Looking for holiday cheer? Historic Holiday Designer Show House is a yuletide 'treasure'

At the end of a long driveway on US-42, a historic farmhouse sits on the 25 acres known as Chestnut Hall. Built in the 1860s, the home boasts its original flooring and crown molding, as well as vintage fireplaces. It is also currently decked out with Christmas cheer and will be open to the public as the Holiday Designer Show House.

What's in a name

The 25-acre property used to be known as Hillcrest Farms. When Julia and Bill Carstanjen, the CEO of Churchill Downs, Inc., purchased it three years ago, they decided to rename the property to better fit the land's history as well as their family name.

"I wanted people to remember there's a historic home here," Julia told The Courier Journal. "I (considered) about a million different words for 'house.' … I looked at 'abode' and 'manor,' but I thought manor sounded too stuffy."

She finally landed on 'Hall.' The property is now dubbed Chestnut Hall, as ‘Carstanjen’ means ‘Chestnut’ in Dutch. Today, the house on the land is used for hosting small events, which include the Holiday Designer Show House, a fundraiser for the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, whose retirement farm shares Chestnut Hall acreage with the historic home.

Home of the WeekThis massive 1880s Victorian mansion in Old Louisville is full of Christmas cheer

Complete design discretion

The dining room at Chestnut Hall, a historic farmhouse in Kentucky, is full of Christmas decor.
The dining room at Chestnut Hall, a historic farmhouse in Kentucky, is full of Christmas decor.

Whitney Vogel, the special events marketing coordinator of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, explains that the various rooms throughout the house have been decorated for the holidays by local designers and retailers, as well as volunteers from the organization. All participants had free reign over their festive design choices, outfitting the spaces as they saw fit as a voluntary service to support the foundation.

"All of the designers purchase their own decorations or (use) their own inventory," Vogel explained.

In the kitchen, Libby H Design Studio arranged a fun setup that's holiday-party ready. Santa mugs and chocolate spoons adorn a three-tiered tray on the countertop, while bottles of ginger ale and peppermint sticks are set out next to a tea towel with a festive, multicolored design. Poinsettia, lights, and miniature Christmas tree sculptures round out the room’s décor.

The kitchen at Chestnut Hall, a historic farmhouse in Kentucky, is full of Christmas decor.
The kitchen at Chestnut Hall, a historic farmhouse in Kentucky, is full of Christmas decor.

The living room, outfitted by Cherry House Galleries, features a moodier vibe. Anchored by a fireplace with black and gold wallpaper around the mantel, the space features a fully decorated Christmas tree in one corner, gold reindeer on the coffee table, and strategically placed presents in stylish black-and-white wrapping throughout.

You may like'Just felt like home.' This Highlands home is full of antique bikes, stained glass & more

The other areas of the house have been embellished by various designers and retailers from around town, with the exception of the library — a room reserved to display a collection curated by Julia.

Julia's favorite things

The front room at Chestnut Hall, a historic farmhouse in Kentucky, is full of Christmas decor.
The front room at Chestnut Hall, a historic farmhouse in Kentucky, is full of Christmas decor.

The library, set immediately to the left of the entryway, boasts a variety of pieces picked out and placed by Julia.

"(It) has been set up kind of like a boutique," Vogel explained. "These are some of her favorite gifts."

The room is filled with holiday décor of all sorts, as well as items that would make for great Christmas presents. Children's books and MacKenzie-Childs ceramics line the shelves, while stockings, holiday socks, and a garland hang from the mantel.

"I worked at art galleries and art museums in New York before I had kids," Julia said, pointing out unique furniture pieces in the room, such as a whimsical bench that boasts a multitude of textures, colors, and designs; and a side table drawer with a one-of-a-kind pull.

The front room at Chestnut Hall, a historic farmhouse in Kentucky, is full of Christmas decor.
The front room at Chestnut Hall, a historic farmhouse in Kentucky, is full of Christmas decor.

"There are things from [Rodes For Him & For Her] and from Pink Julep," she added. "And I have some vintage (pieces, as well as items) from the St. James Court Art Show."

Though the library has been reserved for Julia’s favorite things, she is quick to credit the foundational design of the house to her daughter, Hope.

"She goes to Smith College, and she is just fabulous with interior design," Julia explained. "I helped her source some of the items, but she designed the entire house prior to it being changed for the show. A lot of the furniture (was) her choice."

You may likeOne room, three ways: How 3 distinct looks completely transformed these bedrooms

She adds that she feels fortunate to own the house and be able to share it with others — and she's grateful for the support from fundraisers like the Holiday Designer Show House.

"(It has cost) hundreds of thousands of dollars in renovations," she said, "but it’s worth it. This is priceless. This area is just beautiful — it’s a treasure, and we’re lucky to have it."

Know a house that would make a great Home of the Week? Email writer Lennie Omalza at aloha@lennieomalza.com or Lifestyle Editor Kathryn Gregory at kgregory@gannett.com.

nuts & bolts

Owners: Julia and Bill Carstanjen. Bill is the CEO of Churchill Downs, Inc. and Julia is a stay-at-home mom and volunteer.

Home: This is a 4-bed, 3-and-a-half bath, 5,500-square foot, the historic farmhouse at Chestnut Hall in Prospect. It was built in the 1860s.

Distinctive elements: Original hardwood flooring, crown molding, and vintage fireplaces.

Applause! Applause! The homeowners would like to thank their daughter, Hope Carstanjen, who oversaw renovations and was an interior designer when they purchased the home; all the designers and volunteers for this year’s Show House; and the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation.

Holiday Designer Show House

WHAT: The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation is opening Chestnut Hall to benefit the organization's herd of nearly 450 retired racehorses. The historic farmhouse will be decorated inside and out with décor by Cherry House Galleries, KP Design, Hound & Hare LLC, Jason Jennings Interior, Debhelin Designs, Libby H Design Studio, Living Spaces, Little Mount Lavender Company, Julia Carstanjen, Madeline Hetzel Interiors, and All Lit Up. The event is being staffed by volunteers and friends of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation.

WHEN: Dec. 2-10, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

WHERE: Chestnut Hall, 12611 W HWY 42, Prospect

TICKETS: Pre-sale tickets are $25 and may be purchased online at trfinc.org/event/holiday-showhouse-2022/. Admission is $30 at the door.

MORE INFORMATION: For more information about the Holiday Designer Show House at Chestnut Hall, visit trfinc.org/event/holiday-showhouse-2022/.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Holiday Designer Show House at Chestnut Hall 2022: Tickets, dates