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Back Home for the Holidays

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Story by Lee Rennick | Photography by Erin Kosko

Sally and Paul Boklage had been looking for a place to downsize from their house on three acres just outside of Green Hills in Nashville. While Sally was ready to move back home to Murfreesboro, Paul had never lived in such a small town. He is a Wichita, Kansas transplant.

After viewing the home on Sunday, he fell in love with it and the town. They made an offer on Monday and were soon making plans to move their furnishings from Green Hills to their new home

“We made very few changes before we moved in,” added Sally. “We bought it from Michael and Katherine Hazlet. They did such a nice job on it. All we did was put in new tile in the entry and sunroom, did some painting, then wallpapered the music room and my office.”

Located in downtown Murfreesboro, the gothic-cottage style home built in 1926 sits off the road behind a scattering of trees. A small front porch, made from historic handrails reclaimed from the Rutherford County Courthouse, offers a view of Central Magnet School a great place to watch the world go by. Above the original front door hangs a simple Christmas wreath in acknowledgement of the season.


While the exterior offers minimalistic holiday décor, the interior is an elegant riot of Christmas collections representing a lifetime of family celebrations. Though the furniture has been repurposed from their previous home, everything comes together to devise a home that is very lively and contemporary.

As the heavy front door, reminiscent of one you’d see in an English castle, opens, the living room to the left the dining room to the right are immediately inviting. The dining area boasts a display of German Waechtersbach Christmas tree dishes and a basket of English crackers sitting on the black leather table from Bradford’s, ready for the family dinner. Greens hang from the modern vintage iron chandelier above.

“Our family really celebrates Christmas,” said Sally. “We do crackers and my name-sake granddaughter always plans some activity. When she was five or six she wrote a play that we performed. We have also played Christmas Family Feud, done a talent show and solved a murder mystery.”

Contemporary sharkskin cabinets located in the dining room house collections of everything from multi-colored wine glasses, to artwork, to family mementoes and collectables. Under the front window sits a heavy wood antique buffet table decorated with magnolia leaves, berries and faux sugared fruits pieces from their assemblage of holiday décor.

Just beyond the dining room is a sunroom where a mid-century style tree sits between two windows. It is festooned with woodland creatures and clear glass pastel balls in shades of pink, purple and teal green that catch the sunlight. When Sally and Pallie played with the Morgan girls in this room as kids, it was a screened-in sleeping porch.

The living room picks up the multiple shades of the glass balls on the tree. “I love color,” said Sally, “and I have had the purple mohair chairs in the living room for years. I knew I wanted to use them to set the tone.”

Interior designer and friend Jason Counce helped the Boklages pull their home together just using furnishings from their previous home. When it all fit just perfectly, they knew they had made the right choice.


One of Sally’s favorite rooms is the music room where she chose a wallpaper that covers once off white walls with a bright and colorful Asian scene that she found at Hoover. She grounds the room with solid colored upholstered contemporary seating and fine wood furniture, like an antique marled oak desk.

She inherited the whimsical light fixture that fits perfectly with the wallpaper to finish off the room.

When she was a child, the kitchen was deep cherry, but it is now bright white with soapstone and marble counters, however the cherry walls and built-ins put in by the Morgan family remain in the family room. It is located at the bottom of a small set of stairs, with rails also salvaged from the Rutherford County Courthouse.

“I love the soapstone counters,” said Sally, “especially with the white walls.”

The kitchen is filled with clever art pieces and fun holiday decorations. Walking in from the music room, which was the original dining room, a set of pictures by Lori Honeycutt immediately stand out, especially “Gimme All Your Donuts” for its humorous shot of mini policemen carrying off huge doughnuts.

Next to the doughnut art sits a Christmas bunny made by Jason Counts. Another favorite piece is a painting of cookbooks because on the back the artist drew a picture of Sally’s mother, Lib Walker, cooking. Sally’s son gave her a jackalope, which hangs over the kitchen door, for Mother’s Day one year. And her mother’s original Elf on a Shelf watches over the breakfast area and their travel-themed Christmas tree while balancing on the window blinds.

Eclectic pieces of art and décor can be found throughout the house, each piece reflecting personal interests. This is most prevalent in the family room, which Sally refers to as the TV room.

Next to the hand-hewn stone fireplace sits a clay totem pole that was made by Sally. herself. It was her first attempt at pottery, and it is mounted on an old lamp base. Other pieces have been made by friends, family, or picked up at galleries and art sales. Over the stone fireplace hangs a painting by Nashville artist Anton Weiss that they bought in a gallery. And another favorite painting, which they bought when they went to their first Juvenile Diabetes fundraiser, hangs over the cherry built-ins. Their grandson is a Type 1 diabetic.

Sally says there is also a 24-foot by 24-foot bomb shelter on the property, where they found the andirons they use in the stone fireplace in the TV room. “I think the andirons were handmade,” she said. 


At the top of the greens-wrapped stairs leading to the second floor is a collage that was made by their son’s mother-in-law. She made the paper by hand then created the piece.

Upstairs holds two bedrooms and both Paul and Sally’s offices. Paul’s office displays include photography by friend Will Martin, memorabilia from his father’s time as a soldier in the Pacific during World War II, including metals he received and his grandfather’s pipe.

Other Boklage family collections displayed in the office include beer steins, as Paul’s family is of German descent. Sally uses wallpaper and color on the ceiling to an advantage in her office, which is in one of the dormers and offers angled walls. Her love of color and sense of design makes the room “pop,” while at the same time the space feels spacious and relaxing.

The master bedroom is painted a soft mid-tone olive green, which is also used in other places in the house. Blending the green with navy blue and shades of gray creates a refined and calm suite where Paul and Sally can unwind from the day. Off the bedroom, the spa-like master bath offers a claw-foot tub perfect for an evening soak before bed.

While there is a sense of playfulness throughout the house, the “Snoopy Room” is where it all comes together. The entire room is filled with and decorated with new and vintage Snoopy products. From the giant Snoopy that sits on one of the two guest beds, to the corner hutch that once belonged to Sally’s grandmother filled with an assortment of Snoopy collectables, to the Snoopy Choo-Choo train that circles Christmas gifts wrapped in Snoopy wrapping paper -- this room is totally “Snoopified”.

“I have had some Snoopys since I was a child,” said Sally, “but then people just started giving them to me. I have a Snoopy tree, Snoopy paintings, my oldest granddaughter did a build-a bear Snoopy, and I even have a Snoopy nativity set.


The upstairs may be designed for respite, but the back yard feels like it comes out of a book of fairy stories, with its ivy-covered walls, trained by the former owner and glittering wicker light balls hanging from the trees. There is even a fairy garden complete with a wee thatch-roofed house.

Everything in the backyard bursts with life, and there is a sense of magic when you step into it.

One of Sally’s favorite parts of the back yard is the greenhouse built by Mark Thomson and his son, Tyler. It was the first greenhouse they ever built. There was already a cement base, and the Thompsons used a design that Sally had found in a magazine as their inspiration.

“I always wanted a greenhouse,” said Sally. “I really love this one. It came out just as I envisioned.


With a color pallet that includes magenta, teal, purple and olive green, one would expect the
home to feel a bit kinetic, and yet these colors are well balanced, creating a sense of harmony throughout the home. Occasionally one color will draw the eye for emphasis in a particular room, or a pattern will provide rhythm.

Christmas décor in this home is an integral piece of the entire look, it does not take over the style, but adds to it while also making a statement for the season. 

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