Photography by Tera Janelle Auch
While driving down Thomas Jefferson Road in Forest, there are two vistas sure to catch your eye at any time of year: the Peaks of Otter and a sprawling brick Georgian Colonial. When it comes to Christmastime, however, the brick manor steals the show.
Rachel and Wayne Beeler don’t just deck the halls—they garnish the gazebo, embellish the fountain, and make sure that every view indoors and out points to the Christmas season. “I just love being happy, and I love to help other people feel happy—that’s one of the reasons that I do all of this every year,” Rachel explains.
She has always loved Christmas, but she didn’t start decorating for the holiday room by room until the Beelers moved to Poplar Forest and began adding several small Christmas trees in other rooms here and there over the years. That was more than 20 years and 20 trees ago, before the Beelers began looking for a home “with a little land.” Their current home is not only gracious in acreage, but also comes with more square footage, and more rooms means more Christmas trees.
While the rest of us are busy decorating with pumpkins and scarecrows, Rachel starts thinking about Christmas. “The children love to come trick-or-treating here, and not only because I give out the best candy!” she smiles. Kids in costumes are delighted to see a 12-foot tree in the foyer when they stop by. Preparations for the season commence at the beginning of October, starting by bringing all of the accoutrements out of storage. Rachel used to manage all of the decorations herself and didn’t necessarily want help: “I was raised to work,” she explains, starting with her job at Chapstick on the conveyor lines and then spending 16 years working for GE. Rachel remains diligent and has not forgotten her roots, but she has discovered that her energy levels have changed after having had—and beaten—thyroid cancer several years ago. “Now I have a team of 15 to 20 elves that come in over the course of the fall who help me set it all up,” she explains.
From the St. Nick in the fountain and near life-sized nutcrackers, all the hard work pays off. It’s impossible to feel that you haven’t entered a branch of Santa’s workshop or a North Pole satellite location when you pull up the driveway. You might see Kris Kringle and the missus themselves setting up shop in the gazebo, or small elves in the nooks and crannies of bookcases. Chandeliers, headboards, mirrors, even the bath—all receive the special Beeler treatment.
Like most of us, Rachel likes to change up her décor each year, finding new places for treasured adornments, and adding a few updates to her collection. She enjoys shopping everywhere for interesting decorations, but her favorite place to find decorations is Hobby Lobby. She shares that for years she had kept hearing about Hobby Lobby on the radio, but she’d never been in one. So when she and Wayne (owners of Sterling Oil) were out making deliveries one day and they passed by a Hobby Lobby, she just had to get out of the car and check it out. “I thought it was going to be a hobby store—and it is—but I had no idea that they carried home goods, too. I thought I had died and gone to heaven; it was Christmas everywhere in there!” Even though the Beelers arrived at the store with a pick-up truck packed with AC units to deliver to customers, Rachel had the sales clerk package up all of her goods and strap them down to the truck.
“Wayne likes to joke that [stopping at Hobby Lobby]was the ‘worst mistake’ of his life,” Rachel laughs.
A native of Bedford County’s Nicopolis community, Rachel met local Lynchburger Wayne Beeler in the early ’60s when she and her gal pals would have fun cruising Wards Road between checking out Lindy’s Big Boy and The Southern in her cousin Esther’s 1964 Chevrolet. It was on one of those nights that Rachel spotted Wayne driving his red 1963 Chevrolet. “I looked at the girls and said, ‘I’m going to marry that man.’” She was right—the Beelers just celebrated 51 years of marriage this past May. They have a reminder of that Chevy in the form of a figurine they keep in the downstairs TV room, where they like to relax.
Wayne and Rachel, who wed during her senior year of high school, found themselves heading out to Oregon when Wayne was in the Air Force. That’s where they celebrated their first Christmas. While she isn’t sure if she still has any mementos from that first year, Rachel certainly has a fond memory of being a new wife at Christmas.
“I set a small tree on a table, took a picture of it, and sent it home to show my family a bit of our Christmas out West. Well, would you believe that we started getting gifts from my family in the mail? They sent us gifts because they felt sorry for us that we didn’t have much of anything under the tree—they thought it was so pitiful,” she laughs, “but the truth was that we were as happy as could be with our little tree and just being together.”
The Beelers came back to Lynchburg soon after and bought a home off Timberlake Road, which they own to this day. “We loved that house,” she reminisces of the house where they raised their two children, Donna and Mike. All of the family, including the Beelers’ grandchildren, live nearby and enjoy spending time at Rachel’s home, especially during the holidays.
People come from all over the area to see the Beelers’ tasteful and traditional displays. After Thanksgiving, Rachel begins hosting tours of her holiday home for different groups (e.g. church groups and women’s clubs).
“I love seeing everyone’s reactions and the expressions on their faces. People feel happy when they come through; I love seeing that.”
Tours conclude with refreshments in her year-round party room, a former garage that the Beelers converted into a banquet area. Eight round tables and Chivari chairs accommodate 32 guests. This room, of course, receives the special Beeler Christmas treatment, and she keeps it ready for year-round entertaining, switching décor seasonally (they also host Easter and an annual barbecue). This is where the family hosts relatives, close family friends, and her “elves” for a country-style Christmas breakfast.
Her current take on getting her home holiday-ready is very different from her first December as a newlywed; still, she has always remembered that very first Christmas season. Just like the Christmases from her childhood, it served as a celebration of hope, joy and love. All of her decorating stems from this deeply nostalgic and spiritually personal place of bringing joy to others. “We had so much love at Christmas. I mean,
we had a lot of love all year round, but we felt it so strongly at Christmas. Our celebrations were meaningful,” says Rachel.
“Love—that’s what we had at Christmas,” Rachel recalls, and that is what she strives to bring to her home and to her guests every year.
How to Add Color to your home for the holidays
Every year, Rachel Beeler evaluates each room’s purpose and colors to determine its seasonal treatment. For most of us, red and green forms a twosome synonymous with Christmas, but those aren’t the only hues available for holiday decorating. Take a cue from Rachel and add Christmas décor beyond the living room: consider the prevalent palette of each room to find which Christmas color combo will work best for that space. Here are a few to try:
1. White and metallics such as gold or silver (or a mix of the two) offer plenty of shine and glimmer.
2. Gold and purple, the colors of royalty, seem right for this season of heralding a newborn king.
3. White, silver, and forest green evoke the palette of wintry landscape and play well with neutrals.
4. Jewel tones, such as the kind Rachel uses in her holiday dining room, look refined when paired with metallics, but they also provide a dose of whimsy when used with lime green.
5. Sage green and ivory always look elegant and give a nod to nature.