Home for the Holidays

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by Juliet Johnson // photos by Agnes Lopez

Liz and Scott Studer met at Ramstein High School, which serves the entire European portion of the Department of Defense dependents in Germany. However, it wasn’t until they reconnected in Texas, circa 1984, where she was coaching tennis at Midwestern University and getting a master’s degree in education and he was enrolled at the Air Force Academy, that the spark ignited. When he rolled up in a flight suit, she said, “That’ll work!” Now 30 years later, they have three sons and a frequently renovated, idyllic house in Eagle Harbor.

Growing up abroad, Liz eschewed Barbie dolls for her mother’s Ethan Allen catalogues. Playing house meant designing the interiors while her friends played dress up. She had hoped to study interior design in college, but her dad, an Air Force dentist, insisted she was too good at tennis. Liz had started teaching tennis at 16 and eventually became one of only three female tennis pros in Jacksonville. She retired as a 5.0 player, though her ranking has slipped a bit in the family. All three sons play well, as does Scott, but they never hit the court together.  “Some things are just better that we don’t do as a couple,” she says.

Over the last decade, Liz has been refining her style. For the last four of those years she has been the ubiquitous “Decorator Girl.” Her family home is her laboratory, where she experiments with her trademark layered look—“classic with a twist”—and mixed metallics.

al1_0269The golf course home is an elegant blend of French Provencal and industrial chic. Objects are curated from a wide variety of creative outlets, which range from that random, fabulous piece other people always find at Home Goods to treasure hunting while abroad. “I’m always shopping, keeping an eye out. I see things differently; it’s never ‘that would work,’ or ‘that fits perfectly here,’ it’s always ‘this is a beautiful item, it will fit somewhere. I gotta have it.’”

Guests will find Liz’s baby chair from Taipei on the wall in the gathering room—a small sitting room between the kitchen and breakfast nook. Clusters of vintage tin ceiling tiles from St. Louis and Chicago appear on walls in many of the downstairs rooms, and stacks of old-style suitcases, mostly from the Extravaganza in Mount Dora, Florida, appear in bedrooms, on shelves and in a corner in the family room.

Scott is a bit of a carpenter in his breaks from long flights with American Airlines. He is the one who put pine flooring on the French-inspired kitchen’s ceiling and salvaged wood from G & H Reclaims in Callahan on the guest bathroom ceiling. When not tripping over vintage suitcases and the latest furniture rearrangement or “special project,” Scott is an avid volunteer for Cyber Patriots, an Air Force Association initiative to encourage kids to consider careers in STEM topics. It was Scott who brought Cyber Patriots to Clay County where there are now five teams.

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al1_0135rChristmas is all about family for the Studers, of course, though with her parents living three doors down, it is the boys who come home now. Liz does Christmas décor with a light touch. Fresh greens on a bedside table with a wreath over the mirror can be enough, she says. An antique silver tray with a few balls and frosted cones in a bathroom is similarly effective. Her dining room table glistens with gold flecked runners placed horizontally, and a tower of gold balls under glass as the center piece. Graceful and understated are the concepts at play this year.

In a change year, where the Cubs won the World Series, the Rio Olympics saw shenanigans by an American medalist and a presidential election that will reverberate for generations to come... in this year, a graceful and understated place is one we can all call home.