By Meda Kessler
Photos by Ralph Lauer

A Weatherford ranch gets the holiday treatment with everything from pheasant feathers to crystal trees.

Mike and Sue Bowlin have been celebrating Christmas together for a little more than 11 years.

Mike had returned to Texas — he is an Amarillo native — after retiring as president and chief operating officer of Atlantic Richfield Company. He and his wife, Martha Ann, left the picturesque California coast for Parker County. There, they purchased an 1,800-acre ranch and a home designed by architect Robert Trown of Aspen, Colorado. Sadly, Martha Ann died after a courageous battle with cancer.

A love of golf brought Mike and Sue together a couple of years later. A retired school administrator, Sue lived in Frisco near a well-manicured golf course where the couple met. She gave up the city for country living.

Step inside, and one of the first things you’ll see is the fireplace in the great room. The garland on the mantel is woven with twinkling lights. The painting, a scene of the Bowlins’ property, is by Lynwood Bennett.

A small landing below the windows in a stairwell is an unexpected spot for flickering candles.

While the Bowlins travel extensively, even during the holidays, they both love Christmastime at the ranch. “My birthday is around the holidays but, growing up, we didn’t get the tree then. That’s probably why I like to have everything set up early now,” says Sue.

She turned to Aledo interior designer Pam Flowers to help with holiday decor in the lodgelike home, with its high ceilings and seven fireplaces. “I’m smart enough to know what I don’t know and can’t do,” says Sue, with a laugh. “Pam and her team come in before Thanksgiving to make everything beautiful.”

The holiday vibe begins as soon as you pull up to the home’s massive stone-and-wood portico. Faux greenery trims the entryway, complementing live evergreens in massive pots flanking the door. The wreath features pinecones, gilded ornaments and burlap ribbon, motifs repeated throughout the home.

Metal lanterns hold battery-powered candles, and an antique wood sled adds a whimsical touch.

The combination of wood and stone continues throughout the home’s interiors. Tall ceilings feature large beams brought in from Aspen during construction. The abundance of windows keeps the space light and bright. “I wanted rustic but refined when it came to holiday decorations,” says Sue.

While Pam worked with many of their existing pieces for the couple’s first Christmas, she gradually has added items, including a massive tree that stands 12 feet tall for the great room. “I’m always looking for what’s new and improved in lights,” says Pam. “For decorations, we use a mix of new and old. A pair of antique iron balusters adds a rustic touch to the fireplace mantel in the great room. Battery-powered flickering candles are perfect for a little niche in the stairwell.”

One of the couple’s favorite places to sit and have coffee in the morning is by the tree, decorated with everything from glittery deer
and pinecones to branches and feathers. The north-facing windows offer a view of the ranch.

A small landing below the windows in a stairwell is an unexpected spot for flickering candles.

While there’s an abundance of wood and metal — mini trees, Jan Barboglio candleholders — Sue’s collection of Simon Pearce handblown glass tannenbaums adds sparkle to the dining room table. Pam added glittering votives — interspersed with shed antlers — and mini lights strewn under sheer metallic fabric for extra twinkle.

“I love having the Christmas lights on all day,” says Sue. “Mike and I will have our coffee in the seating area next to the tree to start the day. It’s really cheery, especially on cool, cloudy days.”

While holiday travels take them to Colorado and Georgia, their kids and grandkids visit over Thanksgiving. For Christmas, the Bowlins host a festive dinner catered by Perini Ranch out of Buffalo Gap.

“We did skip decorating the house one year,” says Sue. “Everyone, including Mike, missed it. I thought, ‘Never again; we’ll always do Christmas.’ “