This Des Moines Decorator's Home Truly Became a Miracle on 34th Street

Interior decorator Ruthie Jackson dreamed of a classic Christmas movie house for her family. She got her wish—and then some.

Exterior of two-story brick home in winter with wreaths in windows
Adam Albright

Before the Thanksgiving leftovers are gone, a Christmas tree twinkles in the window of a house on 34th Street in Des Moines. Inside, Ruthie and Greg Jackson pile onto the sofa with their two kids, and he pulls on a crewneck that says, "This is my Hallmark movie-watching sweatshirt." Press play.

"We're obnoxious. We start watching those movies as soon as they start airing," Ruthie laughs. And they don't stop until Christmas Eve, when she and Greg take plates of fettuccine Alfredo to the living room and wrap gifts while watching The Holiday. "We don't take anything too seriously," Ruthie says, "whether it's decorating the house or holiday entertaining."

Family outside front door of brick home decorated for the holidays
The Jacksons, with Everett, 8, and Emmeline, 10, moved into their Colonial Revival back in 2017. back in 2017. Adam Albright

About that house: When the Jacksons bought their Colonial Revival, the street address felt like kismet. "Our house reminded me of the set of a Christmas movie, and I always wanted a Christmas house," says Ruthie, who is an interior decorator. "I work on our house every day, just a bit at a time. I like to experiment and have fun with the decor." She started a blog and Instagram to track her tinkering and named it—of course—Miracle on Thirty Fourth.

The Jacksons' home was built in the 1930s, but a 1960s renovation left it with an era-fluid feel. There's quirky storage, plus fruited tiles and a full-on cocktail bar in the kitchen. "I think of my house as midcentury traditional, but Jackie O traditional, you know? With that kitschy element," Ruthie says. Rather than stifle that soul, she embraces it, with go-for-broke choices—sassy patterns, textural wall coverings and saturated hues that might make others gulp.

"Color is so effective when you don't have a huge budget or have a bunch of things that don't go together," she says. "If you wrap a space in a bold color, it's like a little hug for your things."

Boy coming down stairs in a home decorated for Christmas
Even after Ruthie painted the risers and added a runner, the stairwell still left her cold: “I had a vision of the Home Alone house—mixed plaid, ’90s Christmas.” She ordered paper from Amazon and installed it herself. Adam Albright

An avid DIYer and serial thrifter, she loves a bargain find and isn't afraid of eclecticism or wrong turns. (Though she does have one mix-and-match rule: Only buy tableware in sets of four or more.) A whim like hanging plaid wallpaper below a chair rail is worth the gamble. If she gets a different idea later, all the better.

But all the tweaking comes to a halt at Christmas. Ruthie's holiday palette is red, gold and green; her tools are old-fashioned ribbons, candles and mostly faux greenery (with some backyard trimming tucked in). She aims to get it all up fast, then move on to the real fun of ice-skating, hot chocolate and movie marathons. "I'm not going with a different theme every time," Ruthie says. "I like vintage Christmas. That's my jam, very nostalgic."

And as if the walls were listening, a few years ago the house on 34th Street delivered a little miracle: Behind a hidden panel under the basement stairs, the Jacksons found a box of old wooden ornaments. For a family that loves the season so much, the discovery was like a belated welcome gift from their home—the happiest kind of ghost of Christmases past. They have had a place on the tree ever since.

10 Ways to Make It Merry

01 of 10

Thrifty No-Rules Decorating

Brass plates hang in windows with Christmas decor
Adam Albright

Ruthie's home is a lab for her no-rules, can-do decorating style. For example, why toss the yellowing balloon shade above the window seat when you can revive it with chalk spray paint? And thrifted finds shine: midcentury brass plates stamped with ship designs hang in the windows.

02 of 10

Throwback Charm

Retro cocktail bar in a kitchen
Adam Albright

A kitchen remodel in the 1960s carved out a cocktail corner. Its original fondue stove is long gone, but Ruthie pours bubbly here when entertaining for the throwback charm of it.

03 of 10

Kitchen Basics

Woman at kitchen island in front of windows decorated with evergreen garlands
Adam Albright

Ruthie keeps the festive touches in the kitchen minimal and up high, so nothing "floofy," as she puts it, gets in the way of assembling lasagna or baking cookies.

When the Jacksons moved in, Ruthie tore carpet out of the kitchen and had tile installed in a 1930s pattern. "I like the idea that it could have been in a kitchen this age," she says. That change has stuck, but the cabinet and wall color has not. This warm brown (Clare's Dirty Chai) is the fourth shade she's tried.

04 of 10

Flex Space

Children around a game table in front of a Christmas tree
Adam Albright

Winter (and especially school break) means more time around the roomy game table Ruthie sidled up to a sofa. (It also works great for snacks when friends come over.) The setup leaves space for a tree without shifting furniture. "I don't want to rearrange my life every year," Ruthie says.

And about that tree: Why limit bows to gifts and wreaths? A red set dots the tree.

05 of 10

Big-Box Buys

Living room decorated for Christmas with garlands and wreaths
Adam Albright

A pair of love seats (a big-box store find) divides the long living room into sides for lounging and games. "I stole the idea from photos of Tory Burch's home," Ruthie says, "but without spending a fortune."

06 of 10

Stylish Reuse

Black side table with two white lamps
Adam Albright

The living room desk was a stylish online win from T.J. Maxx, and the lamps are Target bases dressed up with pleated shades. "I reuse everything I can and employ lots of lipstick,"
Ruthie says.

07 of 10

Cozy Bedroom Retreat

Two trees flank a fireplace
Adam Albright

Ruthie likes to sleep in a "cozy cave," so she enveloped the primary bedroom in French blue wallpaper. Santa leaves gifts by this fireplace, so Mom and Dad can watch the gift opening from bed.

08 of 10

Sleepover-Ready Playroom

Children in bunk beds decorated for the holidays
Adam Albright

The kids always spend Christmas Eve night in the sleepover-ready playroom.

09 of 10

Seasonal Mix

Garlands and blue plaid curtains surround a bedroom
Adam Albright

Red and blue trade punches in Everett's bedroom. Ruthie mixes seasonal Christmas sheets with the family's cool-season plaid bedding. (Grandin Road is a fave source.)

The magic upstairs also comes in soft garlands, wreaths and tree lights that can be turned on from bed with a wand.

10 of 10

Antique Find

Bedroom with antique painted screen behind bed
Adam Albright

Years ago, the couple bought an antique screen to elevate a forgettable bed frame. They've since upgraded the bed but decided the screen is a keeper.

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