Decorating the church for Christmas

More than a year ago, when we were trying to convince our loved ones we weren’t crazy for wanting to live in a church, I told my stepdaughter she should get on board because she would love the 18-foot Christmas tree we would put in the great room.

Well, it’s Christmastime, and we’re wanting to make good on our promises, but as it turns out 18-foot Christmas trees aren’t sold off the shelf at Home Depot. Or anywhere else for that matter.

Early last week, I stopped at Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Meijer’s, Hobby Lobby, Michael’s, Pier 1, Kohl’s and Bed, Bath & Beyond looking for a big enough artificial Christmas tree suitable for our Church Sweet Home. Nope, na da, no, nix, nope, nope, nope, no.

Most people buy six-foot Christmas trees. Sometimes 7.5 or 8 feet tall. I found a 9-foot pencil tree at Home Depot. That was the biggest. But not quite big enough. We’d ruled out the 18-foot model; it turns out 12-feet tall (plus a star topper) would do in the corner where the ceilings were lower.

So once again, Tyler turned to the internet. We found a 12-foot Christmas tree on Wayfair that could be delivered in two days. And I had a coupon. Click, click, click, and we were the proud new owners of a Christmas tree with 7,480 tips that came in five parts.

If you thought finding a 12-foot tree was the hard part, you’d be wrong.

Try assembling a 12-foot Christmas tree. It took both of us three hours to fluff all those wiry tips. And we summoned You-Can-Call-Me-Al, who was staining our entryway steps, to stack Part VI on Part III of the tree (Part V was light enough for me to stack from the top of a 10-foot ladder). Fortunately, all the of lights worked when we were done.

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I also needed the ladder to decorate the tree. But I got my workout in going up and down those rungs. Tyler helped hang 100 feet of ribbon, and I used four boxes of large silver ornaments, 18 white poinsettia blossoms, two feathery angels, one white peacock and every last white, silver, gold, blue and aquamarine ornament we owned or I could scavenge.

christmas tree decorated

christmas giftsAt the foot of the tree, all my Christmas gifts are wrapped in snowflake-accented craft paper with white ribbon. Instead of bows, I’m recycling a box of Christmas ornaments we unearthed when we demoed the church.


wreath 1I also hung dozens of feet of lighted flocked garland at the feet of our balcony railing. Really happy with the effect. We hung wreaths in front of all the double windows in the great room. Like the tree, the garland and wreaths are accented with silver, gold and aquamarine Christmas ornaments. I’m just a little bit obsessed with flocking and glitter this year.


Just when I thought I was finished decorating for Christmas, a new friend stopped by with one more Christmas decoration that, in a way, originated in our church. I’ll try share that with you later this week.




How to create a style guide for your home remodeling project

Our story so far: My husband Tyler and I bought an old Methodist church to renovate into our home, and after the lion’s share of interior demolition to create a blank slate, we are faced with ten thousand decisions about finishes.

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Up until I turned 50, I was happy to let my first husband decorate the house during my first marriage, and then with Tyler, we literally outfitted the first home we purchased together in the space of six weeks by shopping mostly at big-box stores. We were busy people then, and raising a teenager was our priority.

Now, as I pondered the design of our new home, I decided a vision board was in order. The array of options on display at Home Depot,, lighting stores and the various architectural salvage warehouses we visited overwhelmed us. We needed a method of narrowing down our options so we could actually make decisions when the time came. While Tyler pondered ways to install plumbing and electrical when we began our project, I meditated on the finishing details.

I began with my tool of choice: Words.

When I was a brand manager for a major scrapbooking company some two decades before, I had created style guides for logo use, brochure creation and scrapbook page design. These guides helped far-flung marketers and designers all over the world adhere to a coherent brand message about the company’s products. So I drew on that experience to write a style guide for our new house that would help Tyler and I create a home with a unified design.

First, I channeled my inner Joanna Gaines. She was the design guru behind HGTV’s “Fixer Upper” who managed to infuse her modern farmhouse spaces with clean lines, airy color palettes and recycled shiplap. Her “less is more” attitude inspired me, and her home design jibed with the way I had learned to design newspaper pages back when I was a newspaper copy editor: Form follows function. This principle says the shape of something (a building or a brochure or whatever) should be primarily related to its intended function or purpose. In other words, regarding architecture, don’t design a ballroom for a couch potato, and do build bookshelves for a bibliophile.

Then I invested in an armload of home decorating magazines and spent hours flipping through ideas on Pinterest [I have a Church Sweet Home board on Pinterest you can follow if you’re interested—just click on the Pinterest logo in the right column].

With my concepts in mind, I interviewed Tyler. After all, he was going to live here, too. A focus group is simple to assemble when there are only two people in the group. I asked him questions like “How do you want your kitchen to look?” “How to you want to feel when you walk in the front door?” “What colors do you hate?” and “What one word would you use to describe your style?”

Then I put pen to paper (fingers to keyboard, actually), and began.

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Tomorrow: The mission statement of our home style. Read it here.