Dutch floral designer ready to welcome almost 1,000 to her Letchworth winter home

Winter House in Letchworth

Winter House in Letchworth - Credit: Archant

A Dutch floral designer is getting ready to welcome almost 1,000 to her home in Letchworth to give them a festive taste of the continent.

Winter House in Letchworth

Winter House in Letchworth - Credit: Archant

For mother-of-four Alice Calcasola van der List, 15 Sollershott East is both the home she has lived in with her family since moving from the Netherlands in 1999, the headquarters of her business All In One Season and – for three special days each year – a Winter House offering people a unique Christmas experience.

This year Alice will be opening the doors to her house to the lucky ones who signed up in time on next Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 7.30pm.

From the festive red carpet and flickering lanterns to the twinkling fairy lights and steaming glasses of gluhwein, Alice’s aim is to transport her many visitors to a European Christmas market.

The journey starts from Alice’s small shop and former garage which leads to a magical courtyard flanked by continental-style market cupboards.

Alice Calcasola van der List

Alice Calcasola van der List - Credit: Archant

You then wind your way through the immaculately dressed living room before emerging into a purpose-built wooden outhouse packed with contemporary gifts and decorations.

Supported by her Sicilian carpenter husband, four children – who range in age from 10 to 20 – and a small band of members of staff and volunteers, Alice gets stuck into her Winter House preparations as soon as school starts back in September, and has been doing for the past six years.

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“Every year I’m always surprised at how quickly the Winter House comes around,” she said.

“I can just imagine the day when I’m knee deep in Christmas preparations before the summer holidays even begin.”

Winter House in Letchworth

Winter House in Letchworth - Credit: Archant

Aside from turning into a winter wonderland when the festive evenings draw in, the house has an interesting history of its own.

In the 1970s it belonged to the Sassoons – a family of Orthodox Jews who had servants working and living in the house and used one of the side buildings as a synagogue.

Since Alice and her family moved in, they have had around 50 Jewish pilgrims on their doorstep wanting to see the Sassoon home.

After they left, several artists moved in, before it was sold to Umo Plant Ltd, a Russian company which used it to house some of their workers.

Alice added: “There is a funny story about the Russians buying the first satellite dish in the area, which confirmed the neighbours’ suspicions that they were spies!

“The house has taken a lot of renovating over the years as it was in a mess when we bought it, but parts of it are still work in progress.”

On the night there will be also be mulled wine, mince pies, Dutch cake, homemade chutney and crackers, but Alice is asking for donations to the Letchworth-based Garden House Hospice for any refreshments.

Although the nights are filled up this year, you can still join the waiting list in case there are any cancellations at www.winterhouse.eventbrite.co.uk.

You can register for next year at www.eepurl.com/t6mf5.