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Tour of Homes supporter opens her home this year

Kathy Newman loves her three-bedroom home in Stonepine, especially the custom railing she designed and an area craftsman created. The house will be on this year's Christmas Tour of Homes on Nov. 21 and 22. Other homeowners interested in being on the tour should call the Chamber at (715) 386-8411. Photo by Meg Heaton

Kathy Newman has been involved in the annual Christmas Tour of Homes since she opened EtCetera, her business in downtown Hudson, more than a dozen years ago.

Along with numerous other local retailers who lend their decorating ideas as well their merchandise to homeowners for the event, Newman has earned a reputation for her unique style, especially with fireplaces. Longtime tour-goers can spot a "Newman mantle" a mile away.

But this year the tables will be turned when Newman's Stonepine home with husband Mark is one of the five private residences featured on this year's tour Nov. 21 and 22.

She and Mark have lived in the home for three years, and she describes it as "soft contemporary with a touch of craft." One of her favorite craft touches in the home is the custom iron stair railing.

"The man who made it was in the shop one day and we got to talking and he told me about his work. I had the railing in mind for a while and when I told him what I wanted, he said he could do it. It turned out better than I imagined. It's my favorite thing in the house."

But then the house is full of things Newman loves. The house, although in the city proper, feels like it is somewhere else because of windows that line the back of the house that look onto woods. The open floor plan of the three-bedroom also appealed to the Newmans, who are now empty-nesters.

"And being on the tour this year has motivated me to turn what has been a sort of dormitory for our sons into something different like a workout room and another bedroom. That's one of the great things about being on the tour. It gets you moving on projects you have wanted to get done but never seem to get around to doing."

Newman said it has been her experience working with the previous tour homeowners that prompted her to be part of this year's tour. While it is work getting prepared, she says that there is a lot of support and help along the way.

"The committee is so experienced. Everybody has either been working on the tour or had their home on it, and they know what it entails. You're not in it alone, and it is lots of fun."

Newman has some tips for people who are considering being part of the tour. First, don't be intimidated. She says your home does not have to be a showpiece. She has seen it happen year after year. "People don't think their home is all that special but once the decorating starts and they start to see things transform room by room, it becomes a showcase and they love it as do the people on the tour."

She said one of the fun things she enjoys tour weekend is hearing people talk about the tour when they shop at EtCetera. "They all have their favorites and it isn't always the biggest or the oldest or the newest. Different things appeal to different people, and the combination of personal style and holiday décor means there is something for everyone on the tour."

If a homeowner is considering being part of this year's tour, Newman says don't let one project for some things that aren't done around the house keep you from doing it. "Like our downstairs, you get at things that you've been putting off whether it is some painting or changing up a room or two. It is a great motivator."

She also says that making changes don't have to cost a lot. "Over the years both at the shop and at home, I've learned that you can make some pretty big statements for not a lot of money. That's what I do for my customers and we do it on the tour every year. It is so fun to see what can happen when the retailers work with the homeowners -- their style, our stuff. It's pretty amazing."

The Chamber does provide a $1,000 stipend for each homeowner to help defray any decorating expenses.

Newman's home is, of course, filled with things she's found shopping for EtCetera. The store is the fulfillment of a 20-year dream for her and she says she has always had a knack for decorating and design. She says whether buying for herself or the store, she is always on the lookout for the unique, something customers aren't likely to find in a lot of other stores.

But in preparing her own house for this year's tour, she is looking at it a little differently. "I guess at first I felt some pressure for it to be perfect and you are always hard on your own place, but I know that's not what it is about. It is inspiring me to look for fresh ideas in old spaces. I've never heard anyone say this was good or that was bad from people shopping after the tour. They just seem to enjoy seeing what someone else has done with their home and getting ideas for their own places."

One of the benefits of having a house on the tour has always been that the five homeowners have all their decorating done before Thanksgiving, which can make for a far less hectic holiday season and some easy entertaining. That is especially true for Newman.

"That's the busiest time of the year for retailers, and I usually only get minimal decorating done and do very little entertaining. This year with the decorating all done and the house at its best, it should be fun."

Newman says another benefit from being on the tour is the people. "The homeowners really get a chance to know each other, the people on the committee and the retailers. It is lots of fun and a great way for people who haven't lived here too long to meet. It has been the start of a lot of friendships that have lasted the years."

Newman said anyone considering having their house on the tour should go for it and not worry too much about the details. "There is great support from the Chamber and the committee and lots of experience as well. You don't have to have the perfect house or all the best decorations. They will work with you to make your house a new favorite of the tour."

For more information about the Christmas Tour of Homes and how to become part of this year's event, contact Pat Sherley at the Hudson Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau, (715) 386-8411. For more information about EtCetera, call (715) 381-3434 or go to

Meg Heaton

Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

(715) 808-8604