aren’t the only friendly faces that can be seen in the home; there are also plenty of jolly old St. Nick decorations.

“You can’t help but see Santa when you are first confronted with our holiday presentation. Santa is very important to our celebration of the season. It comes from both a religious background as well as a nonreligious background for us.”

Kevin often buys John Santa decorations for his December birthday or for Christmas. This habit, over their 25-year relationship, has created quite the collection; Santa figures can be seen nestled in planter pots, perched proudly on windowsills, and draped over the fireplace mantle.

We found ourselves collecting and didn’t know it,” John says. “From an ornament on the tree to a more doll-like Santa and a Christmas throw on the couch featuring Santa, there are a lot of ways he crept onto the scene without us realizing it.”

Holiday home in Jefferson City, Missouri

John explains that his love for the holidays comes from cherished memories of childhood, which are immensely important to him. To keep that tradition alive, the couple’s maximalist, yet balanced,Christmas tree is a core component of their traditions. Ornaments from John’s childhood are displayed on the tree, and although the tree was purchased from Macy’s several years ago, it still spins 360 degrees, allowing each ornament to be seen. The most prominent ornament, however, is a 1960s red metal orb with “silent night, holy night” embossed on its shiny exterior. Working as a centerpiece for the home, the tree also features decorations collected during their travels, such as a glass double-decker red bus with members ofThe Beatles waving from its windows.

While living within a cozy cottage may not provide much room for storage, the couple have been able to strategically combine their love for federal-style design and holiday décor with the help of John’s good friend and owner of Southbank Gift Company, Jill Bednar. Jill has been steering the decorative decision making with the homeowners’ décor over the last five-plus years. The inspiration comes from three significant locations: Washington D.C., where the couple met; France; and England.

“That federal style became very important to me. And, you have an amazing amount of it in Washington D.C. The federal style translated into two particular loves of mine and Kevin’s, and those are things British and French. You’ll see influences throughout the entire house — especially the French influence, the use of bees, the allusions to Paris and the Eiffel Tower, and the fleur-de-lis.”

The home can be described as having a certain air of whimsy.For John and Kevin, whether during the holiday or off-season, the home reflects the couple’s history, their humor and style, and, most importantly, their future.