In Spring Lake, It’s Christmas by Design

After a thorough, top-down renovation of a 125-year-old seashore colonial, this Spring Lake homeowner goes all out for the holidays.

The cozy family room of Jackie Holt’s Spring Lake home is an addition to the 125-year-old seashore colonial.
The cozy family room of Jackie Holt’s Spring Lake home is an addition to the 125-year-old seashore colonial.
Photo by Laura Moss

Jackie Holt always had a knack for design, but it wasn’t until she and husband T.J. purchased a Spring Lake fixer-upper that she discovered just how much she is capable of. The 125-year-old seashore colonial had been poorly renovated over the years. The results: a hodgepodge layout, an Astroturf porch, heat but no insulation—not to mention the archaic knob-and-tube electric.

Still, the home’s location, just two long blocks from the beach and the boardwalk, made it attractive. “We couldn’t afford to buy the house we wanted, so we bought the dirt we wanted,” jokes Jackie.

After taking the plunge, the Holts embarked on a lengthy renovation odyssey. “We did our best to keep the integrity of the house and respect its heritage,” Jackie says, “but we had to pump better materials into it.”

The project included all-new electric and HVAC, new bathrooms, an expanded and renovated kitchen, and an addition in the rear with a family room, laundry room and mudroom downstairs, a master suite above, and a new staircase to connect them. The 100-year-old pine floors, banisters and railings were refinished and the plaster moldings repaired.

Construction finally complete, Jackie began furnishing the home, selecting new pieces that leaned toward the traditional, with a hint of formality. “I have an affection for traditional things” she says. “And it’s definitely what belongs in this house.”

Fast-forward to the holiday season, when the Holts pull out all the stops. Jackie has been collecting tableware for years, filling cupboards and closets with silver, crystal, china and linens from antique shops and the occasional hand-me-down. The renovated home finally gave her a chance to showcase her finds. “I love anything with a story,” she says, explaining her obsession. “A lot of people hand down their jewelry, but I always wanted that silver serving spoon from my great-grandmother.”

The collection results in a number of spectacular tablescapes—in the dining room, in the breakfast room and even on the kitchen counter. “I polish the silver, get out all the monogrammed stuff, press the linens,” says Jackie. “I only know one way, and that’s formal.”
Christmas day is a blur of activities, starting with a sit-down breakfast for the family of five—Jackie and T.J., plus sons Kevin, 25, and Ryan, 18, and daughter Katie, 23. Later, Jackie serves a surf-and-turf dinner to extended family, generally 8 to 10 additional people.

After dinner clean-up, the Holt family opens the doors to some 30 neighbors for dessert. “I definitely go all out,” says Jackie.

Jackie admits she learned design on the job. “My own house was my first major renovation,” she says. “I worked my way through figuring it out.” In the midst of it all, daughter Katie caught the bug and studied interior design in college. “Katie has gone to school and knows the technology,” Jackie explains. More importantly, Katie has added a new element. “She is so youthful. She looks at things differently. She energizes it,” says Jackie.

The mother/daughter design team stays busy on projects throughout the Monmouth County region. “I’m in the old century,” says Jackie, “she’s in the new.”

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