T’was the week before Christmas
When all through the house
Every creature was stirring
Preparing tenderloin and roasted grouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care
In hopes that all their guests would soon be there.
Some homes are meant for entertaining. And then there are elegant ones that rise far above the rest, emerging as the perfect backdrop for a glittering Christmas party. Rebecca and Robert Goings have the latter, along with a wonderful backstory of their stunning white-columned home.
They bought their landmark home in Heathwood from Cheryl and Paul Perkins in 2015 and completed extensive renovations before moving into the house. The Goingses’ daughter, Madeleine, who is now 8 years old, was in preschool, and her younger sister, Grayson, now 5, was about to be born. Then the infamous flood of 2015 filled the basement with several feet of water on the morning of Madeleine’s third birthday party.
“It was a scary-movie basement then, with rickety steps, exposed plumbing, cinderblock walls, a dirt crawlspace, and cement floors,” Rebecca recalls. “Although it was frightening to see the waters rise in our basement, we soon realized that any loss we would sustain was minimal compared to the devastation our other neighbors in Columbia experienced.” Two years later, Robert and Rebecca traveled to Napa for their 10-year wedding anniversary. Both of them fell in love with wine country and its culture.
When they returned, Rebecca says, Robert ordered a wine refrigerator for their recent wine acquisitions, thinking that it would fit in the closet underneath the stairwell. Certain that it would not fit, she suggested, partly in jest, that they should turn the basement into a wine cellar. Robert thought it was the best idea she’d had since they got married, especially since it was still in disrepair from the 1,000 year flood. Now Robert loves to take guests downstairs to his (1,000 bottle) wine cellar and wine tasting bar, and it is definitely a popular spot during their annual Christmas party.
Rebecca came to Columbia from Mount Pleasant to attend law school, where she met Robert, a native of Union. “Columbia is so much like how Mount Pleasant used to be when I was a child, just like the community where everybody knows everybody,” Rebecca notes. “I love that. I like to be able to go someplace and see people I know, not just my peers but people who are my parents’ peers.”
Inheriting a flair for design from her mother, Rebecca has enjoyed the challenge of making a home for her young family. She had the main floor’s interior walls painted in Silver Sage, a Restoration Hardware color, and she replaced more than 35 light fixtures in the home. She also did not want their historic home to be overly traditional. “I want people to be able to feel like they can sit down and watch football or come over on a Saturday morning to eat pancakes and have a mimosa.”
Near the kitchen is a sunken sunroom where a pretty console holds family photographs taken by Kennerly Jordan, who has kept annual photo sessions with the family since Madeleine’s birth. Original art by Christi Arnette is another mainstay of the Goingses’ decor. “The first Christi painting we acquired was a little bird painting, which I felt was very iconic to her artwork at the time. We hung that in Madeleine’s nursery when she was born, and then she added a little bird to represent Grayson’s addition to our ‘nest’ when she was born, and it went to her nursery,” Rebecca says. She acquired many other pieces of art from Charlton Hall in West Columbia, her favorite auction house.
The elegant home is flanked with tall urns filled with holly and ivy. “The urns were sourced through a dear friend of ours, Glen Gardner, who is an extremely talented landscape architect in Charleston, and his business partner, Patrick Bradley, who is from Columbia,” Rebecca says. Glen and Patrick found the urns at an estate sale and painted them an inviting shade —Tea Olive — from the Duron Historic Charleston Collection to match the shutters and gate at the Goingses’ house.
Acknowledging she has made plenty of mistakes along the way, Rebecca is quick to say, “I know several girls in town who are interior designers and who are far more talented than I am, but it’s been fun decorating our home and learning what works in our space for our family.”
At Christmas, the gates are adorned with magnolia wreaths, and both interior and exterior spaces of their home are filled with fresh Christmas trees, flowers, lots of twinkling lights, and about 40 feet of thick, live garland — composed of magnolia, pine, and Fraser fir. Rebecca’s parents, who moved to Edisto from Mount Pleasant, provide a lot of natural greenery, including palmetto fronds, moss, Elaeagnus, and pittosporum. Fresh evergreen is supplemented with faux botanicals that the family stores in their third-floor attic.
Rebecca swags the banister of the front staircase with an artificial garland that she invested in when she realized decorating big for the holidays would be an annual tradition at their home. She makes enormous red and gold bows for the garlands and dresses them with ornaments — the result is natural looking.
“Robert has a slight Clark Griswold obsession with lights,” Rebecca says, referring to Chevy Chase’s character in the 1989 movie National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. “And although we didn’t go so far as the colored light display, it surely added to the festive flair for the night.”
Every Christmas, Robert’s father, George Goings, sells poinsettias from Roebuck Greenhouses in Spartanburg to benefit the Lions Club. “We just order a good many of them, which is festive when it comes to decorating for the holidays,” Rebecca says. “My girlfriends are so sweet about responding to my annual text soliciting poinsettia sales. Because of their generosity, George is always the high seller for poinsettias in Union!”
The Goingses’ annual Christmas party stemmed from the couple’s love of entertaining. Planning for the 2019 party began in September, with invitations featuring a watercolor rendering of the Goingses’ home decorated for Christmas. Rebecca credits Loosh Culinaire for making their party unique. “They know how I am and how I like things to be done,” she says, which enables Rebecca and Robert to fully enjoy their guests. Passed hors d’oeuvres included shrimp, sashimi tuna, and tomato bisque, while on the dining room table guests found Crawford Pressley’s renowned applewood-roasted beef tenderloin with horseradish crème fraîche, grilled pork tenderloin with Dijon glaze, andouille sausage spread with fresh tortilla chips, and grilled herbed vegetables.
On the zoysia lawn near the saltwater pool in the backyard, guests were treated to an extensive bourbon bar. Space heaters warmed the festive atmosphere even more. The kitchen, with a pieced marble backsplash and a stained glass window salvaged from Rebecca’s parents’ historic Mount Pleasant home, was adorned with greenery and flowers. Carved ornaments hung from the gilded rectangular kitchen chandelier. “You know how it is in the South. Your party always comes to the kitchen. It’s the heart of the home,” Rebecca says.
Also in the kitchen, atop the Carrara marble counter, Crawford arranged a magnificent cedar-plank charcuterie board, filled with Italian cured meats, pâté, and a variety of cheeses and culinary counterpoints. Madeleine and Grayson’s pet Betta fish, Bubbles, got to stay in the corner of the kitchen for the party, but the girls themselves stayed with their grandparents.
Rebecca spends nearly two weeks decorating for the party. “This past year, we had four Christmas trees. The girls also had their own miniature Christmas tree that had all ornaments from my childhood, and it’s so hodgepodge, but it’s the sweetest thing ever. I want the trees that we decorate to be like works of art but to each carry special meaning to our family, history, and traditions.”
The family’s favorite gathering place, the sunken sunroom, features a coastal-themed tree decorated with sand dollars, starfish, and shells, an ode to the Lowcountry. In the formal living room, an elegant tree with gold ribbons and ornaments nearly grazes the 10-foot ceiling as it holds court opposite the centerpiece of the room, an antique Steinway M Grand piano, a wedding gift from Rebecca’s grandparents. Rebecca grew up playing the piano, and Robert, whose mother is a professional church musician, sings baritone. “His nickname from college was ‘Solo,’” Rebecca says, of Robert’s undergraduate years at Wofford College.
Rebecca’s roommate at Clemson University tried to give her a nickname, too — Reba — but it did not stick until law school. Robert and his friends called her Reba frequently, much to her chagrin. The name later turned out to be a good trademark when Rebecca’s love of baking turned into more than a hobby. After graduation, a fellow law clerk and friend asked for her help in providing sweets for a judicial investiture party. Rebecca’s friend enlisted her help to provide sweets for several hundred guests. Right before her first big catering event, Rebecca asked Robert what to call her bakery, and he suggested, “Sweet Reba’s.” Her 97-year-old grandmother is delighted because Rebecca is named for her great-grandmother, who was affectionately referred to as Reba during her lifetime.
At one point, Rebecca’s baking began to consume almost all of her free time while she held a full-time job clerking for an appellate judge. “That was before Ally & Eloise, Cupcake in the Vista, Silver Spoon, all these wonderful bakeries in town,” Rebecca says. While Rebecca has since put Sweet Reba’s on a back burner, she did prepare 250 different confections for the Christmas party, including her signature caramel cupcakes, Oreo blondies, and butter squares.
Rebecca also makes her own flower arrangements, using flowers sourced in part from her friend, Sarah Shell, who owns Fern Studio. This past year, her selections included hydrangeas, burgundy spray roses, lilies, viburnum, and deep red ‘Henry Bockstoce’ peonies, which Sarah special ordered.
This December, Robert turns 40, and the birthday and Christmas celebrations might have to be more intimate than usual. Rebecca told Robert, “‘Don’t you worry, we’re still going to make sure Bobby GoGo gets something special to make the big 4-0 memorable!’”
“We realized that we want this to be a tradition as part of welcoming people into our home,” says Rebecca. “It really makes sense to invest in some of these pieces that we use every year.” Even if some of the grapevine reindeer stay hidden in the third-floor attic this year, the Goings family home is sure to be filled with flowers and greenery, heirloom decorations, twinkling lights, and, of course, Sweet Reba’s confections.