Jolly up your home: Vail’s ‘Masked Man’ offers tips on seasonal decorations
Special to the Daily
Shopping for the season
One of the best ways to get new ideas on how to decorate for the holidays is to stroll through stores and see how the experts display new and traditional items. You can also look in home journals for a broad spectrum of ideas.
“Buy different things you might not normally try,” said Lou Meskimen, owner of Masked Man Services and Gilded Spruce in Vail. “You get your own taste by experimenting.”
Here are some retail and consignment boutiques where you can start:
Nest — With 10,000 square feet of showroom space, Nest prides itself on redefining the word “consignment” with a variety of high-end home furnishings. 222 Chapel Square Place, Avon; 970-949-0989; http://www.nestvail.com.
Gilded Spruce Christmas Shop: A year-round retail Christmas and gift shop that carries all types of holiday items. 183 Gore Creek Drive, Vail; 970-476-5113; http://www.thegildedspruce.com.
Treasures Quality Consignments — With showrooms in Avon, Eagle and Minturn, Treasures has earned a reputation for offering a wide variety of quality, upscale home accessories and furnishings. 970-845-9104; http://www.treasuresqualityconsignments.com.
Vail’s thickly lit evergreens brighten spirits as winter days become shorter and darker. Festivals featuring magical winter characters take center stage at Beaver Creek. At home, it seems natural to extend the invigorating holiday spirit through your own creative trimmings, beginning with fall’s inviting hues of red, orange and yellow and transitioning into December’s glimmering silvers, golds, bright reds and greens.
Thanksgiving falls just a month before Christmas, so it’s perfectly acceptable to string your outdoor lights early, for the Thanksgiving weekend, as well, said Lou “The Masked Man” Meskimen, owner of Masked Man Services and Gilded Spruce in Vail.
As a commercial and residential decorator, Meskimen was the first to debut what has come to be one of Vail’s signatures: trees neatly and meticulously layered with lights that follow each and every branch.
“We don’t just call them Christmas lights; we call them winter lights up here,” he said, pointing to how white outdoor tree lights can remain up throughout the ski season.
To accomplish the time-consuming feat of tracing branches with lights, you’ll need to devote about a dozen or more hours to layer in a case of lights — 48 strands with 50 lights per strand — which is enough to adorn a 9-foot evergreen. But if you’re not up to the task and don’t want to hire someone like Meskimen to do the work, here are some other ways to celebrate the season through sparkling decor.
Thanksgiving decor makes its greatest impact at the front door and inside the entryway.
“You want that visual that you’re having fun with the season and it feels comfortable,” Meskimen said.
Wreaths offer a warm welcome; silk leaf garlands accented with bright red berries, acorns and golden bows reflect the waning colors of Mother Nature as she settles into winter white.
Outdoors or in, Meskimen likes to incorporate traditional symbols of Thanksgiving, including pilgrims and Native Americans, as well as signs of harvest, such as pumpkins, oversized acorns and squash and metal, wooden or fabric turkeys. Bales of hay or bundled wheat hail to a time when life was simpler than it is now.
While people can buy a variety of scarecrows at nearly any store, going back to earlier days when families made scarecrows or carved pumpkins provides an opportunity for bonding and memory making.
An easy way to craft a scarecrow involves nailing a couple boards together, vertical for the body and head — perhaps with two legs, if you want to get fancy — and horizontal for arms. Pick out old jeans and a flannel from the this-is-so-old-it’s-too-late-to-donate pile. If you’re organized enough not to have such a pile, head to your nearest thrift store, dress the wooden skeleton and then stuff it with old rags. Paint or draw a face onto the head, which will most likely be topped with a folksy hat, and tuck straw into the neck, wrist and ankle areas to make it appear as though the scarecrow is made completely of straw. Either prop him, or her, against the entryway or drive a metal fencepost into the ground and wire the wood to the post.
“Making a scarecrow is easy, and it contributes to a fun afternoon on a weekend — or a weekend night, if the kids get their homework done,” Meskimen said.
Morphing Thanksgiving into December holiday decor involves adding lights, and perhaps green garlands, to doorframes. Once Thanksgiving weekend comes to a close, switch out fall leaves for evergreens, holly, poinsettias and other December foliage.
Whether or not you celebrate Christmas, December lends itself to outdoor decor.
“There are all kinds of items you can have fun with,” Meskimen said.
However, he cautions that less is better: A few lit trees or one to two sophisticated lawn art objects will do the trick. A garland wrapped with tiny white lights along railings and doors also makes for a simple and clean yet festive, look. A large leather strap with sleigh bells merrily signals guests’ front door entrance.
In the past few years, winter scenes on canvas, punctuated with tiny sparking lights, have become popular seasonal art pieces in the entryway, Meskimen said.
Beyond the entryway, first by illuminating dark corners with characters and lights of cheer, some homeowners fill the remaining rooms with smaller decorative items, placed into the nooks and crannies of kitchens, living rooms, bedrooms and bookshelves. But most people fall into what Meskimen calls the traditional category: They decorate a tree with ornaments from kids and grandkids to illustrate the family’s history, or they group sentimental items that share similar colors or patterns to create a nice sense of balance.
Perhaps the most memorable, yet overlooked, holiday element involves scents of home cooking and spices. Even if you end up faking it with scented candles, there’s nothing like cinnamon, cookies or baked apples to make a house feel like a home.
“That’s the thing that sets off the holidays, is the smell of good food,” Meskimen said.
So within your decor strategy, don’t stop at visuals. Incorporate as many senses as possible — the texture of Santa’s velvet coat, the sound of holiday songs and the scent of savory spices.