If Sarah Ward's house is inviting year-round, It's entirely irresistible during the holidays. After all, if a host actually wanted her visitors to leave€”ever€”would she park a basket of soft blankets beside the sofa? Or hang fluffy boughs of fir, light candles, pull delicious homemade things out of the oven, encourage a lapdog to curl up beside them, and stoke the flames of seasonal nostalgia? Nope, she wouldn€™t. We hate to presume, but we're certain Ward will be disappointed if your December visit to her home in Calgary's Bankview neighbourhood is anything short of languorous. Ward is a master of conjuring warmth and elegance out of unlikely spaces of all sizes. You can see her magic touch in full effect at Donna Mac, a one-year-old upscale diner on the ground floor of a new building in Calgary's Beltline neighbourhood. The restaurant pivots on shareable, small-plate comfort food; Ward's bright, human-scale design manages to both capture the coziness of family-style dining and respect the establishment's shiny new digs and fairly experimental menu.

€œI love that Donna Mac has a 14-foot ceiling, but it feels intimate in that room,€ she says. €œI used a lot of wood and natural materials to create that feeling.€ It's a room that could easily exude cool slickness, but Ward's integration of inviting, eye-level textures and tactile details such as cork and various fabrics keeps things cozy. Large fixtures add volume and air to the space without overwhelming it€”a feat Ward likewise pulled off with her revitalization of the huge main floor of the 101-year-old National Hotel in Inglewood, now the Nash restaurant. In contrast to those relatively large public spaces, Ward's home€”an early 20th-century bungalow set high on a leafy street€”is a tiny gem. This is where the designer's talent for combining colour, unpredictable pattern and deeply personal objects is most apparent; her eclectic choices never veer into fanciful or precious, even in a month when one's cherished seasonal pieces have potential to add a challenging layer to every room. €œI think when you've a kid Christmas is a magical thing, but as adults we've lost most of that,€ says Ward. €œAt Christmas, you can pretend It's still there.€ To her, that pretense means indulging in her nostalgia for a subdued, slightly antiquated 1960s-era palette. While she tweaks her holiday decor from year to year, Ward generally finds perennial joy in silver tinsel, gold accents, a sweet snow globe, frosted pine cones and a forest of tiny bottle-brush trees reminiscent of early stop-motion movies (perhaps one starring a young buck named Rudolph). Other than that (and a decorated tree or two), her holiday fare is subtle. €œI prefer a natural, Nordic style, and I like a lot of greenery€”fir, eucalyptus€”especially because It's so brown and white outside.€ Many of Ward's year-round decorative objects double as seasonal pieces€”or vice versa€”including a beechwood wreath candle stand. Her faux zebra trophy is at home in any season (Ward shows remarkable restraint in not adding a set of reindeer antlers). Above all, It's food, wine and people that bring Ward's house to life over the holidays, when she looks forward to €œindulging€ in elaborate meal preparation for loved ones. €œMy parents still host turkey dinner, and I never want that to change, but I also love to entertain family and friends at my house,€ she says. €œThe nostalgic side of me loves the tradition and ritual of sharing meals at home.€ Lucky for us, Ward's inviting design extends far beyond her own walls.

Originally published November 2018