Grand Entrance: Classic holiday style invites lingering at Russell Alleman’s home

In the piano room, a garland atop the mantel was made from scratch. It mimics the metallic tones in the room’s geometric patterned wallpaper and antique silver-leaf mirror from the 1800s. A self-playing baby grand piano provides melodic holiday carols throughout the season. Photos by Melissa Oivanki

Every time he rounds the corner and his house comes into sight, Russell Alleman is in awe. 

Especially during the holidays. 

Tens of thousands of sparkling, warm-white twinkle lights wrap each tree and plant on Alleman’s lawn. Fresh poinsettias line the walkway to the arched front entrance. Illuminated, ribbon-clad wreaths hang from the front doors and the balcony windows above. 

It’s a timeless vision in red and green.  

A gleaming Christmas tree glows in the grand entryway to Alleman’s home, trimmed with silver ribbon, pearly white ornaments and glittering berry sprays. Silver bows and greenery accentuate the curves of a wraparound staircase, leading the eye up toward the soaring 26-feet ceilings.

“That’s when the house amazes me the most every year. It still surprises me,” Alleman says.

He’s been feeling that awe since 2016, when he first peered up at the house from its driveway. He was driving around town for the Parade of Homes showcase when he stumbled upon the listing for a house in the Country Club of Louisiana. He immediately took a detour, hoping for a glimpse at the outside.

Alleman, who owns Manchac Homes, had toured plenty of houses in his lifetime. In fact, he was in the middle of designing his dream home on a large piece of property across town. 

But there was something special about this one: a meticulously maintained, newer build with French chateau-inspired architecture. 

Classic wreaths don each door on the home’s exterior, from the arched front entrance to a trio of double doors on the upstairs balcony. Window box planters with festive flowers were installed by Peregrin’s Florist. Lanterns from Restoration Hardware and twinkle lights illuminate the house at night.

By the time he’d booked a showing and was welcomed into its spiral staircase entryway, he knew he had to change all of his plans. “It was absolutely perfect,” he says.

He made an offer and moved in just a few weeks before Christmas. It was perfect timing, because this house was built for hosting parties.

Each year, Alleman commissions Anne McCanless Designs and Joel Franklin of Peregrin’s Florist to decorate the house ahead of the holidays. Across tablescapes, trees and mantels, McCanless incorporates classic, understated ornaments and ribbons in neutral hues. Franklin drapes the house in poinsettias, garlands and a mix of fresh and faux arrangements. Each room’s decor is carefully curated to complement the colors already present in the curtains, artwork and furniture. 

In the room most heavily used by Alleman, McCanless sought a transitional style, defined by modern art and a touch of masculinity. Seasonal throw pillows and ornaments in shades of baby blue play off of tones from a large painting by local artist Lauren Barksdale Hill.

“We go for a Christmas look that can stay up longer than three or four weeks, with beautiful glass balls, ribbons and berries. It will remain timeless and festive from November through New Year’s Day,” McCanless says.

During Alleman’s annual holiday party, the foyer becomes a gathering place akin to a grand hotel lobby. Revelers mingle under the greenery-wrapped winding staircase, drinking bubbly and sampling hors d’oeuvres catered by local restaurants. In the adjacent library room, a pianist strokes smooth notes on a baby grand piano.

In the outdoor kitchen, a fresh, fragrant fir tree greets guests on their way to the open bar. Bartenders shake up signature cocktails like peppermint martinis and hot toddies. Motorized phantom screens and heaters shield guests from chilly weather. 

A bussing staff cleans the space as the night progresses. By the time the last guest leaves, the only thing left to do is cozy up by one of the house’s fireplaces and count the number of sleeps left until Christmas morning. 

A large-scale antique mirror stretches from floor to ceiling on one wall of the dining room, elongating the space and reflecting the foyer’s holiday decor. Blown-glass balls glisten in the Stratosphere chandelier by Currey & Company.

Because in just a few days, the tree in the foyer will be so loaded with presents, it will be hard to walk around.  

Kids and grandparents alike will don pajamas as Alleman cooks bacon and eggs in the outdoor kitchen. “Jingle Bell Rock” will ring out from a seasonal playlist as the family fills their plates from a buffet of eggs, green bean casserole, candied yams, banana pudding and stuffed pancakes.

Breakfast turns into brunch, and soon it’s time to unwrap presents. 

It doesn’t really matter what’s under the tree, though, because Alleman already has the greatest gift of all: a house that makes him feel like a kid on Christmas morning every time he looks at it—and his loved ones to share it with.


See more photos from this home in our gallery below: