Decorating Other People's Houses for Christmas with Lee Anne Culpepper

Photo: Culpepper Carpets and InteriorsRecently, my daughter-in-love (she is a keeper!) asked me if I was putting up a tree this year.  I told her no, because we are living in an unfinished house.  She replied that I did not put up a tree last year either, to which I stated, that we were in a rental home at the time while building. She then reminded me that I did not put one up the year before that, to which I claimed that it was because the house was for sale. 

The truth is I have not put a tree up in five years because I am designing, shopping for and decorating everyone else's trees. This keeps me too busy to even (want to) think about putting up a tree at my house. However, I do have a branch that I sprayed white and stuck in a Ball Mason Jar with Epson Salts (and it even has ornaments on it) which is our ersatz tree.

How did I become involved in my clients holiday décor?  In many cases, I have become a “life stylist” for the client. This is a natural progression, because I am so familiar with their lifestyle and have created a personalized environment that incorporates their heritage, values, travels and accomplishments. I select and purchase many items from furniture and accessories to bedding and towels. As I coordinate all the décor of the entire house, my influence flows into holiday décor.  I shop for beautiful ornaments and decorations to make their home “designer perfect”. If they are having a party, I even help plan the menu and the serving layout.

Let me describe what the holidays entail for a trusted designer:  I shop at wholesale floral establishments, as well as stores such as Target, Hobby Lobby and Garden Ridge. Once I have gathered all of the “ingredients,” I physically decorate the tree.  Someone else installs the tree; I do the fun part! I also decorate tables, center pieces, fresh fruit food displays, wreathes, garlands and front porch décor. Each project is unique, and I just “Pray, go and let it flow!”

My favorite part is when a top executive comes home and glows with the joy of a boy at Christmas when he sees the decorations. That is as good as the pay check! Okay, almost. Seriously, to be paid, appreciated, and thanked is a remarkable way to make a living. 

Of course, many times I am told that they want the design to take a different direction; in that case, I change it and make adjustments. (You can’t cry and take your ball and go home.) As the designer, I must remember that it is the client’s home. Now, if they demand that I erect an atrocity, I simply put my hands on my hips, give my “mean girl face” and tell them that they can do that design, but they must never tell anyone that I had anything to do with it.  They usually see the light at that point.

Here's a story of how the design process works: A client's husband wanted a white tree and all new decorations.  She hated all of the heavily flocked trees that look like the ones in a Harry Potter movie, so crammed with stuff that the tree doesn’t even show.  So, we bought flocking spray and lightly sprayed her old artificial tree. We then added the new brown, white, gold and blue ornaments. I did not want to produce a “brown and teal” color palate as that is overdone, common and on its way out.  Instead, I went for the shade of blue ornamental balls at Garden Ridge.  Although we loved this combination, it disappeared against the lightly flocked tree. It was back to the drawing board for me. The client had spent a ton of money, and she was unhappy with the result! 

Not to worry ― I heard her complaint. I assured her that I could make her happy so off I went to shop for colors that are not necessarily in style (that is always a challenge). I was blessed to find a lovely deep blue ribbon and large matching balls. I added those elements and added some brown and gold netting and ― bada bing … she likes it! Voila, a tree had appeared! 

My client beamed with joy and so did I. Merry Christmas, everyone! If you need help decorating your home, you can find me on Hometalk. Although this is my busy season, I do manage to answer a few questions on Hometalk and I might be able to offer you a little expert help.

Lee Ann Culpepper is a Networx - http://www.networx.com - writer. Get home & garden ideas like this - http://www.networx.com/article/decorating-other-peoples-houses-for-chr - on Networx.

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