John and Donna Bissonette lived in a contemporary home in Manchester for many years. In fact, they had both grown up in the city. But it wasn’t really “them.” It wasn’t where they wanted to be in their retirement years, either. The countryside called — to have a place where they could enjoy an active lifestyle and the beauty of the outdoors. With scrapbooks full of ideas and careful planning, they began construction, and in June 2006 moved into their dream home — a 3,900-square-foot chalet-style log cabin on the back roads of Deering.
In terms of décor it was a new start, too. Most of all, the furniture, except for a few family heirlooms, was happily given away. When Donna knew the home would become a reality, she started searching for just the right style of furnishing that would fit perfectly in a home made from logs. And all along she planned for her first Christmas in the new home.
For the new start, Donna started picking up decorations in the after-season sales. She looked for ornaments with a rustic theme — cavorting bears and those made with natural materials. With the new home and many “nooks and crannies” there was lots of space that needed to be filled. By the time the first Christmas came along she was ready.
A real 12-foot tree went up in the great room. Donna says she drove John crazy looking for the perfect one, but nothing less would do. Another smaller one went up in the walkway that looks down on the living area. And another in the guest bedroom. She had started decorating in “full force” right after Thanksgiving to add a holiday touch to every room, even the bath.
A few of her favorite shops with country themes are Heart and Hand in Manchester, the Yankee Cupboard in Goffstown and Country Berries in Deerfield. Along with the country-theme style she likes to add vintage antiques. John has also gotten into the act and on rainy days will often suggest a ride down Antique Alley along Rte. 4.
Donna suggests that before you make a purchase you have a “home” for it, a place you know it will fit. But, she admits, if she really likes an item it comes home with her … and then she will make room for it. John just stands at the door and shakes his head, but (he must be the perfect husband) never complains. He did say no when Donna eyed a shiny aluminum tree, complete with a revolving color wheel. It was just the kind of tree she had grown up with and pains of nostalgia struck. But cooler heads prevailed and the artifact from the early ’60s stayed in the antique store.
With the house filled with the smells of fresh balsam boughs and holiday accents in every corner, the house becomes a great place to entertain friends … or, the perfect excuse to stay at home. Both John and Donna love the outdoors and after an afternoon of snowshoeing about their 31-acre property they eagerly return to the cozy warmth of their log home. The floors are toasty with radiant heat that quickly warms their feet. A woodstove is the primary heat source and through the course of a winter they burn three cords of wood. To make life a bit easier, they installed an electrical “wood-waiter” to hoist the wood up to the living level.
Back in the house, Donna loves to warm up with a soup or stew in her new kitchen with a six-burner Viking stove and Miele ovens. With the surround system blaring Christmas music, a fire in the woodstove and the warmth of the holiday all around, they are happy to stay put. No need to go into town, not even for a movie, with the new media room downstairs.
The house is all about John and Donna. They love doing things together inside and out. John got his first buck last winter on the property and Donna was able to fill the freezer with several months’ supply of venison.
They enjoy watching the wildlife, too. They purposely did not put exterior stairs to their second level deck to keep animals from exploring close to the house, but last year a bear sow and her two cubs climbed the posts and peered in the windows.
The house is their refuge. Both are still working, but are eager to return home. The Christmas lights are on a timer so, when they pull into the driveway, their hideaway is aglow with a holiday twinkle.
Donna says, “It is very relaxing, very peaceful here. No need to go on vacation, this is our vacation home, too.” At Christmastime you could say their “Holiday Inn.” No, not the chain, but the warm and wonderful 1942 movie with Bing Crosby dreaming of a White Christmas. NH
This article appears in the March 2010 issue of New Hampshire Magazine