It’s time to drag your holiday boxes out of the attic and deck your halls. For many, opening those boxes conjures memories of Christmas pasts and stories of family and friends. Three talented local interior designers shared with First Coast Magazine the stories behind the heirlooms and traditions that inspire them, when they are decorating their own homes for the holidays.

Agnes Agatha Homemaker Shop

Lee Kessell’s grandmother, Agnes Agatha Harper, opened the Homemaker Shop in 1965. In 1979, Kessell’s parents along with his grandparents, opened Decorative Fabrics. At one point, there were five Decorative Fabric stores open in the Jacksonville area. The last standing Decorative Fabrics in Jacksonville Beach closed its doors in the beginning of 2014 to make way for this family’s newest venture, Agnes Agatha Homemaker Shop on Phillips Highway in Jacksonville.

As the third generation of interior designers stepped up to lead the company, they paid homage to their heritage with the new store’s name and with a portion of the store dedicated to decorative fabrics. But the new store surprises with a fresh look at custom home furnishings, lighting, rugs and accessories.

The family remains tight year round, and during the holidays they enjoy many special events together.

“We get excited at Christmas! Really excited,” Kessell says. They begin bringing Christmas decorations out as early as October. “We break out the china on Thanksgiving and the table remains set throughout the holidays,” he says. The china is a family heirloom. “It’s a Lenox pattern with holly, mistletoe and pine trees.”

Another nod to their heritage is a special German and Swedish mulled wine called glögg, which they make from red wine, port, vodka, raisins and almonds. It is made by heating it up slowly to just below a simmer to extract its flavors. Then it’s served in a small glass and enjoyed as a sipping drink.

You can visit Agnes Agatha Homemaker Shop at 8081 Phillips Hwy or visit their website at

Anastasia Design Group

Valerie Lee is a commercial and residential interior designer and owner of the Anastasia Design Group. She was born and raised less than a mile from where she set up her interior design shop 16 years ago in downtown St. Augustine. Her historic home sits right behind the shop.

The holidays in St. Augustine are a special time for Lee. “I love being home,” says Lee, who is raising two children, with her mother nearby.

“Christmas belongs to Mom,” she says. “It is her number one favorite holiday.”

A key piece of their family’s holiday decorations is a nativity set given to her mother fifty years ago, “by a sweet Spanish lady that lived in
St. Augustine,” Lee says. She bought it in Italy. Today it is the centerpiece of Lee’s living room decorations.

You can visit Lee at her shop at
24 Castillo Dr. in St. Augustine, or online at for more information.

T-Works Interior Decorating

Thea Jeffers was born to decorate. She is from Philadelphia, but has been in Jacksonville for twenty years. “We have been many places, but Jacksonville is what I consider home,” Jeffers says. She opened her business T-Works Interior Decorating in 2005.

Her home is of course styled to a “T,” and she loves to decorate for the holidays. She switches her holiday décor every year, but the centerpiece is always a porcelain Santa Claus. “This Santa Claus has been with our family since we lived in New Jersey in 1989,” she says. At that time, Jeffers took a ceramics class with a girlfriend where they made porcelain Santa Clauses.

“I have to tell the truth,” says Jeffers. “My Santa Clause did not turn out very good. My friend gave me her Santa Claus. This is the Santa Claus that I still base all my holiday decorations around.”

She places it either on top of the tree or on her fireplace mantel, where he sits this year. “I really play up the fireplace,” says Jeffers. It is a reminder of friends and family, and sets the tone for holiday gatherings.

More information about T-Works Interior Decorating can be found at