By Courtney Phillips
On a warm October afternoon, Joe Quigg sat behind a stately desk in his home office, brow furrowed in concentration. A visitor might have assumed the owner of Ed’s Tire was consumed by business-related activity and she wouldn’t have been completely wrong – it was the business of Christmas. A quick scroll through Joe’s desktop computer revealed an array of snapshots he took at Christmastime last year. “It’s for planning purposes, so he can remember where everything goes,” laughed Heide, his wife.
Heide teased good-naturedly and she could – because she matches Joe’s enthusiasm for Christmas, ornament for ornament. In fact, she meticulously designs every swag, ties every velvet bow and wraps every present that adorns their stately home on Echo Lane. “Heide makes it all,” Joe said proudly.
Joe and Heide come from families who enjoy and excitedly celebrate Christmas, though until a few years ago, they waited until after Thanksgiving to begin decorating. “Generally, it only takes a few days, then Heide comes along with the fine-tuning,” Joe said. His tall stature and her creative eye for detail make them a perfect decorating team.
Their love of Christmas is apparent outside as well as inside their home. The front door is encircled with glossy glass baubles and glittery presents. Windows, endless streams of red velvet ribbon, lighted garland fluffed to perfection and window wreaths trim the exterior of the Quigg property.
On the back porch, Heide shifts themes slightly, from traditional whimsy to rustic. Greenery, white lights and gleaming icicles blend seamlessly with the mature pines that frame their yard.
“It’s like a wonderland out there,” Heide said.
Inside, the stairway in the foyer is draped in greenery, with glass ornaments tucked into every branch. “The first year we were here, it was just the garland with a few glass balls. Every year, it grew and grew,” Heide said. Each year, they reference Joe’s pictures from the previous year to ensure the expansive swag is spaced flawlessly.
Beneath the garland rest some of the most well-loved members of their Christmas crew – Byers’ Choice carolers. The Quiggs have collected the pieces over many years, beginning with a few passed down from Joe’s mother and most of the rest purchased at The Pilgrim Gift Shop in Westwood Shopping Center. Now a full complement of hand-crafted carolers stand ready to welcome friends and the spirit of the season. There’s even the Ghost of Christmas Past, which Joe hunted down on eBay.
The Big Tree
Towering in the corner of the Quigg living room is the largest real tree they can accommodate. Illuminated by nearly 1,500 lights, it displays an eclectic collection of ornaments that weaves together their respective childhoods, their life together and memories of their children. “Every year, we say we will get a smaller tree,” said Joe, who uses a highly scientific “squint test” to determine uniformity in light placement. “Stand back, squint, and look for holes,” he instructed.
Popular Christopher Radko blown-glass ornaments glitter in the tree betwixt childhood popsicle stick creations made by their daughter, Cayleigh, and son, Joe. Mark Roberts fairies perch from strong branches and also add a little magic to other trees, found in almost every room of the home.
Heide’s tree in the dining room is devoted to fairies and overlooks a table outfitted with classic Lenox china from Joe’s family, crystal candlesticks and garlands created by Heide.
Not to be outdone by carolers and fairies, Joe is partial to his own collection of Santas. Outfitted in everything from island wear to a Carolina Tarheels basketball uniform, they perch high and low around the home.
“There’s a bit of Christmas everywhere,” Heide said. Even in the fish tank. Last year, when the Quiggs took part in a Christmas Tour of Homes, they were surprised the fish tank garnered such enthusiastic attention. Usually the humble home of one angelfish and one sucker fish, it is transformed at Christmas into a wonderland, complete with a smiling Grinch. “Joe loves the Grinch,” Heide said.
“Everything has a meaning,” Heide said of each bit of Christmas placed around the home. Because she builds the scenery by hand, a great deal of personalization is tucked here and there. Above the kitchen window hangs a garland that features a baking angel and tiny kitchen accoutrements. The bar is “beach-themed” because Joe loves the beach. Joe and Heide delight in stories about the gifts they’ve received over the years from thoughtful friends and family – and from each other.
Upstairs, in the family room, visitors are greeted by a tree bedecked in light blue ornaments proclaiming an allegiance to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The family’s Tar Heel roots run deep. Joe’s dad played for the 1957 basketball team that won the National Championship. All of the ornaments are unique – no duplicates. Heide keeps an eye out for new UNC ornaments, even joining a club that sends a new one each year. “Believe it or not, Wal-Mart has a good selection,” she said.
The system that allows them to stay organized may be the most impressive facet of the Quigg decor. Not unlike the jolly old elf’s workshop is their third-floor storage area, which was originally a rec room for the children. In recent years, it has taken on a new purpose during the off-season – when the accoutrements of Christmas must be stored.
During those months, the delicate garlands are draped in the storage room in a similar fashion to how they appear when on display downstairs. They’re then covered and arranged to glint and gleam.
In a corner, a tree stands, plastic-wrapped and partially adorned, ready to be wrestled down the steep steps. Heide giggled, reflecting on how she protectively wrapped it last year, to avoid removing some of the ornaments, and the scene she and Joe made, trying to get it back up to the third floor.
Christmas wreaths hang on nails. Yards and yards of red velvet ribbon wait to be sculpted into Christmas cheer. Roll upon roll of vibrant wrapping paper is corralled in a wooden enclosure designed and built by Joe, waiting to be transformed by Heide into something beautiful.
The enthusiasm and warmth with which the Quiggs speak of the holidays in their home is contagious – from the much-anticipated construction to the somewhat laborious disassembly. Like the reindeer platter nestled under a cabinet in their kitchen, the Quiggs are ready this holiday season to raise a little cane – of the red and white striped candy variety.