By Meda Kessler
Photos by Sarah Ann Cox, Sarah Ann Portraits
Inspired by her tree, Charla Corn rings in the holiday season in style.
The 12-foot Christmas tree represents Charla Corn Barrett’s favorite things: Silver and gold ribbons and oversize glass balls are woven throughout the branches. Ornaments include stars wrapped with sheet music, brass musical instruments, miniature churches, angels and sparkly things — roughly 400 pieces.
Charla worked with Mallory Saied of Pinecone Designs in getting the house holiday-ready. Once Saied zeroes in on a client’s personality, she begins the search for tree trimmings. “With Charla, there’s a love of music and the family’s strong sense of faith.”
The family room of the south Arlington home Charla shares with her husband, Bryan, and her children (along with two dogs and a very friendly rescue cat) is the ideal place for the tree. The house backs up to a creek and wooded area, a picturesque backdrop visible through a wall of windows. An inviting sectional has been given a bit of holiday glam, too, with seasonal pillows.
“This is definitely where we hang out,” says Charla. “There’s room for all of us to snuggle on the couch, and with the tree up, it’s even more perfect.”
A familiar voice to anyone who follows Texas country music, Corn was a fixture as an on-air personality on 95.9 The Ranch radio station for seven years. The West Texas native grew up singing in church and at family reunions in her hometown. She later moved to Nashville and eventually landed a part-time gig with CMT.com.
Charla’s brother also was making a name for himself in music, including the growing “Red Dirt” scene in Texas. His success convinced her to move to Austin and eventually Arlington.
She left the radio station in 2017 to devote more time to her young son and daughter — then 2 and 4 years old — and a growing desire to do good in the world (she and Bryan help fund the building of schools in Kenya).
“It was tough going to work in the middle of the night and not being there for them when they woke up,” says Charla, who is still the voice of Texas-based Allsup’s convenience stores and also performs for charity functions.
Today, she and Bryan are both stay-at-home parents, which gives them time to work on the house that they purchased three years ago. (Bryan also is a licensed real estate agent and a general contractor specializing in single-family construction.) The quiet street, the large rooms and the wooded lot all attracted them to this particular neighborhood. “We’ve updated a few things, such as adding the beams in the family room and updating a small guest bath to make it more functional,” says Charla. The Saltillo tile floors hold up to kids riding their bikes in the house, and the large kitchen allows Charla to pursue her passion for baking (she makes her own bread, the perfect complement to the roasted coffee Bryan makes for Pedagogy, an Arlington roaster).
The Barretts have been foster parents to an 18-month-old boy for almost a year, an experience that has changed their lives. “We’re making sure he is loved for however long he is with us. My son, especially, has embraced him like a real brother, and it warms my heart to see them together. Christmas will be extra special this year with him as part of our family. The tree goes up early in November; the lights, the decorations just change your spirit.”
In the formal living room, a nutcracker tree stands as a salute to Charla’s mom, who collected them. “My mom made Christmas magical for the family, and I want to do the same thing.”