Christmas seems like a never-ending season in stores. At home, the season is dependent on when you haul the boxes out of storage and when you pack it all away, and that is often dictated by energy and interest level, and by who might be coming to visit — and when.
Some people — very organized and enthusiastic Christmas revelers, have been thinking about this coming holiday since January. Someone like Charmaine Crosley, for example. She is the Christmas buyer, designer and partner at Sandra Sampson Interiors in Fort Worth. For her, Christmas is almost year-round.
She shops for the store and for her clients. For her special clients, she schedules the unboxing, the hanging and the decor, each year adding and tweaking what was done last year. It can take hours or days with a few helpers or a huge team. There are clients who have a Christmas tree in every room and a wreath on every door, Crosley says.
She began house-staging Nov. 13. Her busiest week is always the week before Thanksgiving as “people want their Thanksgiving guests to see their holiday decorations.” Her last day of house calls will be Dec. 13, even though there are the last-minute pleas for help. “We have to have a cut-off date,” she says apologetically. Crosley will still be busy finishing the custom wreaths and wrapping at the store. Plus, she has her own home to decorate.
She confesses she is often still at it on Christmas Eve. Her most elaborate effort for her own home was seven trees; but she usually confines herself to four. It all depends on the energy she has left when it comes time to do her own house, she says.
The company has become so involved with interior holiday design that it no longer does exterior lighting. Crosley charges by the hour for her services, and depending on the number of helpers she needs to bring and the extent of the decoration needed.
For the customers who simply want help decorating their tree, Crosley needs to know the size of the tree, what decorations are available and whether anything new is needed. She and her staff will bring an assortment of additions, and work with the homeowner and their budget to bring it all together.
Crosley has been working with one client for the past six years. The home is pictured here. She says this is one of her easiest clients, as the homeowner embraces every suggestion and wants everything that comes out of the box. She and Crosley are equals in their love of all things Christmas.
The front room is usually the office, but the desk is removed to make way for the Christmas tree that holds court in the front window of the house. It is the glamour tree. A more traditional red and green tree sits in the family room.
The silver and gold ornaments have been collected over the years, and the most recent additions were butterflies as they symbolize a person who recently passed away who was very dear to the homeowner. Snowflakes were hung in front of the windows and hand-painted Christmas pillows are scattered on the sofa. Even the artwork in the room is removed and replaced with Peggy Abrams Christmas-themed prints.
The centerpiece in the dining room was given the addition of battery-controlled candles ($75 for two) that not only look real, but also have a timer. Small wreaths in the same soft colors were attached to the back of the upholstered chairs.
The elaborate garland that twines down the staircase is new and shows a bit of the color shift that includes teal and bronze ornaments. Crosley estimates the garland is 28 feet long, as it also traverses the upstairs landing, and up to 400 ornaments and picks are attached to the greenery. The homeowner’s only instructions were “work your magic, make it pretty,” Crosley says.
A large hallway cabinet was employed for the first time. The doors were opened and a holiday tableau was arranged with plates, silver trees and artichokes, and wreaths were hung on the open cabinet doors.
In the family room, multiple Santas vie for attention; the life-size one moves, the ones in wreaths on the French doors recite “The Night Before Christmas” or play Christmas carols. This is the room where presents are opened and the traditional colors of red and green are lavishly spread around.
The holiday pillows, a decorating device Sandra Williams (the Sandra in Sandra Sampson) calls “instant Christmas,” were brought one year for the homeowner to pick through. She wanted them all. “They have really cute names — Reindeer McQueen and Skates Spade,” says Crosley.
Even the kitchen gets the holiday treatment. Little gingerbread houses, which began life as ornaments, are place under glass pastry domes, and kitchen-themed Santas are clustered in a corner. A magnetic Santa print covers the dishwasher.
The dog corner gets decorated, and so does the outdoor patio. The decorations stop at the pool. This year, though, there is still the back fence to address. Crosley thinks this may be the year that they cross the water and take on the privacy fence.
Come January, she and her team will be back to wrap each ornament in tissue and box it all up. Then Crosley will begin thinking about Christmas all over again.
Gaile Robinson is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The Dallas Morning News and Fort Worth Star-Telegram.