A world of whimsy is brought to life in this Dennis home
Many know the Fantastic Mr. Fox as a wily creature who lives underground with his family and a whole slew of woodland animals. He spends his days outwitting wicked farmers and his nights with his family and neighbors enjoying the food that he’s cunningly snuck away from his human enemies. According to Roald Dahl, the author of this fantastical tale, the farmers spend their days waiting for the foxes to reappear from their burrow, ignorant of the vibrant underground community the animals have created. “And so far as I know,” writes Dahl, “they are still waiting.” However, once a year, this merry consortium of woodland creatures makes their way above ground, cleverly skirting past the farmers, for a special appearance in the Dennis home of Barbara and Bob Lockhart.
It was an early afternoon on a blustery winter day in 2017, and though the sleet was persistent, it was no match for the eager participants who set out to enjoy the Village Garden Club of Dennis House Tour. “We had over 600 visitors,” says Barbara Lockhart, whose show-stopping decorations kept a steady stream of people coming through her door. The community spirit alone was enough to warm against the biting temperatures.
Inside Lockhart’s home, it’s easy to understand why Dahl’s imagined woodland community might take a break from their underground adventures to spend some time enjoying Lockhart’s warm hospitality. Visitors stroll through a natural oasis of winter hues evocative of birch bark and evergreens, as the traditional holiday colors are replaced by more neutral hues like taupe and gray to complement the usual sophisticated, unassuming nature of the house. The smell of birch and pine mingle together and wind around the festively set table, into the kitchen. On the tree hangs a tiny wicker fox, and nearby on a table sits his friend, a decorative snowy owl.
Where bright colors like red would have felt overwhelming in this space, Lockhart truly captures the natural beauty of Cape Cod, making use of details like tan ribbon and white-painted driftwood to accentuate the simple, clean feel of her home and create a space that feels approachable and not overdone throughout the season. Black accents make the more natural greens and tans of the design pop, giving it a sleek and modern feel while still being comfortable and inviting. “I even went so far as to spray paint my wicker chairs black,” says Lockhart with a laugh. She credits fellow garden club member and home designer Angela Kimball, of AP Kimball Construction, with helping her pull together details like this.
In the kitchen, evergreen wreaths hang on the back of MacKenzie-Childs chairs with black and white checkered cushions. “I love living in Dennis and being just a short walk from the beach,” says Lockhart, who has spent years perfecting her little cottage home. Details like the fish carved into the back of the MacKenzie-Childs chairs and miniature driftwood Christmas trees on the mantel are a fitting nod to her nautical locale.
“I’ve been collecting forever,” says Lockhart about her personal connection to each of the decorations she chose. The tree, for example, is adorned with the same beloved ornaments that she’s had for years. “I choose to decorate myself rather than use a designer because I think I understand the feel of the home best,” says Lockhart, who started decorating before Thanksgiving, making frequent trips to her favorite nursery outside of Philadelphia—a destination that has become a holiday tradition. She describes the emotion of the design as understated and cozy. “The feeling that is created by the naturalness of the design is carried all throughout the downstairs,” she says, explaining that the open floor plan and cohesive design helped everything flow.
Outside is where Lockhart starts to have fun with pops of color. The accent color on the porch is an eye-catching red. By the front door, punctuated by a stark evergreen wreath, stands a gorgeous bundle of natural birch. It’s so simple and heartwarming that it’s easy to understand why passersby on the home tour felt so attracted to Lockhart’s house. “I just had a lot of fun with it,” she says about the tour. “I love making my home unique. It’s all very exciting.”
“I think one of my favorite elements is the dining table,” says Lockhart. “The centerpiece, which I put in a birch container, and includes fresh amaryllis stems that Blossoms Florist in the village ordered from Holland, is spectacular. The plates with the foxes on them were so popular that this year we’re going to sell them at Scout Vintage where I work.” Little wooden place-card holders designate seats for Mr. Fox and his troupe of woodland friends to enjoy a meal together. It’s truly easy to picture them enjoying the wonderland that Lockhart has created. There’s even a fake mouse hole that she painted years ago on a wall under her desk—an element that fits perfectly with the natural theme of her decorations. “My grandkids love crawling under the desk and playing with the plush mice we have under there,” she says.
The Village Garden Club of Dennis House Tour is an event characterized by memorable expressions of community throughout the homes of the those who appreciate and understand Dennis the best—its residents. As Dahl writes it, Mr. Fox promises his neighbors “a little underground village, with streets and houses on each side—separate houses for Badgers and Moles and Rabbits and Weasels and Foxes. And every day,” Mr. Fox tells them, “I will go shopping for you all. And every day we will eat like kings.” That very same community spirit can be found in Dennis, in large part thanks to the newly established home tour and incredibly dedicated and creative homeowners like Lockhart. In 2019, the garden club will be changing it up from their 2017 holiday efforts with an event in June titled “Gardens and More.” Over nine distinctively different gardens will be on the tour with some special additions, like orchards and outdoor kitchens to round out the “More” component. Lockhart, who serves as the Horticulture Chair, will of course be providing her creative touches to the event.
But last December, the stage was set by a gray sky outside, whose wind insistently whipped against the windows as a fire crackled in the fireplace. The table, carefully set, stood ready for Mr. and Mrs. Fox to return from a blustery walk along the historic streets of Dennis. Their woodland neighbors cuddled on the couch, wrapped in soft cashmere blankets, and perched in front of the windows watching the snow flurry over the waves at Mayflower Beach just beyond. For one day only, their woodland oasis has moved above ground, and there’s no spot more perfect to host such a vivacious bunch of creatures than Barbara and Bob Lockhart’s fanciful Dennis home.