Holiday Magic Returns With Balboa Island Home Tour

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Wendy and Greg Ekstrom’s new build home on Amethyst Avenue is part of the 23rd Annual Balboa Island Holiday Home Walking Tour on Sunday.
— Photo by Sara Hall ©

For those who love holiday decor, architecture, and design, a tour this weekend is the perfect, magical match.

The 23rd Annual Balboa Island Holiday Home Walking Tour is set for Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The popular tour returns this year with eight unique Island and Bayfront homes decked out for the holiday season.

Along the route is Wendy and Greg Ekstrom’s new build home on Amethyst Avenue.

With a new build home for her first time participating in the tour, Wendy Ekstrom said she wanted to connect with her community more through the popular seasonal event.

Wendy Ekstrom in her home, which will be featured on the Balboa Island Holiday Home Walking Tour on Sunday.
— Photo by Sara Hall ©

“We love Christmas on the Island. It’s absolutely beautiful,” Ekstrom said. “I can’t even say that enough. It’s one of the most charming things about Balboa Island… We travel, but when we come across that bridge it just feels like magic.”

From the welcoming wreath on the front door to the poinsettia lined rooftop deck, guests will feel the Christmas spirit throughout their tour of the Ekstrom home.

Tour participants will get to peek into every room in the four-bedroom, five-bathroom three-story home. Visitors will be invited to linger in the piano room where local musician Rick Sherman will be playing a medley of holiday tunes.

Tour attendees can expect to see some classic Christmas décor in the Amethyst Avenue home. Red and green ribbons, some family-cherished ornaments on the tree, and a woodland theme throughout.

Holiday Home Tour attendees will see this olive wood nativity scene in Wendy and Greg Ekstrom’s home on Sunday.
— Photo by Sara Hall ©

Guests should be on the lookout for a few standout pieces, including a nativity scene made out of olive wood that Ekstrom brought back from the Holy Land when they traveled to Jerusalem about six years ago. The set is placed carefully on the credenza in the upstairs living space.

The Ekstroms’ history with Balboa Island is a storied one. They lived in north Tustin for about 30 years, raising their kids and creating a life in the inland town. About five years ago, the couple rented a cottage on the Island and “absolutely fell in love with everything Balboa.”

They bought a small cottage on Opal Avenue, for weekend visits, and soon decided that Balboa Island needed to be their next full-time home.

“We’re happiest here,” Ekstrom said.

Wendy Ekstrom places seasonal dinner settings on her kitchen table, which will be fully decorated during the tour on Sunday.
— Photo by Sara Hall ©

In 2015, they bought a cottage on Coral Avenue with plans to tear it down and build their own home, but they “just didn’t have the heart” to do it, she explained. They found their current property a few years later and realized the house that stood on the land was on its last leg.

The built their home from the ground-up, between May 2017 and October 2018. They wanted the house to be rooted in traditional design with classic European features that “just happened to be on the Island,” she explained.

Decorating during Christmas was always a tradition in the Ekstrom home. Their house in Tustin was larger with more property, so they’ve had to scale down some after moving to Balboa Island. Although this year, since the tour will be bringing hundreds of spectators through her doors, Patty Ekstrom said she plans to go all out and bring everything, “blankets, pillows, quilts” and more, out of storage for the 2019 season.

A woodland theme with classic Christmas decor will be seen throughout Wendy and Greg Ekstrom’s home, which will be featured on the Balboa Island Holiday Home Walking Tour on Sunday.
— Photo by Sara Hall ©

Her style has evolved over the years, starting out with a strong European flair, which included Tuscany gilded angels and heavy tapestry. It’s progressed into a lighter and airy style. Although it’s not exactly coastal, there are some nautical tie-ins.

Ekstrom gets some professional help from Wendy Joy of Orange County-based W Design. It’s important to stay true to Ekstrom’s aesthetic, Joy noted, it’s traditional, yet playful.

“We took all of her favorite things and incorporated them into the design,” Joy said. “When you’re surrounded by things you love, that’s good interior design.”

This year attendees can have their picture taken with Santa at 315 Grand Canal for $5.

Classic Christmas decor will be seen throughout Wendy and Greg Ekstrom’s home, which will be featured on the Balboa Island Holiday Home Walking Tour on Sunday.
— Photo by Sara Hall ©

There will also be a raffle for an original piece of art that was used on all publications and home tour tickets. Tickets for the raffle are $5 each or three for $10.

Tour tickets are $35 online or for purchase at several Balboa Island stores: Balboa Island Museum, Island Home and Sur Le Mer all located on Marine Avenue.

Off Island tickets may be purchased at Seaside Gallery & Goods on Tustin Avenue in Newport Beach, Blue Springs Home on 17th in Costa Mesa and Bliss Home Design on PCH in CDM.

The event is sponsored by the Balboa Island Improvement Association and all proceeds support the BIIA.

For more information, visit balboaislandnb.org/holiday-home-tour

Wendy Ekstrom said she’ll bring everything, “blankets, pillows, quilts” and more, out of storage for the Balboa Island Holiday Home Walking Tour on Sunday.
— Photo by Sara Hall ©
The Christmas tree is the focal point in the living room of Wendy and Greg Ekstrom’s home, part of the Balboa Island Holiday Home Walking Tour on Sunday.
— Photo by Sara Hall ©
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