By Nancy Goll
As you drive past 15060 Washington Ave. in Port Madison, you immediately sense that there’s something different about this old house. Look closer and you’ll find antiques displayed on the wrap-around porch. An old potting shed filled with vintage dinnerware. Whimsical garden art. And what’s that sign to the left of the front door? “The Christmas House,” it says. Welcome to Christmas past and present.
The Christmas House is the longtime home of Carolee and Bob Pedersen, who spend several weeks each year traveling the country in their Toyota pickup, buying antique housewares, furniture, linens and anything else that catches their eye. They bring home their treasures and host sales every spring and summer at their house. And in late November they open up for their namesake Christmas sale, which is 35 years old this month. It runs every weekend until Christmas.
“Right now there’s a resurgence of vintage and antique shops on Bainbridge and north Kitsap,” Carolee said. “There’s a real affection for vintage, especially American-made, pieces.” The Christmas House contributes its own mix of “unique, retro, creative, eclectic, repurposed treasures for home and garden,” as one of their recent postcard mailers put it.
There’s a lot of mileage behind the treasures. This year alone the Pedersens traveled about 12,000 miles, sleeping in their camper trailer. Among their finds: an old life ring from the ferry Spokane (found in Ohio), a circa 1930s wood ice-fishing chest on runners, and a collection of vintage buttons. “If we don’t come home with our truck full, we haven’t done our job,” Carolee said.
The Pedersens also sell their own creations. Carolee sews potholders on an antique Necchi machine, makes ornaments and imaginatively repurposes found objects. Bob carves a wooden Santa each year and makes birdhouses, candleholders and other objects. He is also the resident cider and fudge maker.
When you enter the Christmas House, you will meet a community of characters: Carolee, buzzing around, welcoming guests, unearthing a special find that someone’s hunting for. Bob, serving his homemade cider. Their friend “Not Bob,” so named because his bald head gets him confused with the real Bob. The Pedersen’s children, grandchildren and longtime friends, helping out too.
The house, too, is a character. It is one of 12 that Seattle banker Dexter Horton built in 1908 as summer cottages for bank employees. The Pedersens’ house is one of only a few that remain. It is largely unchanged from its original design; the Pedersens put a wood-burning stove in the fireplace and enlarged the first floor by enclosing the original screened porch. When Carolee and Bob bought their house, their four kids ranged in age from one to 10, and the family raised ducks, pigs, geese and chickens.
The Christmas sale was inspired by a woman who sold handcrafts out of her Hidden Cove home. A neighbor of Carolee’s wanted to do the same thing, so they got permission to use an unoccupied home nearby. After a couple of years, Carolee decided to bring the sale into her own living room so she could keep an eye on the kids at the same time. Over the years, her sister, kids, friends and neighbors have contributed to the sale. “It’s about community,” she said.
The Christmas House was once part of Christmas in the Country. These days, shoppers frequently find it by accident or through word of mouth. The Christmas House is on Facebook, but don’t expect frequent updates—the Pedersens don’t have a computer. They do have an old-fashioned mailing list you can sign up for at the house. In between sales, visitors are welcome “by chance or by appointment,” as Carolee likes to say. “There’s always time to sit down and have a cup of coffee.”
The Christmas House is located at 15060 Washington Ave. NE. Sale runs Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 22. Cash/checks only. For info, call 206-842-6419.