Holiday decorations can add beauty to your home and joy to your spirit. Pick up some tips from professional decorators in our region on how you can brighten the inside and outside of your dwelling.
During the holiday season, there are many people to decorate for. Extended family members come to visit, college students return home, neighbors drop by, and everyone seems to notice the extra effort in decor.
But to Dennis Marunde, owner of Christmas Decor by Arvidson, 3209 Illinois Route 31, in Crystal Lake, impressing people isn’t the point.
“To me, it’s about lifting the spirit and having an opportunity to brighten an otherwise much darker time of year,” Marunde says. “I’m a big believer in surrounding yourself with beauty. Decorations represent joy; they make people’s lives better. It’s a beautiful sight to drive by houses that are all lit up.”
Holiday decorations also add a touch of joy inside the home. Mike Haas, who owns Strawflower Shop, 210 W. State St., in Geneva, with his wife, Susan, finds beauty in his family’s traditions.
“We decorate in a traditional way, in that the Christmas tree pretty much goes in the same spot, and we put some favorite ornaments on it that are really beautiful,” Haas says. “Some of the ornaments are a real treasure to the family. But my wife and I definitely enjoy adding something new in our home to commemorate every year.”
Whether you’re a novice or a savvy expert at holiday decorating, or somewhere in between, there’s always a new way to add joy. Gather ideas from some of the decorating experts in our region on how you can enhance your holiday spirit.
Every year, the Arvidson crew looks forward to cheering up customers by lighting the outside of their homes.
“The best part is when they turn on the lights for the first time,” Marunde says. “There’s this look of awe – our crew just loves that moment. I know we’re doing something good.”
Arvidson handles the entire process of decorating home exteriors across McHenry County, Lake County, northern Cook County, DuPage County and Kane County. The company owns its own equipment, so customers don’t need to worry about buying and storing decorations, replacing lightbulbs, or falling from a ladder.
Arvidson also maintains its work throughout the season.
“If a light goes out, we’ll come back to fix it,” Marunde says. “We also take it all down and clean up the yard afterward. In the early spring, we come back and make sure everything looks good. So, there’s no storage, no maintenance and no effort on your part.”
This year, Marunde notices some new trends. White LED lights have been popular for a number of years, but nontraditional colors have been making a surge. Blue lights, in particular, have been in high demand.
Marunde thinks customers should choose whatever colors make them happy.
“I’m more of a traditionalist myself – I like the classy, understated look of white lights,” he says. “I think it’s a very elegant look. I also love the look of tree trunks wrapped up in lights. It’s a more labor-intensive job, but it really stands out at nighttime.”
Marunde has seen novel approaches to outdoor lighting, such as wrapping trees entirely in either green or red lighting – sometimes, in an alternating pattern.
Lighting around windows has also been heavily requested this season. Arvidson has software that can superimpose lights onto a photo of someone’s home, so customers can get an idea of what the finished product will look like.
“Because of the software, people are seeing how nice their windows look when framed by lights,” Marunde says. “So, we’re getting a lot more requests for that. When they see those lights on the windows, people really enjoy it. And, with window lights, you can get a better appreciation for the outside of your home, from within.”
For those who aren’t used to decorating the outside of their homes, Marunde suggests starting with what he calls “daytime decorations.” Garlands and wreaths on the front door provide a simple way to spruce up the home.
“That’s an easy way to add some cheer,” Marunde says. “I recommend not being too ambitious – especially if it involves risking your safety on a ladder.”
If you’re decorating on your own, Marunde suggests staying off the roof and decorating closer to the ground. Small touches, such as garlands wrapped around the mailbox, or small pieces of greenery in subtle places around the property, can easily enhance the look of your home.
When it comes to lights, Marunde advocates for LED equipment, as LED lighting lasts longer than incandescent bulbs and produces a stronger light.
“LED is definitely the way to go,” Marunde says. “It’s just a better quality. And, since everyone at Arvidson is insured, we can decorate the ‘dangerous places’ of your home with quality lighting so that you don’t have to climb a tall ladder. When you have us decorate, the sky is literally the limit.”
On past projects, Marunde’s staff has wrapped giant trees in colorful lights and lined rooftops with eye-catching bulbs. For larger commercial projects, the team often gets requests for elaborate garlands and yard ornaments.
For most residential projects, however, things are usually a bit quieter.
“One year we had a call from a client who lost his wife and he wanted to make sure he had an angel in his front yard,” Marunde says. “All he wanted was some simple lighting on his home, and of course, that angel. It wasn’t a big job, but it was completely appropriate.”
The average residential job takes about half a day for Arvidson to finish, while commercial jobs can sometimes take up to two days, depending on the intensity of the project.
“The most important part is that the decorations give you beauty and peace of mind,” Marunde says. “That’s our goal with every project. Our customers know they are well taken care of.”
It’s always a compliment to Mike Haas, of Strawflower Shop, when people try to copy his store’s creative Christmas decor. When it comes to indoor decorating for the holidays, he believes there are three important areas to keep in mind.
“The tree is definitely the first place to start,” Haas says. “That’s usually the part that’s most important to the family. I recommend decorating the tree first and working off of that.”
Once the tree is adorned with lights, ornaments and other decorations, slide over to the mantle to decorate around the fireplace. Stockings, garland, candles and Strawflower Shop’s decorative present boxes can enhance the area.
“The fireplace is a focal point in a room, and because of that, it’s very easy to say that’s the second place you should decorate after the tree,” Haas says. “Usually, the tree and the fireplace go hand-in-hand.”
From there, Haas notices that many people decorate the cocktail table in the same room. However, he suggests walking toward the entryway to find the third most important area to decorate.
“As a designer, I’d say the staircase is the third place to really keep in mind,” Haas says. “It’s usually in the front room, and it’s a large part of the house. Strawflower Shop can really decorate a staircase beautifully.”
Because the tree is the most important element, Strawflower Shop focuses much of its decorating efforts on creating elegant trees that span many themes. One of the most popular is a winter woods theme, in which trees are decorated with antlers, miniature deer heads, lanterns, feathers, and, most popular of all, owls.
“It all kind of has a woodsy aspect,” Haas says. “One of the first trees we put up in the store had that theme, and it’s been very well received.”
Another top theme appeals more to children.
“Christmas is all about kids, especially young kids,” Haas says. “My wife, Susan, made two trees that have polar bear decorations in them, with most of the bears wearing hats. The kids seem to just love those.”
Aside from wintry animals, a classic Santa Claus theme is popular with Strawflower Shop customers, who enjoy the trees decorated in red ribbons, bells and jolly Old Saint Nick.
No matter what theme a person chooses, Strawflower Shop’s interior designers can help customers stage their home. Decorating one or two rooms can take anywhere from two to five hours.
“Our interior designers have a knack for tying a room together and making it an enjoyable setting,” Haas says. “It can be as simple as the tree, or sometimes people go all out and we help them pick rugs, lighting, upholstery, sofas – everything.”
Haas finds that small accessories make a big impact. Candles can make a particularly nice add-on, while Strawflower Shop’s “presents” look nice when scattered around the tree or placed on top of the mantle.
“We take everything one more step,” Haas says. “We have your normal candles, like a lot of stores, but then we add these beautiful evergreen rings around the base. It helps decorate the candle a bit more. Also, Stawflower Shop’s ‘presents’ can really make your home more festive. Putting a tall and short present on the fireplace or mantle is a great add-on that helps bring a theme into a room.”
Overall, it’s important to Haas that customers perk up when they come home and see their holiday decor.
“I think the uniqueness and ingenuity of how you assemble the decorations is really the key,” Haas says. “It can really improve your holiday spirit.”
Adding a Floral Touch
It’s no secret that flowers can brighten someone’s day. So, the holiday season is the perfect time to visit Countryside Flower Shop, Nursery & Garden Center, in Crystal Lake.
“Decorations can bring the holiday spirit into your home,” says Pattie Braglia, purchasing manager. “Our staff is extremely knowledgeable in not just floral arrangements, but all holiday decor. We have everything from small candles and ornaments to larger figurines and trees. Anything you can think of, we have it or can custom make it.”
The woodsy theme often carries into floral arrangements. Countryside can add birch, owls, deer, foxes, moose and other elements to create a natural, rustic look.
Woodland creatures are also popular at Strawflower Shop, which has a floral department that can customize new products or refurbish old silk arrangements.
“Using different materials can make a floral arrangement more festive,” Haas says. “We try to add four or five different textures into the product, such as greens, berries, leaves, ornaments and animals – that’s what makes an arrangement look real. It also means there will be multiple focal points within the same piece. Since it’s an everlasting product, you’ll be able to use it year after year.”
Both Strawflower Shop and Countryside are accustomed to adding evergreen, berries, ribbon and silks into an arrangement, so that it’ll blend in with a customer’s home.
Changing up the silks and ribbons can especially refresh decor and make it festive, Braglia says.
“Whether you need to change up your decor completely or just add a simple piece, Countryside has a fantastic team that’s ready to help,” she says. “Your decorations should bring the holiday spirit into your home. That’s what our team does best.”