Real Estate: Tours offer glimpses of homes sparkling with seasonal cheer

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The dining room table set for the holiday dinner at Jack and Patricia Orben’s Aquebogue home.

For many, one of the greatest joys of December is getting a glimpse of other peoples’ lives and decorating styles while gathering by the hearth at holiday parties.

If you’re so inclined, take note: A select group of North Forkers is going all-out and opening their homes for two upcoming benefit holiday house tours.

This weekend’s Oysterponds Historical Society house tour, which features 14 private and public buildings, has been a tradition for decades. In addition, the Jamesport Meeting House is hosting its first-ever holiday tour of nine houses in the Jamesport and Aquebogue area.

Richard Wines and Nancy Gilbert, who run the Meeting House, decided to hold the holiday tour this year after three years of successful September house tours.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The dining room sideboard decorated with a Christmas tree.

The Jamesport tour will be held Saturday, Dec. 15, the day after the annual “Carols and Cookies” event on Dec. 14 at 6:30 p.m. at the Meeting House, Main Road and Manor Lane.

“Not all the houses are historic, but a bunch of them are,” said Ms. Gilbert. “Every house is different. Every house is being decorated by the owner and they’re all incredibly unique.

“A lot of people have collections of ornaments that have come down in their families and special things they bring out for Christmas,” she added. “One house has a 1950s theme with wonderful yard ornaments, while another house, which was built in the 1920s, has really early ornaments from that period.”

Among the tour participants are Patricia and Jack Orben of Aquebogue, who have opened their house on Peconic Bay in Aquebogue to past Jamesport Meeting House tours. Ms. Orben, who shows the flair of an interior decorator, also has a personal affection for Christmastime and, as of Nov. 30, had already been decorating for days in preparation for the event.

The Orbens were married on Dec. 17, 1960, and they display the Christmas wreaths that were hanging at their wedding, as well as stockings Ms. Orben puts out for her 10 grandchildren and decorations she’s purchased over the years from her niece’s fundraisers for the American Red Cross.

Ms. Gilbert and Mr. Wines’ Winds Way homestead, a collection of historic buildings on Peconic Bay Boulevard, is also on the tour.

“I tend to go out in the garden and cut a bunch of stuff and bring it in, but Hurricane Sandy didn’t help in that regard,” Ms. Gilbert said. “Every house has a distinct personality. Some people are quite ornate and elegant and some are simpler. People really do things in keeping with the house they’re living in. It reflects their personality.”

The Jamesport tour runs from 1 to 5 p.m. and starts at the Meeting House. Tickets are $30 in advance, available at 779-2831 or, or $40 at the door. All proceeds go toward ongoing preservation work at the Meeting House.

The Oysterponds Holiday House Tour is also a mix of old and new, ranging from Arlene and Bob Shannon’s lovingly restored 275-year-old home, constructed by the Tuthill family, to the more contemporary home of interior decorator and renovation designer Cindy Schmidt at Pebble Beach in East Marion.

“Her house is absolutely beautiful,” Catherine Chaudhuri, who is organizing the tour for the historical society, said of Ms. Schmidt’s house. “This year, we have a lot of traditional decorations with Christmas trees, wreaths, garlands, a mixed bag of everything.”

She said homeowners with fireplaces will likely have cozy fires going and several participants plan to bake cookies for visitors.

In addition to private homes, the Oysterponds tour also includes seven public buildings, including Poquatuck Hall on Village Lane, which will be decorated by the Oysterponds School PTA, which will provide baked goods, cider and a 50/50 raffle. Other tour stops are Orient United Methodist Church; Old Point School House, where the Beach Plum Christmas Shop will be open; the Village House, which is under renovation; and Webb House, which Ms. Chaudhuri says is “always decorated beautifully by volunteer Constance Tupper.”

The self-guided tour, which runs from 1 to 4 p.m., begins at Orient Congregational Church, where people will pick up tickets, which are $20 in advance or $25 at the door. To order advance tickets, call 323-2480.

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