When Juan Nieves went to college 18 months ago, he left his parents in their new house -- a fairly generic two-story brick structure in West Lake.
When he came back to Augusta for Christmas, his mother, Wanda, had turned the house into a home.
"She did wonders with it," said Mr. Nieves, 20, a junior at St. Mary's University in San Antonio. "When I came back for Christmas it was totally transformed. But my Mom does that wherever she goes."
The family -- husband Nestor, sons Juan and Tito, and daughter, Michelle -- credit Mrs. Nieves with turning the home into a showplace.
"I'm excited about all the things we can do in this house," Mrs. Nieves said.
The family moved into the five-bedroom home 18 months ago, after Dr. Nieves retired from the Army and accepted a position at the Medical College of Georgia.
"I think the Lord gave us this house," Mrs. Nieves said. "We had less than a week and it was here and available. I really believe the Lord did this."
They settled on the 4,900-square-foot home on West Lake Circle after looking at several new houses in Columbia County. Their ultra-modern home was built in the early '90s.
"It was very functional," Dr. Nieves said. "It really met our needs."
After moving in, the family began making subtle changes. First, they changed wood cabinets and counters in the kitchen to black and green granite. Then, they added plantation shutters.
They also focused on the master bedroom, which is centered around a king-size Henredon mahogany sleigh bed. Meanwhile, the couple is still working on the master bathroom, which features a garden tub.
"I still have to dress it up," Mrs. Nieves said. "Maybe I'll put a palm tree in here."
Mrs. Nieves recently finished reworking an upstairs sitting area. She took out a small table and added a large chair, lamp and bookshelves.
"I really didn't feel like having a space we couldn't use," she said. "My husband needs a quiet space for his work."
But the large family room -- with an expansive view of the back yard through a series of large windows -- is Mrs. Nieves' favorite.
"I love watching nature, but I'm not an outdoor person," she said.
While there is still some work to be done around the home, Mrs. Nieves didn't let that deter her from decorating for Christmas. The family has two trees: one in foyer and one in the family room.
The tree in the foyer is filled with ornaments of Christmases past: a bundle of dried flowers, Puerto Rican ornaments, golden doves and cherubs. The other, larger tree is trimmed with golden balls, mauve and gold ribbons, angels, grapes, gold beads and lots of lights.
And there are dozens of three-kings motifs around the home -- decorations that harken back to traditional holidays in Puerto Rico. According to tradition, on Jan. 6 children would collect grass in shoe boxes which they placed under their beds so the three kings could feed their camels. In return, the three kings would leave gifts.
"I used to believe in the three kings, not Santa Claus," Mrs. Nieves said. "My parents told me the three kings were real. I swore I'd see camels on the street."
Reach Jason B. Smith at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 115, or firstname.lastname@example.org.