The Not So Merry Truth about Decorating for the Holidays

Wow, Dec. 16th. I know it is a cliche but where did the time go?   Well I don’t know about you but December for me is always  SO busy. When it comes to blogging, I haven’t even found the time to read my favorite blogger’s posts never mind write a post.  Something happened earlier this week though that compelled me to write.  I was at a client’s home and she apologized that her Christmas tree sat naked and unadorned in in the corner of the family room.  This client works a full time job, has two young children, 2 dogs, a large house and a husband who travels extensively for work. Apologize?? For what?? For not staying up until 3am every night in December to get all the decorating, cleaning, shopping, card writing, wrapping, baking, and Ho Ho Ho-ing accomplished?

Okay, let’s just talk about one of these chores: holiday decorating. If you are a blog reader like me, you have seen so many beautifully decorated interiors over the past few weeks. Designers, and bloggers have opened up their home and shown all the creative, beautifully styled, beautifully photographed, holiday decor filling their home.  They make it seem effortless and “the norm”  which makes some of us feel the need to apologize when the tree sits undecorated 1 week before Christmas. You do not need to apologize. Let me tell you the not so merry truth about holiday decorating…IT TAKES TIME…LOTS OF TIME.

Take for example  Tobi Fairley’s incredible beautiful holiday playroom.


Tobi Fairley's Playroom

Now Tobi is one busy gal. Do you think she actually did this one evening when she got home from a long day at work? Absolutely not. Recently while attending Tobi’s fabulous Design Camp, she shared with us that to accomplish her holiday decorating she has a staff of designers that spend days upon days decorating and then a professional photographer who spends days more photographing.

I recently attended a holiday decorating talk by my friend Monique of  Monx’s Design House. Monique is a professional event planner so she knows how long it takes to decorate down to the minute. She shared with us that her own holiday party for 30 guests takes 80 hours. That’s planing time, prep time, and decorating time. 80 hours! It got me thinking, so this year I decided to track how long it took me to decorate just a few areas of my own home. Here is the not so merry truth and why I haven’t found the time to blog.

 Wreath for front door:  1 hour 5 minutes.


Linda Holt Photo

10 mins. picking out wreath: 15 min. standing in line to pay for wreath. 40 minutes decorating wreath and another 30 minutes looking for wreath hook . (okay, I know that is my fault so I am not even going to count that).

Christmas tree: 4 hours,42 minutes.



Picking out “the one” :30 minutes. standing in same 15 minute line as with wreath. 12  minutes putting tree in stand and bringing into house (luckily I knew right where the stand was). Putting lights on tree: This is my husband’s job and he spent 4 hours stringing the lights while watching the Patriots game on TV. Okay there was some non productive time here like eating, drinking beer and yelling at the TV so let’s say 2 hours total on this. Putting the ornaments on tree 2 hours.


Entrance way:  3 hours.

Linda Holt Photo


Time was spent polishing the silver candle sticks, decorating the little silver bowls, and hanging the ornaments from the overhead chandelier.


Detail of the silver bowls

Linda Holt


Dining Table: 3.5 hours


Linda Holt

Time included polishing silver candle sticks, ironing the table cloth, stringing up the hanging ornaments, setting the table  (no glassware yet as that was all in dishwasher) and decorating the little tree in the corner.


Linda Holt


Summing it all up; putting a wreath on the front door, decorating the entrance way, decorating the tree and setting the table took a total of 12 hours and 17 minutes. Sounds crazy huh? I also decorated the living room, the kitchen and the mantle. I didn’t keep track of that time but I am sure it was at least another 4-5 hours.

So please be kind to yourself if your tree is still undecorated, the gifts are not wrapped (or bought as in my case) and you feel unprepared. It all takes time…lot’s and lot’s of time.


If any of you have actually found the time to read this post… How many hours  do you think your decorating took?


Lastly,  be sure to visit my Face Book page at I am posting a single photo a day  for 31 days of holiday inspiration and “eye candy”.


























Lessons from Arkansas a.k.a Tobi Fairley’s Design Camp (part 2)

Today in part two of ” Lessons from AR” I have 3 more tips to share from designer extraordinaire,  Tobi Fairley.  If you missed my first three Tobi Tips you can read them here.

 #4. Don’t try and make something work that you don’t love. I think we have all experienced this at one time or another. Say you have a dated sofa. You don’t love it but to make it work you find a wall color to go with the sofa, then window treatments that have the same colors, then you find a rug that also “goes with the sofa” then you work in your accessories.  What you end up with is a room designed around something you never really liked in the first place so you never really love the room. Better to start from scratch than to try and make something work you don’t love.

#5. Beware of living only with “decorator art“. When Tobi said this, I knew EXACTLY what she was talking about. I call it ” staging art” and I use it all the time when I Stage a home for sale. It is generic art that doesn’t offend,  or make too much of a statement. You know the kind; mass produced and sold at your local Home Store.

Something like this:


"Decorator art" a.k.a Staging art


A small amount of decorator art is fine to add some color or to fill in where needed but original art that has meaning and speaks to you is what will stand the test of time and enrich your life.

Original art does not have to be pricey fine art. Your kids drawings, photo enlargements taken by a loved one, or the $6.00 etching you bought 15 years ago from that colorful street vendor while on your honeymoon will all have meaning for you and give your room some soul.

Here is a hallway in my home where I have a collection of small water colors my son did in high school. They cost zero dollars and I found the frames on sale at the Crate and Barrel Outlet for $5.99 each. I never tire of looking at these and they are a great topic of conversation when friends visit.

art work by Ben Holt

#6. Carefully consider the architecture of a home BEFORE you build or buy. What looks interesting, different, cool, or unusual  is usually NOT easy to decorate. Super tall ceilings, large arched windows, or big open floor plans might seem like a good idea at the time until you actually try and arrange your furniture, hang your art work or put up window treatments.


I am not sure what is going on with this room but I bet it looked great on the blue prints.

And although these windows are gorgeous; it would be a challenge if you needed window treatments for privacy.


So going back to Tobi’s very first lesson #1:  always think about Function Driven Design. If  it makes sense to how you live on a day to day basis then you will always feel comfortable, and decorating your home will be a lot more enjoyable.


I hope you enjoyed my 6 Tips from Tobi, and as always, I love reading your comments and feedback!

If you would like help with choosing the perfect Color, Staging your home for sale or Redesigning a room, give me a call.


Lessons From Arkansas- aka Tobi Fairley’s Design Camp (part one)

This past week I had the wonderful privilege of attending Tobi Fairley’s Design Camp in Little Rock, AR. What an incredible experience to not only learn from Tobi but to share the experience with such a wonderful group of talented Designers. Not only did I come home with my brain over flowing with ideas but made many new friends as well.

The tone was set for a great week on the first morning of  Camp when 2 stretch limos arrived at the Hotel to chauffeur all 34 campers to Tobi’s offices.

Hot Pink Stretch Hummer


Tobi Fairley is just amazing. Not only does she run a very successful Interior Design business,  she teaches, coaches, blogs, and has recently launched her own home furnishings line. I have no doubt that Tobi will be as well known as Martha Stewart in a just few short years.

I learned SO many things in camp; not only about good design, but about the business of design.  Since there were  so many things I want to share with you I was not sure where to start. After some thought though, I decided in this first blog, I would explain how Tobi approaches designing a room.

#1. When Tobi designs a room she always starts with the floor plan. She doesn’t even think about color or fabric or any other elements in the room until she has created a workable floor plan. She believes in function driven design and asks the clients lots of questions so that the floor plan fits their particular life style. Also, contrary to what we often see in magazines Tobi is NOT a fan of floating the major pieces of furniture in a room. She believes you should use ALL the floor space and that you are wasting valuable square footage if you float your sofa or other big pieces. What Tobi does float are the lighter movable pieces ( small chairs, benches, garden seats, tables, etc). Here is an example of a floor plan with “floating furniture”.


"Floating" furniture

See all the unused floor space? Really not much more than seating for 4.

And here is the same space AFTER with seating for 8-10.

Floor plan AFTER


A side note: Tobi NEVER puts the sofa on an angle. (Redesigners and Stagers are often taught to do this in school but Tobi says NO, it almost never works and eats too much square footage.)

#2. Always design the room as a whole. In other words, don’t buy the sofa, then look for some curtain fabric to go with the sofa, then spend months hunting for a rug that goes with the fabric…no!…The room MUST be designed as a whole. Tobi always starts this process with an inspiration board. She pulls fabrics, then looks at trims, and plays around with different finishes. Every choice is intentional and “speaks” in some way to everything else. Nothing is piece meal and even if the client can’t implement everything at once they know exactly what to buy when budget allows. When Tobi designs an entire house she creates a different board for each room and makes sure there is some continuing element (usually color) that creates a cohesive flow room to room. Again, think about each room “speaking” in some way to each other room.

One of Tobi's inspiration boards


#3. DO NOT use what Tobi likes to call “Filler” in a room. She believes we function best and live happier lives without all the clutter or what she calls “filler” that so many of us surround ourselves with. She sees so many homes where once the room is “done” the home owner runs to Homegoods or Pier One and fills a cart with a bunch of meaningless dust collecting “stuff”. Filler is just like junk food…it fills the space but adds no value and does nothing for the room or your soul. Better to save up and purchase one beautiful item that you cherish and which has meaning than fill a whole room with meaningless stuff.

I hope you enjoyed learning a few things from Arkansas. I have so many more tips and ideas to share so look for part two later in the week.


As always, I would love to hear your thoughts. Do you design a room beginning with the floor plan? Do you make inspiration boards for all your rooms?  Are you guilty of using filler?


If you would like help designing your room or choosing color, give me a call.



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