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VOL. 130 | NO. 234 | Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Memphis Designers Aim to Remove Holiday Stress


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’Tis the season for back pain that comes with the struggle of dragging an artificial Christmas tree through a tight attic door opening and down the stairs.

Ashley Oldham of 117 Event Design decorates a Christmas tree at a client’s home in Atoka. Oldham markets her holiday services to busy parents who may enjoy decorating after someone else puts up the tree and lights.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

Children might enjoy decorating the tree each year, but whoever gets the joy of carrying it from its 11-month hiding place in the attic might not have the same idea, as artificial branches leave scratch marks on all exposed skin.

A joyous time of the year often is sandwiched between the exhaustion and stress of putting up and taking down a tree. But numerous Memphis businesses offer services to remove at least some of the decorating stress.

Local interior designers provide some range of Christmas decorating for residential clients, including Anne Canale of Anne Canale Designs. She decorates 12 to 15 homes every season, but it wasn’t something she set out to offer when she got into the business 15 years ago.

“Christmas snowballed, pardon the pun,” she said. “It started with clients saying, ‘Oh my gosh, Christmas is such a headache. Can you help me?’”

Canale has built a decorating service to also include some commercial clients. With the help of designer Lisa Miles Russell of L.M. Designs, Canale begins putting up decorations for clients in early November.

Interior designers aren’t the only ones to offer decorating help. A number of lawn care and landscaping businesses offer exterior light services, while florists help master beautiful wreaths, table centerpieces and arrangements for residential and commercial customers. And not every client is a big hotel with a beautiful lobby or a homeowner with multiple staircases and five Christmas trees to decorate.

Some entrepreneurs aren’t exactly in the design or landscape business but still have found a niche to fill. Ashley Oldham owns 117 Event Design, an East Memphis event planning business that focuses primarily on weddings.

“What I came across in wedding planning is my girls are super busy,” Oldham said. “They didn’t have time to plan their wedding. They became working moms, and pulling trees out of the attic can be more of a chore than an enjoyable experience.”

Oldham said the additional service is good business timing; she doesn’t plan many weddings in the winter months. She said she markets the service to busy parents who want to enjoy decorating their home, only after someone else puts up the tree and lights.

“Christmas snowballed, pardon the pun. It started with clients saying, ‘Oh my gosh, Christmas is such a headache. Can you help me?’”

–Anne Canale
Anne Canale Designs

Oldham will come in during the day and put up a tree with all the lights and garland while everyone is at work or school.

“I remember growing up, my mom worked, and the look on her face when she came home and we wanted to put up the tree. She wanted to do it but she was so strapped for time,” Oldham said. “If I can take that off clients and they can come home from work and the tree is up and they can go straight to put the ornaments on, it’s more of a positive experience.”

Working with a business can provide a unique perspective to help a client mix things up, especially after using the same ornaments, mantelpiece greenery and Nativity scenes year after year. That’s where interior designers like Canale can use their expertise to add new ideas to a family’s traditional constants.

“I think most people can get stuck in a rut,” she said. “I can change it up for them and repurpose things. … A lot of the bigger homes have multiple trees and when I go to market I purchase for them things that coordinate with the interior of their home.”

Canale said she also works with what the client already has, mixing in family ornaments and other timeless items. And it helps, she said, that most of her Christmas homes are also interior design clients, meaning she already has a good feel for what works.

“It is rewarding because the interior design part of it, there is no sense of closure on a home,” Canale said. “You’re constantly doing a different area of the house. It seems like there is always something. But with Christmas you put it up and everybody sees it. It’s a sense of accomplishment. People are happy.”

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