The Hinz family knows how to celebrate Christmas. Surrounded by kids, extended family, and traditions old and new, they relish the season—and it shows when their Hudson, Wisconsin, home is dressed for the holidays. They always display two trees, assorted garlands and greenery, and collected retro treasures.
But last year the household was aflutter more than a month before Christmas arrived: The Hinzes decided to up their holiday game since they were participating in the Hudson Christmas Tour. Prepping the house to show off its holiday best was a lot of work, says Brian Hinz, “but it was also a lot of fun.”
A partner at Elliot Architects in Hudson, he enjoyed showing tour-goers around the modern, 3,200-square-foot house he designed in 2008. Carefully thinking through the needs of his young family, Hinz created a design that works for all. The open main floor is a versatile space that allows rooms to expand on all sides for entertaining a crowd—a necessity when family gatherings number 30 and more. Day to day, the family does most of its living in the kitchen area, where Anna, 13, Grace, 11, and Ethan, 8, do homework while Laura and Brian cook (she’s on duty during the week; he handles weekends). Four bedrooms upstairs and a recently finished lower level give the Hinzes plenty of elbow room.
Warm finishes throughout balance modern minimalism with the coziness so necessary in Midwestern winters. Flat-panel, European-style cabinetry made of American cherry ensures a cheerful ambiance, as do floors of locally sourced Wisconsin maple. The 16-foot wall of windows in the living room shows off cunningly hung wreaths in a variety of evergreen species with dashing red ribbons. Those south-facing windows, alive with greenery and sunlight, are significant collectors of passive solar heat in the highly insulated and energy–efficient house. Its hybrid heating system includes a pump that heats the house on sunny days; the furnace doesn’t kick on until the outside temperature drops below 25 degrees, reports Brian.
Brian and Laura share an affinity for midcentury design and created holiday displays that would complement the minimalist aesthetic of their home—and include his collection of vintage tree toppers. “I’m not much of a collector—I like things clean and simple—but I love their shape, scale, and colors,” Brian says. He also loves the ceramic trees that remind him of the ones his grandmother displayed during the holidays.
The connection with family and tradition—things that spark warm memories of Christmases past—is important to the Hinzes. Other midcentury memorabilia includes the jovial Santa (a garage-sale find) and a cardboard fireplace (circa 1967, from Laura’s family) that anchor the vignette on the upstairs landing.
The wall of birch branches above the sleek dining-room buffet is a contemporary take on a holiday classic, adding a rustic, Scandinavian note to the décor. That display was a family project: Brian came up with the idea, and his parents cut the branches on their land in Woodbury. Reminiscent of a winter stand of birch, the vertical branches also echo the flats of varying widths used as a design element in the entry and stairwell.
Of course, some would insist that the star of the Hinz holiday show is the red 1933 Willys Whippet, complete with ragtop and rumble seat. Brian, his father, and his brothers restore old cars; this one, they decided, was perfect for Santa. Fitting then, that the first night of the house tour last November included Santa and Mrs. Claus (AKA Brian’s parents, Michael and JoAnn Hinz, in full costume) dashing through the snow in their screaming-red hot rod.