Upon entering the Downey residence, visitors are greeted by Paddington, a 4-foot-tall bear wearing a tuxedo and red stocking cap and holding a platter of mints.
"He dresses up for every occasion," said Cynthia Downey, a missile designer and aeronautical engineer who designed the complete renovation of her Spyglass Road home from 2001 to 2002.
The Downey home is one of six featured in West Lake Garden Club's Tour of Homes from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday. Tickets cost $15 and include access to each of the six homes, plus two tickets for a raffle of Master's Tournament prints from Carpenter's Art Gallery.
All proceeds from the Tour of Homes benefit the Columbia County Foundation for Children.
The six homes showcased in this year's program, titled A Glimpse of Christmas, are unique structures ranging from cottage homes to estate-level houses and are spread throughout the West Lake community, said Vicki Turner, the director of this year's tour.
"Each of the homes on the tour is very distinct; it has its own personality," Turner said. "I think the first-timer will really enjoy the various architectural features of each home.
"You'll see six homes. Three of the homes have been completely renovated and updated."
Turner said the interior designers of some of the homes will be on hand.
The Downey home was in poor condition when the couple purchased it in 2001, said Dr. John Downey, who along with Cynthia did much of the work, installing light fixtures and a speaker system throughout the house, he said.
Cynthia said she went through the entire house marking with crayon walls that were to be changed and detailing her design with an auto-CAD program on the couple's computer.
In all, the Downeys added a second floor over their garage, completely redesigned their kitchen, opened up the entire home for more light and greater mobility, redesigned the pool area and created a breakfast room with a panoramic view of the golf course's seventh tee, Cynthia said.
"I just have a vision," she said of her design. "I see it. I have such a visual sense. I see it in my brain and I write it down for (John) so he can understand it."
The Downey home is completely decorated for Christmas inside and out, with large Christmas trees and warm, inviting reds, greens, golds and earth tones.
Of the six houses, three are relatively new, but one house is among the oldest in the community.
The home of Bob and Suzanne Grant, which they share with Suzanne's mother Barbara B. Clark, was built in 1973.
Last year, the tour raised about $7,000 for the Columbia County Foundation for Children, Turner said.
"We wanted something for Columbia County, and there's nothing more important than children," Turner said.
"It is an awful lot to ask of these homeowners to open up their homes," Turner said. "But they do it because of the charity and because it stays in Columbia County."
Tickets for the Tour of Homes are available at Persnippety, Weinberger's Furniture Showcase, Shear Southern Hair & Day Spa and Carpenter's Art Gallery.
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