Even before Thanksgiving, people on social media were already posting photos of homes decked out for Christmas. Since not all of us are such eager decorating beavers, we may need to seek out some inspiration, a real-life Pinterest board. Luckily the Assistance League of Bakersfield is back to help with its Chez Noel holiday home tour coming Dec. 6 and 7.
In its 30th year, the annual event allows residents to tour Bakersfield homes decorated for the holidays. Since 1989, 98 homes have been included in the tour, with almost no repeats, according to event chair Teddi Fanucchi.
She said an exception was made this year for the home of Jon and Kala Stuebbe in the Oleander neighborhood.
"It was shown 10 years ago," Fanucchi said. "She approached us at Chez Noel last year and said it's the 100th anniversary (of the home)."
A number of factors go into selecting homes for the popular event. Fanucchi said after starting with leads on potential candidates, the selection committee tours the homes to decide if it's appropriate, factoring in traffic patterns and "if we can get people in and out."
Also being featured this year are the homes of Kurt and Cheryl Williams in the Stockdale Country Club area and Dr. Dan Launspach in Westchester.
Launspach had an advantage in the home department, having purchased his 21st Street house from Hal Aaron, who had done a wonderful job remodeling it with wife June in the early 2000s.
The 1935 Colonial welcomes guests with twin sycamores and a giant elm. The Aarons had the surfaces stripped throughout the house to install new plumbing, electrical and air conditioning. An elevator was installed dropping riders off to the second floor laundry area. Renovations added about 1,500 square feet to the existing 3,000-square-foot home along with efforts to preserve the home's charm including installing hardwood floors and decorative window moldings.
Another big change was the removal of the backyard pool to make way for landscaping and a pergola to facilitate outdoor entertaining. (The Aarons opened their home for many charitable events.)
For three years, Launspach has lived in the home, enjoying the fruits of the Aarons' labor.
"The only thing I've really done is replace appliances," Launspach said, noting there was some trial and error finding a dishwasher and other devices to fit in the custom spots in the spacious kitchen.
"I just want comfortable. I like old houses and I like downtown."
He said, "It's a really traditional house. It just decorates easily."
(During a preview tour of his home, Launspach admitted the housekeeper did a lot of the decorating.)
The pediatric dentist, who has practiced in town since 1983, splits his time between Bakersfield and Santa Barbara, joking this is nice "as far as second homes go."
Launspach, a divorced father of two adult sons, said he enjoys practicing the piano in the living room and noticing historic touches in the home like the hand-painted wall striping that looks like wallpaper until you get a closer look. He's added to the decor with paintings including one of a great-great-grandmother.
Those types of details fascinate tour-goers, said Susan Maitia, who handles marketing for Chez Noel.
"Many haven't seen homes like this. The beauty in them, the architecture. We're very honored to be able to do that, share them."
Up to 500 people will see the houses during the tour, Fanucchi said. Docents and "pals," league members' husbands, help guide guests and point out interesting features of the homes.
Chez Noel raises around $40,000, which the Assistance League uses on philanthropic programs such as Operation School Bell, which provides new school clothes for children in need.
More than 3,000 children have already been helped this year, bringing the total to over 150,000 children aided since the program started in 1965.
On Dec. 6 and 7, each tour begins with shopping opportunities at 10 a.m. at the Bargain Box, 1924 Q St. Following coffee and snacks, guests are given a map for the festive three-home self-guided adventure.
With planning underway since August and 20 subcommittees at work, members of the Assistance League and Assisteens, the junior auxiliary member group, are eager to see everything go off without a hitch — then take a needed break.
Fanucchi said, "After Chez Noel, I really don't want to look at a Christmas decoration."
At least until planning begins for the next tour.