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Opening Doors

Annual McLean Holiday Homes Tour arrives this weekend.

As the 40th Annual Holiday Homes Tour of McLean approaches, it is not a surprise — given the housing boom over the past decade — that the landscape of the tour has changed since its conception. What was once a tour of a number of smaller houses in the area, this year the tour takes a look into four rather large homes — focusing equally on structural design as it does holiday decorations.

"They started out using smaller homes that were unique — maybe they offered the viewer antiques or an interesting style," said Joan Morton, chair of the Homes Tour and treasurer of the McLean Women's Club, which sponsors the event. "As the houses got bigger and bigger, we've had to cut it back to four because it becomes more expensive to decorate."

BEGINNING EARLY in the year, the McLean Women's Club seeks out area houses that they believe would offer an interesting insight into home decoration, design, or just a fun trip to see how area residents live.

"We pitch it to people and some are glad and happy to offer their home," said Christine Donovan, public relations for the tour.

After choosing the homes, the club then divides into sub-groups and plans how each home will be decorated, which is financed by the club. Working closely with the residents, each house is decorated to showcase the holiday season while maintaining the individuality of the homeowner.

"We want this to be a reflection of the owner," said Donovan. "We go through each home, talk with the owner and then set up a plan."

One of the homes featured this year is the Philip and Jennette Gentry home, which sits on a hill overlooking Georgetown Pike and has become known as "The Little White House." Built in 1989 by Henry Azari, the house was designed to be a copy of the Massachusetts Governor's House, despite its nick-name.

"It's a big house," said Morton. "The Gentry's also own the property next to the house and there is a very long driveway."

Inside the house, viewers can expect to see original wall murals, Milan curtains, and a total of 27 rooms — not to mention the holiday decorations throughout.

Three more houses, all located within close proximity of each other are the Robert and Joyce Matheny home, a European-style mansion built in 2002; the Sam and Jennifer Hodges home, 9,000 square-foot French-style manor built in 2003; and the William and Patricia Inman home, which is a colonial built in 1985.

For $20, advance sales or $25 on the day of the show, viewers can purchase a program, which acts as admission and provides a map to the homes as well as additional information about each feature. Tickets can be purchased at Mesmeralda's Gifts, Artisans Gift and Apparel, Curves, The Golden Pineapple, Karin's Florist, Beyond the Garden Gate and Zazu. The featured homes will be open on Saturday, Dec. 2 from 9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Proceeds from the tour will benefit a long list of charities, including the Literacy Council of Virginia, Scholarships for Women Returning to the Work Force and many more, which can be found in the program.

"The charitable contributions are not just one niche, they are all over the board, " said Donovan.

THE TOUR HAS gained so much support from area residents and businesses that it even attracts residents outside of the immediate area. Morton recalls one year, receiving two buses from Maryland who came to view the annual holiday event.

"The house tour is the beginning of the holidays within McLean," said Morton.

— Christopher Staten