Decking the halls like the professionals

Around 500 ornaments would hang on the grandiose Christmas tree that shone from the front window of the former Burge mansion in Vienna.

Decorating the three-story home could take a team of six people up to a week to complete and the finished product included garlands, wreaths, ribbons and little Christmas touches in every nook and cranny of the home.

In a Fleming home, a two-man professional installation team would meticulously check and repair hundreds of yards of lights before ultimately using a lift truck to install some of the lights along lush wreaths-some as tall as an average person.

Both of the homes were professionally decorated, a service offered by several area businesses for residents who want a unique, larger than life holiday display.

Many area residents and businesses use professional holiday decorating services for everything from outside lights, to the Christmas tree, to table settings and more.

Among other things, having a professional take care of holiday decor can free up a lot of time during a season already packed with events and errands.

“It’s a huge stress relief,” said Flite Freimann, senior counsel for Bricker & Eckler LLC on Front Street.

The law firm, which opened in Marietta this year, sought some local decorating help when it became part of the annual Holiday Loft Tour.

“We bought some decorations and then the realization was that we needed professional help,” said Freimann.

The firm enlisted Sarah Dye, owner of Top Drawer Furniture & Design Studio and Aletha Shirley, owner of Aletha’s & Porter’s Florist, to decorate the building, which included a live tree and an artificial tree among other festive items.

People on the loft tour raved about the decorations with several people even taking their picture in front of the large blue-themed tree upstairs, said Freimann.

Dye has been decorating homes for the holidays for at least 10 years. It is always gratifying to be a part of peoples’ celebration of the happiest time of year, she said.

Thursday she decorated the home of a long-time client and friend in Williamstown.

“It’s fun to see her collection of ornaments grow and see the stockings we add for her grandkids,” she said.

Clients use Dye’s decorating services for a variety of things-Christmas trees, entry ways, living areas and tablescapes are just some of the Christmas decoration projects she has taken on in the past.

The service is done at an hourly rate based on number of decorators and can vary, said Dye.

For Shirley, Christmas decorating is actually a return to her roots. Few people recall that Aletha’s actually morphed from what was first a Christmas decoration shop.

“In 1978 it started as The Santa House,” recalled Shirley.

The windows were full of decorated trees and they carried thousands of ornaments. It was not until one friend, then another, requested flower arrangements for their weddings that Aletha’s Florist was born.

When Shirley started decorating homes for Christmas years ago, it was as if she had come full circle.

“People might be having Christmas parties or they just want it done for themselves to enjoy,” she said.

Thursday, Shirley was putting the finishing touches on Marietta resident Linda Ward’s home in preparation for Saturday’s Holiday Tour of Homes sponsored by the Betsey Mills Club.

It was the first time Ward had used a professional decorator and she has been amazed by the subtle, but significants ways that Shirley makes the home stand out.

“She takes my stuff and does stuff with it that I would have never thought of,” she said.

A statue of a deer that previously sat on the floor has become the centerpiece on the mantle, elaborately wrapped garlands adorn cabinets, and pretend presents are cleverly stacked on the front porch.

“It’s been a learning process,” said Ward.

Besides being a stress relief, having a professional come in to decorate is also a safety issue, said Belpre resident Diana Leopold.

Now retired, Leopold used to work in Marietta Memorial Hospital’s CT (cat scan) Department and the holidays typically meant increased injuries, she said.

“I saw multiple people going up the ladders and they would fall,” she said.

Around five years ago, Leopold began enlisting the help of Holiday DeLights, an outdoor lighting and decoration service offered by Greenleaf Landscapes.

When residents or businesses first use the service, they purchase the lights and decorations to be put up and maintained by Greenleaf. The initial fee can range from around $750 to $1,500, said Greenleaf designer and salesman Patrick Miller.

“Then we come back after the Christmas season and we uninstall and store the lights,” he said.

The Greenleaf team also performs a weekly night check on the lights they have installed and perform maintenance on malfunctioning lights, added Miller. This year they have approximately 35 commercial and residential installations in the area,” he said.

After the initial year, renewal years typically cost about half the initial setup, he added.

The cost is truly worth the all-encompassing service, said Leopold.

“You don’t have to worry about anything,” she said.

For Leopold, a beautiful holiday lights display is a way to celebrate one of Christmas’ many wonderful traditions.

“There is so much history and legend in everything we do at Christmas time,” she said.