Designer tips on making your holiday decorating easier

By Maura Wery

If the thought of putting up your Christmas tree makes you feel less fa-la-la and more like The Grinch, never fear: a decoration revamp is coming your way.

Getting ready for the holidays doesn’t have to be a mess of tangled Christmas lights and tinsel. With a few essential items and a couple of hints, you can make your home a stylish haven for the wintertime seaon.

Designer Rob Dudley has been professionally decorating homes in the area for years, and sells holiday and home decor items at his store, Gatherings on the Prairie, in Junction City. He offered tips that can help those grinches get back into the holiday decorating spirit and make their homes ready for a holly jolly Christmas.

Try tiny lights

Dudley said that one of the most popular items this season are small, pearl shaped LED Christmas lights. These kinds of lights are a bit different from the tradition “icicle” lights most are used to.

“The lights are on a small, thin wire, and you can bend them or twist them however you want,” he said.

Dudley thinks the lights are desired for a number of reasons.

“People like them because the lights are small and are battery operated and are timed versus traditional lights,” he said.


Use traditional colors

For Dudley, the idea of using “trendy” colors for Christmas is somewhat blasphemous.

“I’m very traditional,” Dudley said. “I grew up in a family where there were traditional colors: green, red, silver and white. So that’s what I grew up with, and that’s what I gravitate towards.”

Dudley said that the traditional color scheme helps people to build a collection of decorations that is always coordinated.

“If you spend 10, 15 years buying red and green, and that’s what your tree is, they are less likely to punt on that idea and go pink and blue or whatever,” Dudley said. “People like adding to what they’ve got. People come in here they say, ‘I know what I buy this year will match the stuff that I got last year.’”


Invest in greenery

Dudley says that there are a few essential things that decorators need to make their Christmas decorations solid. One of the biggest is investing in quality greenery, like garlands and “picks” for accenting decorations.

Picks can be use in a variety of applications.

“You walk around and tuck these things into items and you get the feel of the holidays,” Dudley said.

And picks aren’t just for adding accent to other decorations; they can also be used to make cheaper items have the illusion of being very polished and expensive.

Dudley took a $3 tree which he said looks “hideous” without any decorations on it, and with picks turned it into what looks like a more natural Christmas tree.

“I like things that are very natural,” Dudley said. “I like it to look like it has just been picked off the tree.”

Dudley also likes the picks because they are easy.

“You just shape and stick them wherever,” he said. “There is no skill involved.”


Just add ribbon

Another essential item that Dudley reaches for is ribbon.

“I’ve come to the conclusion that ribbon is like clothing for women; it just makes them happy,” Dudley said.

Much like picks, ribbon can be used to spruce up decorations, especially those that have been used year after year. One way is to add a bow, though Dudley said he’s not a huge bow person himself.

“I don’t make bows very well, so I just normally don’t use them,” Dudley said. What he does do is loop ribbon to give the illusion of a bow. He said that using this concept he can add new life to old wreaths and Christmas items. He also said that giving a nice spool of ribbon as a gift is great for decorators on your lists.


Build around one nice piece

Most people are “budget conscious to some degree,” Dudley said. For those who are trying to make their decorating dollar stretch, he suggested starting with one really great item and building from that over the years.

“Start off with a beautiful wreath and hang it above your fireplace, if you have it.”

Overall, he recommends being creative and working within your limitations.

“If your budget is very limited, then a large tree with a lot of ornaments is not going to be in the budget.”


Find the right hardware

For hanging and installing holiday decor, Dudley suggested using Command Strips, or similar adhesive-strip hooks, available at many retail stores. 

“They come in different sizes, all colors and weights to hold even the tiniest things,” Dudley said. They also don’t damage most walls and surfaces.

He also suggests using an uncommon item: zip ties.

“You can hook a lot of things together with zip ties,” Dudley said. “It’s quick, it’s easy, and when you decide to you don’t want something that’s in with your other decorations anymore, you can just clip it off, and it’s gone without ruining anything.”

Dudley said that most decorators can find zip ties at hardware stores.


Store decorations properly

Dudley said that the storage issues can be fixed with some simple common sense. He said that if you invest in quality items, don’t store them improperly in an attic or basement because extreme heat or cold can cause deterioration, melting or cracking.

“If you can, store them in the same temperature in which you live,” Dudley said. Dudley also suggests taking the time to pack items away.

“I think after Christmas people are like, ‘Okay, I’m done with it,’ and they move on,” Dudley said.

He suggests getting good Rubbermaid containers and taking the time to wrap decorations and ornaments after the season is over, so your hard work and money doesn’t go to waste.

His last piece of advice?

“Don’t cram everything into one box! It’s hard on that kind of stuff.”

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