Saturday, February 4, 2023 Feb 4, 2023
48° F Dallas, TX

Christmas for Grown-ups

When the Mowery-Sheets family comes home for Christmas, they focus on the future with their very own holiday traditions. 
By D Magazine |




Pretty Tiffany-blue ribbons cover the gold-foil-wrapped gifts waiting for Nicky and Eleanor Sheets’ combined family. For the mantle, decorator Jacklyn Butler created crystal-covered fruit topiaries with Bosc pears, oranges, lemons, and key limes. The tree is glistening and white. Eleanor’s cat, Bubba, waits patiently for the Christmas Eve guests.

The Mowery-Sheets family is one of those modern forms where two families combined after the children were mostly raised, which means, at Christmas, it’s not so much a reunion as a mixer. At Nicky and Eleanor Sheets’ Preston Hollow house, five children, from points all over the United States, come home for a Christmas Eve celebration. Christmas Eve is their day and night to be together, to look around the room and see not Eleanor’s kids or Nicky’s kids, but family.

Rose stay fresh in their tiny water vials for a few days, but even as they age, they are beautiful.

“Our family gathering is not so much about strolling down memory lane as it is about looking ahead together,” Eleanor explains. Instead of bringing out old garlands and ornaments from Christmases past, Eleanor asked Jacklyn Butler, who also decorated her home, to create a fresh, new look for the holidays. For Jacklyn, a fresh start meant a pure palate. “I drew on my own mother’s Christmas traditions: everything white and soft and beautiful,” Jacklyn says. The result, as you can see in these pages, is breathtaking.

And what does a combined family do on their special day together?

“We have gifts, of course,” says Eleanor, “but rather than put on the pressure to buy something extravagant, we require family gifts to be homemade. The kids all participate in drawing names. Each person is to make or write or sing their gift and create a sort of tribute, which is wonderful for a combined family.”

After gifts are presented, the family goes into the dining room, which is filled with furniture that Eleanor’s father hand-crafted. “My father made furniture in his spare time,” she explains, “and my whole house is filled with it.” The table is covered with creamware—Eleanor’s new passion. The place settings are formal, and the food is traditional. (“We do the tenderloin or turkey thing,” Eleanor says, sounding not really interested in the food part.) Following the turkey or tenderloin thing, Eleanor and Nicky retrieve from the family safe a collection of notes that were written the previous year by everyone seated at the table. Every Christmas, on a small piece of paper, family members write their dreams, goals, or wishes for the coming year. Each person then reads his or her list from the previous year aloud. The lists are funny, sincere, and oftentimes poignant—and the whole family shares in each person’s successes and failures.

“Grown-up Christmases are different,” Eleanor explains. “The idea to is maintain the magic and grow the love.” 


When Nicky and Eleanor asked Jacklyn for something fresh and new, Jacklyn recreated her own mother’s Christmas motif with everything organic, beautiful, and white. “My mother was ahead of her time,” Jacklyn says. The chairs surrounding the dining table were handcrafted by Eleanor’s father, who made most of the dark wood furniture in her house. The Spode Billingsley Rose plates and linens are her mother’s.

The side table, one of many pieces of dark wood furniture made by Eleanor’s father, showcases her new passion: creamware. The contrast of light and dark—dark wood laden with crystal-covered fruits, Mt. Blanc amaryllis, and topiaries filled with fragrant stephanotis and roses—dazzles the senses. Jacklyn anchored Message, Jade, and Vendella roses to the topiaries with hair pins.
Jacklyn cleared the mantle of its everyday décor and covered it in rose and bay leaf garlands and handmade fruit topiaries to give it a sense of beauty and abundance. The glittered fruit will stay fresh through the holidays, but Jacklyn suggests revitalizing the topiaries with fresh flowers every few days.

The fruit pictured here—set in creamware and accented with a stephanotis blossom—is not sugared but covered in glass (yes, glass) crystals that Jacklyn bought at a craft store. She spent hours spraying each piece of fruit with an adhesive, then shaking the fruit in a bag of glass glitter. “Next time, I will wear gloves,” she says.


Related Articles


Restaurant Impressions

The atmosphere, linens, china, crystal, and lighting count toward making an impression in Dallas’ hottest restaurants.
By D Magazine

Dining Room

This apartment dining room takes its cues from stylish restaurants everywhere.
By D Magazine


Putting out the flag was something Dallas could do, and we did.
By D Magazine