Home Tour: Newport’s Historic Hill

Rosemary Heydt pulls out all the stops to make Christmastime magical for her family

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“At one point I had 50 nativities, 75 Santas, and one nine-foot Christmas tree. I now have five nine-foot trees, eight seven-foot trees, one nativity, and four Santas,” says Rosemary Heydt. No matter how the math shakes out, one thing is for sure – she enjoys decking the halls, setting the table, and making things merry and bright. “I like every year to be different and over the top, so the style is always changing,” she says with a warm smile.

If her last name is familiar, it’s likely due to her husband William, an artist known for capturing the people and places of Newport via vibrant watercolor paintings. His beloved work can be found all over the City by the Sea like an I-spy, with prints, paintings, and his book Working Newport displayed in shops, cafes, and hotels.

For 18 years, the couple has lived in Newport’s Historic Hill neighborhood in a house that dates back to 1836. Heydt relays that the home’s original owner, Captain Augustus Littlefield, asked his builder to design an authentic copy of a villa that he’d seen during a trip to Southern Italy. Inside, the Heydts have outfitted interiors with an eclectic blend of furnishings and accents, adhering to neither a villa nor coastal vibe. “We have a lot of different art throughout our home, and a life-size horse made out of junk in our entrance hall. Not very New England!”

The Heydts have three grown children, a new grandchild, and dog Luna. “I decorate my home for my family. They are the reasons I do what I do,” says Heydt. “Last year I decided to decorate each nine-foot tree for each family member. My husband Bill and son Eric's tree was decorated with all gold ornaments; my daughter Bernadette and her husband Andrea’s tree had all white ornaments and white doves; my daughter Samantha had a tree of different colors; and my new grandson had his nine-foot tree decorated with Santas and candy canes. The family tree was a collection of ornaments from when the kids were young up to today.

“I am very happy that my children are always home for Christmas,” says Heydt. “The room I enjoy the most is the dining room, where the white Christmas tree is. It is where we sit and have friends and family over for dinner, so basically it is the heart of our home.”

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