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Holiday for Hire

Too Busy to Deck? Never Fear, Decorators are Here



The options for outside décor are getting bolder every year.

Every year, you tell yourself that this time is going to be different. Lights will go up the day after Thanksgiving. Cards will be sent out well in advance, not at 11:59 p.m., Christmas Eve. The tree will be trimmed and presents wrapped the week before. A crackling fire, a dusting of snow, and your holiday is complete.

My holiday is affectionately known as the “Christmas heap.” The lights are tangled into an oversized ball from last year. (One light goes out, they all go out.) Half the ornaments are in shards at the bottom of a Victoria’s Secret box with three pennies and a paper clip. The tree stand is caked in sap and the only wrapping paper says, “It’s a Girl!”

If your holiday experience is anything like mine, I have some good news for you. There are businesses in the area that will do it all for you. Hosting a Christmas party? Never fear. You can rent your own Santa from Gigmasters. And if that isn’t enough, you can rent your own live reindeer from Clowns4Kids. Need someone to string your lights? Call Shoreline Painting in Norwalk. 

“We mostly do exterior lights and trees, wreaths, garland on railings,” says Michael Italiano, Shoreline’s vice president. “Whatever anyone really wants, we do.”

The company got into the Christmas act as a way to make a little extra cash in the winter. While painting larger homes across the county, they realized this was something they could easily do.

But don’t stop at the lights when there’s so much more. Gaelle Dudley started her Westport-based firm, GLDesign, after years in the corporate world. With a natural talent for working with plants, she created her own window boxes and outdoor containers. Pretty soon, all her friends wanted them, too.

“What started out as a hobby turned into a side profession,” says Dudley. “Last year, from September through Christmas, I had 65 clients.”

People like that high-end look, just not the high-end price. So they call her for a little “holiday happiness.” Kate Cacciatore is one of Dudley’s long-time Fairfield clients who loves her style.

“As a busy, working mom, I have less time,” says Cacciatore. “Gaelle does beautiful holiday planters with these mini lights so you can still see them at night. She’s incredibly creative.” 

No design is ever the same—one of Dudley’s strengths. She tailor makes her creations to fit the personality of the home, and they often last until March. That’s when she’ll switch out for the spring season. (Photo left: Gaelle Dudlely’s lush holiday arrangements are modern and pretty.)

How about having the holiday home of your dreams for very little money? Lauri Ward, owner of Use What You Have Interiors, has been repurposing household items since 1981. Her clients span the tri-state area and even parts of Florida. She finds those items tucked away that haven’t seen the light of day. 

“You forget you have stuff,” says Ward. “There are ways to pull things together of the same color or texture. All those items bring back memories. Holiday time is a sentimental time.”

In the past ten years, Ward has seen business increase. When the economic downturn hit in 2008, her clientele became more conscious of their spending. Plus, it’s a great way to recycle. The old becomes new again. 

Kelly Sohigian of Kelly Designs in Fairfield has a similar decorating philosophy. She will design a space for the holiday season using many of your own pieces. She may supplement with a few things but sees no point in wasting a perfectly good object. Maybe it’s just changing the layout of a room, giving a chest of drawers new knobs, or incorporating the family silver for a little glitz and glam. “Sometimes, when you look at something every day you can’t see it with fresh eyes,”
she explains. 

For a fee, Sohigian will also take down the decorations and many of her clients take her up on that. After all, who doesn’t need to relax after the holidays! 

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