Holiday By Design: For the most festive home on the block, hire a professional

November 24, 2011
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By Lisa Girard

There’s nothing like a wonderful, festive home during the holidays, complete with lovely ornaments, perfectly draped garland and the smell of fresh flowers and live greens to bring it all to life. However, many of us simply don’t have the time—or in some cases, the styling sense—to pull it off in those weeks leading up to the holidays?

That’s why a number of local florists and other design houses offer their services to do it all for you. They’ll transform your home into a holiday wonderland, either using the decorations you already have stored away in the attic, or using their own items along with live plants and other enhancements.

“Most of the time people have their own decorations; it’s just a matter of putting them together and staging them,” says Betsy Ford, decorating coordinator for  Guaranteed Plants & Florist in the Locust section of Middletown. “Then we bring in live greens, magnolias and other touches to enhance what they already have.”

Guaranteed Plants & Florist has been decorating area homes for the holidays for several years and has a regular client list of more than 20 homes. Owned by Stevie and Todd Thompson and Stephen Powers, Guaranteed offers everything from custom wreaths and centerpieces to poinsettias and indoor plants. They’ll decorate window boxes, mirrors, staircases, mantels, tables and more. Appointments start right after Thanksgiving, but because they use live plants and flowers, prime decorating time is the week before Christmas.

“People either don’t want to do it themselves or they don’t have time, so they come in and pick out the things they want on their wreaths and arrangements, or we can design for them,” says Ford. “We use cut greens and live greens, and we can trim it so it looks perfect for the holidays. The main thing is we want to provide classic elegance and beauty.”

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According to Bob Sickles, owner of Sickles Market in Little Silver, some of the most popular decorating ideas this year are porch pots, made in a variety of materials from plastic to wrought iron, filled with seasonal greens, branches, berries, bows, ribbons, sparkles and other touches. They range in price from under $100 to $300 and up, depending on the contents, and can be done in any style to dress up the front porch both during the holidays and after.

Sickles also provides decorative services, most notably porch pots, and will send a seasoned expert to help with a front door or a front entrance. In addition, they offer clients an impressive selection of pre-decorated items, like small trees and wreaths, to make adorning your home easy and effortless.

Byford & Mills  in Little Silver is another design service that has a regular list of customers who hire them to ready their homes for parties, Christmas entertaining and more. Their designers visit the client’s home, see how many areas need to be decorated and look at the decorations they have versus what they need. Most importantly, they come away with a feeling of what the home is like and how they can properly embellish it.

“If the house is on the river, we might do a nautical holiday theme,” says designer Connie Majeski. “We gear it to the client’s taste. Every job is a little different, and we like to work outside the box.”

Majeski says they decorate everything from full rooms and mantles to stairways, windows and doors. But, she notes, the most important area is the entry hall, which is “your first impression of the home” and “tells you who the people are.” Adds fellow designer Lynda Berger, “We want to create a great, festive holiday ambience that reflects the home. Sometimes it’s more playful, sometimes more traditional, sometimes a little more modern, but it’s always about the people who live there.”

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Guaranteed Plants & Florist, 504 Locust Point Rd., Locust, (732) 291-3241,

Sickles Market, 1 Harrison Ave., Little Silver, (732) 741-9563,

Byford & Mills, 38 Church St., Little Silver, (732) 842-5778,


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