Home Furnishings Association member Jennifer Hermann can’t remember a time when the big house on Century Circle wasn’t a part of her life.
Even in high school, Hermann remembers roaming the ornate hallways and 11 rooms of the Giddings Stone Mansion, a magnificent example of 19th-century Greek revival architecture in Brenham, Texas, on the other side of town from Hermann’s store, Hermann Furniture.
“It’s always been there for me and everyone else here in town,” says Hermann. “It’s a part of our history.”
The mansion is so much a part of Brenham and Washington County’s history that Hermann wants to preserve it for future generations. Since 2015, she and her store have taken on decorating the mansion the first weekend in November for Christmas at the Mansion, an event that draws visitors from as far as San Antonio and Dallas – more than three hours away.
Hermann uses furniture and Christmas decorations from her store to deck the halls and bedrooms and parlors – and even bathrooms – for the holidays. That sometimes means 12-hour days in the fall, but Hermann loves every hour.
“I’m a big believer back at the store that every house has a story to tell, and your furnishings help tell that story,” says Hermann. “I get to do that every year at the mansion – tell the story of this beautiful house and then sit back and watch people walk through and admire it.”
Except for a few period pieces, the mansion is decorated entirely in modern furnishings. Those modern touches stand resplendent against the mansion’s Victorian bat windows, intricate wainscoting and paneled woodwork from another era. “It’s fun bringing the house into modern-day time while still connecting with its history,” Hermann says.
More than just furniture
It’s not just furniture that Hermann uses to dress up the house. She dedicates a part of her showroom in July to Christmas ornaments and other holiday decorations. That part of her floor expands in September. Every room at the mansion has a different theme, and those themes change every year.
“You really have to start mixing things up because when people show up each year, they want to see something different, something that captures and amazes,” says Hermann.
This year’s celebration was Nov. 1-3. More than 1,000 people showed up to take the tour, with proceeds going toward preserving the mansion for future generations. During those three days, Hermann donates 10 percent of her store’s profits to the Heritage Society of Washington County.
Hermann loves getting a jumpstart on the holidays with all the decorating. But she knows there’s another benefit from a local furniture retailer giving back to her hometown. “It shows people that we care about our community and we want to see history preserved here. Our store isn’t going anywhere, and we’re going to do our best to make sure this house doesn’t, either.”