Bailey Rae loves to decorate, especially for Christmas. For her, the more glitter and sparkles, the better.
“I love Christmas because you can do so much to make your home glitzy and warm and comfortable,” says Rae, who works as an interior designer and decorator. “I’m having a couple of holiday parties, and I love when people come in and say ‘It’s so beautiful.’ Decorating makes the holiday season that much more special.”
Rae for the past three years had decorated celebrity cook Paula Deen’s home for the holidays. She and her husband moved to Des Moines from Savannah, Ga., this fall in order to be closer to family.
“My December is feeling empty without having to decorate her 14,000-square-foot estate, so my home is getting lots of attention this holiday season,” Rae says.
The focal point of Rae’s 1,200-square-foot loft is an 8-foot Christmas tree that she describes as “Southern stuffed,” a term used to refer to the overload of decorations on Christmas trees in the South. It’s filled with ball ornaments of various sizes in gold, silver and gilver — the combination of gold and silver — with splashes of dark red. She’s added ribbon and other items she’s stuck into the tree.
“I love sparkle and shiny,” she says. “I also like natural colors and natural decorating.”
She likes to decorate with pine cones and trees.
“I don’t really love the Santas and snowmen and the little stuff you set all over the place.”
Throughout the rest of the couple’s loft, Rae has added two lit and decorated trees in the foyer, a large wreath in the bedroom, and garland decorated with lights, balls and ribbon to the top of the kitchen cabinets.
“Sometimes inspiration just really comes to me while I’m decorating,” she says.
In all, Rae says she spends one full day decorating her tree and then time throughout the week to decorate the rest of the loft.
Meeting in the middle
Doug Hansen works in the magazine industry and spends his spring and summers planning for Christmas photo shoots both indoors and outdoors. That means he gets his fill of Christmas décor with his job.
“I’ve always, always had a lot of Christmas in my life,” he says, adding that he previously worked in visual merchandising where he also dealt with Christmas décor.
That’s why Hansen was always very minimal with Christmas decorating in his own home. However, his husband, Dan Warren, enjoys Christmas decorating.
“I think it just really speaks to him emotionally,” Hansen says of Warren. “He has a generous heart. I think (Christmas decorating) just strikes a chord with him.”
And the two enjoy celebrating the holiday. They’re very involved with their church, Plymouth Congregational and enjoy getting gifts for Warren’s children and grandchildren.
As a result: “We find ways to meet in the middle” when it comes to decorating, Hansen says.
The couple’s downtown loft is very open with modern décor, so they sought to find Christmas decorations that matched their taste and decorating style.
“A lot of the Christmas stuff out there has a really traditional aesthetic and it’s beautiful, but it looks off, it looks wrong in a modern living space. It just doesn’t fit,” Hansen says.
And because loft living requires minimal possessions, Hansen and Warren have always operated that when the Christmas decorations come out, other décor goes up to make room for it.
Decorating began as soon as the two returned home from Thanksgiving. Within an hour, they were out the door to get their tree. They selected a 9-foot tree that was set up on their outdoor terrace. They decorated it with lights and red and gold ornaments and set it in the outside their terrace door so they can view it from inside.
“It doesn’t take up floor space, and the cats don’t climb it,” Hansen says.
Inside, the couple has arranged their red-and-green-wrapped packages in a pile near the window as if they were set under the tree. Next to the packages is a large poinsettia. The couple traditionally purchases one every year from a local greenhouse.
The couple’s décor also includes a beautiful silver contemporary nativity along with a painted wooden nativity. On top of their kitchen cupboards sets several modern silhouette evergreen trees made from birch that they use for decoration all winter long.
They also have two goose feather Christmas trees — one antique and one new. Hansen says their simplicity and sparseness work well in the loft.
Next to the dining room table, the couple has hung a collection of antique Frankoma Christmas plates they began collecting after they found several in an antique store several years ago. Each plate is crafted from clay with a whitewash glaze and features a religious Christmas image.
“That’s not something I ever thought would have struck my fancy,” Hansen says.
But the couple has made collecting them a tradition and adds one almost every year or so. The collection has now grown to 16 plates.
Mary Boote knew she had to downsize with her Christmas decorating when she moved into a downtown condo 12 years ago.
“I now own a slim tree instead of a very full, large tree,” she says.
In addition to her tree, Boote does stockings for her grown children and grandchildren. She hosts an annual holiday open house for a group of friends to thank them for their friendship and to have a fun evening.
She plays holiday music, has pine-scented candles and does other little things to try to make the mood more festive.
Boote usually decorates her condo the weekend after Thanksgiving, though this year it was Dec. 1 before she was able to decorate.
Boote gave many of her ornaments to her children. When they were growing up, Boote gave them each an ornament for Christmas every year. When her children were married, Boote gave them their Christmas decorations as part of their wedding gift.
She says both children knew what it was as soon as they opened the box.
“As a mom, it was a way to say ‘I love you and you’ve started this life with this new person,’ ” Boote says.
She started anew after the kids were married and now decorates her tree with red, silver or crystal ornaments. Added to that are pictures of her grandkids in ornament frames and ornaments from her many travels.
“As I decorate my tree, I have great reminders of the places I’ve visited and friends I’ve been with,” she says.
Under the tree are Boote’s packages, which she always wraps in red or silver paper.
“When they’re all under there, they’re very beautiful,” she says.
And one of those presents is always matching personalized pajamas for her grandchildren. The kids then put on the pajamas and take a group photo.
During the holiday season, Boote also sets out several of the Christmas-themed cross-stitches her mother made for her. One displays the three magi and another has the first verse of “Silent Night.” Music has always been an important aspect of Boote’s family’s life.
“I try to incorporate those because it’s a fabulous reminder to me of my mom,” she says.
Boote usually hosts Christmas at her condo, but this year with the addition of a sixth grandchild, the family has decided to move the celebration to her son’s house in Cedar Falls. Boote will still do the cooking and make the traditional prime rib meal.
The family also always has a birthday cake for Jesus, which is then eaten for Christmas dessert.
“We started that many, many years ago,” Boote says. “We always have a birthday cake with a candle and we single ‘Happy Birthday’ to Jesus. The kids love that, and they understand that.”
Another tradition Boote started with her children when they were young is to make cut-out sugar cookies on the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend. The family members set up a tarp on the floor and put the table over it and then rolled out, cut out, baked and frosted dozens of sugar cookies. The cookies were then given to Sunday school teachers, the newspaper delivery person, baby-sitters and others as “thank yous” at Christmastime.
Boote’s children have continued the tradition and invite other family friends to join them in the festivities.