Two signs are prominently placed at the home of Joe and Angela Vacanti. One reads “Gathering Room” and hangs above the fireplace. The other – “Vacanti Villa” – is displayed in the backyard near the pool.
Both signs drive home the point that the Vacantis really enjoy bringing together family and friends in a welcoming, fun environment where nothing is “hands off.”
For Christmas, Angela Vacanti goes all out decorating – from swapping out the artwork on the walls to prepping the two guest bedrooms with seasonal bedding and accessories. She named them “The Poinsettia Room” and “Winter Wonderland.”
Organization is key to her mission. “Everything comes down and goes into bins, labeled by room, and then Christmas comes out,” she said, noting that bins are stored in the basement and garage loft.
“I start the day after Halloween. It takes four solid weeks. I work a little bit every day,” she said. They wait until the day after Thanksgiving to turn on all the holiday lights.
The home was featured online at BuffaloNews.com last December as a “Home of the Week,” after Angela Vacanti submitted photos of the decorated house and a short description of the place.
The Buffalo News recently visited for a photo shoot and an interview with the Vacantis, who have two grown children, four grandchildren and two dogs.
Seven Christmas trees are part of the holiday decor (and that’s not counting the small decorative trees). This year Angela Vacanti convinced her husband to “flock” the 9-foot artificial main tree using a Christmas tree snow white flocking kit she found on Amazon.
“I come up with the ideas and he facilitates them,” she laughed.
Joe Vacanti, a Tonawanda native, explained that he’s also the one who lugs up all the bins, installs the exterior holiday lights, puts up the large sleigh on the front porch and takes care of other outside decor.
Angela Vacanti said she has been collecting holiday decor for many years – with most of it coming from Kissel Country Tin in North Tonawanda.
She rotates the decor, adds an item every year and is already planning a few changes for next year, including decorating the foyer chandelier with greenery and ornaments. (A wall switch lowers the chandelier to within reach.)
“Part of the tradition for my family is doing this. I feel like every year we just add to the story,” said Vacanti, a North Tonawanda native who jokingly refers to herself as “a domestic engineer.”
While she decorates the home for each season, she goes all out at Christmas. She said she has invested thousands of dollars into her collection through the years.
“This is like a hobby to me. It’s not like I golf or go on girlfriend retreats. I’m a true homebody. I’m family oriented. I’m happiest when my family is all here. I love a house full of people. We love entertaining,” she said.
She inherited this passion from her mother, who died from cancer when Angela was 19.
“She loved Christmas. She always made it special for us. She always invited everybody over. So for me, I feel like you almost can rewrite a sad story and make it happy. It’s sad sometimes when I’m decorating because I think of her and miss her. But then I think of the joy of my family and trying to create that for them. So that’s all part of why I do it. It brings me joy, knowing that if she were here she’d be shopping with me and saying, ‘Come decorate my house,’ ” she said.
The Vacantis will host a gathering of 15 to 20 people at Christmas. This year they also planned two smaller cocktail parties.
Eggnog from Hoover’s Dairy in Sanborn and pomegranate martinis are their signature drinks during the holidays.
Beside the extensive holiday display, here are some highlights of the home:
• The house has no formal dining room. Instead, a large kitchen/eating area extends into the gathering room. The Vacantis set up extra tables to seat everyone during parties and holiday celebrations.
“We make it work. I didn’t want a room you just stare at all year and hardly ever use,” she said.
• In addition to the cozy gathering room, the house has several other spots for reading and relaxing. The master bedroom has a separate room they call the “quiet room.” Joe Vacanti created a reading nook for the grandchildren in the finished basement, where he has done much of the work including installing shiplap.
• The couple had a swimming pool installed seven years ago.
“Why would we put a pool in when our kids are gone? Because we love the pool, the grandkids love the pool and our kids come back to use it. And we’re homebodies,” said Angela Vacanti.
“When our friends come swimming or anyone comes over to the house, they say ‘Why would you leave?’ Our home has a nickname – the Vacanti Villa. Our friends and family refer to it that way. They’ll say, ‘What’s going on at the Villa? Are there any rooms available?,’ ” she said.
• The furniture in the home includes pieces they have had for many years along with handcrafted and unique pieces collected over time. Their solid cherry bedroom furniture is from the old Robert’s Furniture Show Place on Main Street in North Tonawanda, for instance. They bought it when they got married 35 years ago, said Joe Vacanti, security director at a local gaming facility.
• The couple built the home 20 years ago; the contract price was $189,000, he said.
“It was a custom-built house that we subcontracted, and I was considered a co-project manager,” he added.
Among the features they chose to incorporate into its design: Two staircases – one in the foyer, the other near the kitchen; a second oven installed under the kitchen island, and custom maple kitchen cabinets done in two color finishes.
Plus all those extra “touches” to make family and friends feel at home.
“We keep a stack of blankets in the front hall closet on a bench. Everyone knows where they are. They pick a corner and just snuggle up. Joe will sometimes joke, ‘You’ve made it too comfortable. They’re never leaving,’ ” Angela Vacanti laughed.
The house at a glance:
Here’s a peek inside Joe and Angela Vacanti’s 2,710-square-foot home in North Tonawanda:
Layout: Foyer leads to the kitchen, large eating area and main living space (“gathering room”). There’s also a den off the foyer, a first-floor half bath, two flights of stairs to the second floor and a finished basement. There’s no formal dining room. The second floor features a master bedroom suite with a bath and a sitting room they call the “quiet room.” There’s also a second full bath, a laundry room and two additional bedrooms now used as guest bedrooms. Outside, there are front and back covered porches, a patio of brick pavers by Nature’s Way landscaping services in Lockport, an in-ground pool with wading area, a waterfall and a sign that reads “Vacanti Villa.”
Floors: Maple hardwood with satin finish topped with area rugs in kitchen, hallways, den and half bath. Carpeting in gathering room and bedrooms. Runner on stairs. Vinyl plank in finished basement.
Paint colors: Creamy neutrals including Benjamin Moore Stone House and Standish White and Sherwin-Williams Ivoire and Burlap. Many walls have been decoratively painted by local artist Mary Quimby of the Secret Garden.
Furniture: Dining table and other pieces from Calvin’s Furniture. Solid cherry master bedroom furniture purchased when they were first married from the old Robert’s Furniture Show Place on Main Street in North Tonawanda; bed from Ethan Allen. Handcrafted primitive/farmhouse style tables and benches made locally by Bill Knowlton.
Accessories and art: Christmas decor in every room, including seven Christmas trees, a 25-inch high gingerbread house on the kitchen island, a sleigh on the front porch, potted silk poinsettias on the steps leading upstairs and Christmas-themed framed art on the walls.
Love your home? Tell us about it
One of the most popular features in The Buffalo News Home & Style section is the Home of the Month, which features a local home and the people who live there.
Today we feature the North Tonawanda home of Joe and Angela Vacanti.
Our Home of the Month appears online – along with a gallery of photos by a News staff photographer – as well as in a print edition of Sunday Home & Style. Today's story will appear in the Sunday Home & Style print edition on Dec. 22.
In fall 2017, we launched another feature that appears online only – the Home of the Week. This lets readers inside even more homes.
The Buffalo News continues to look for other local homes and the stories behind them and their décor. Those chosen will be displayed in the weekly feature at BuffaloNews.com.
As is the case with the Vacantis' home, the residence could be chosen as a Home of the Month.
Here’s what to do if you’re interested: Tell us about your home in 150 words or less, and email 10 hi-res images (in JPEG form) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s OK to send the images split among several emails. Please include your name, the city or town where you live and a phone number.
We will contact those chosen to be featured on BuffaloNews.com. We also will publish online some or all of the photos you submitted.
If your place is chosen for Home of the Month, we will visit your home for an interview and our own photo shoot. If you have problems submitting photos, please email email@example.com.
In case you missed our last Home of the Month: