When it comes to holiday decorating, you can get no better advice than from Coleen Christian Burke, a three-time veteran holiday decorator for the White House and the author of
Burke certainly has the chops when it comes to creating holiday splendor in a home. Mrs. Bush and Mrs Obama have relied on her, and the team, to make the White House's beautiful seasonal transformation.
Today, she generously shares experiences of Christmas decorating at the White House and offers practical and insightful tips to bring the holiday White House style to our own homes.
Burke on the set of MSNBC
What is it like decorating for the White House?
"Decorating the White House for Christmas is a pure pinch me moment. You can't help but imagine all the amazing people and events that have been there before you. It's also daunting! The scale is enormous. The official Blue Room Tree is about 18 feet tall, and the greens are hung from archways that are 22 feet of the ground. And then you think of all the people who will come to see the decorations (upwards of 100,000) and you just do the best job you can. And since the White House is stunning on a "regular" day, there is really no way you can go wrong -- at least that is the pep talk I give myself!"
The Gorgeous Christmas with the First Ladies Book
Can you share some practical tips for those of us who would like to bring some Holiday White House style to our own homes?
My biggest tip is to start with a few empty boxes. Fill them up with your day to day accessories. This way there is a place for your holiday decor to go. If you don't put things away for the season, your decorations will feel like clutter. In the White House, they take down chandeliers and put furniture in storage. Do this on a much smaller scale in your home. Put your normal throw pillows away, and replace them with holiday pillows in festive colors.
The First Ladies also give a lot of thought to how things will look and feel to the American people. Try to identify something that can unify your decorations from room to room. This could be a color scheme, a ribbon, or even a fabric. Betty Ford loved to work with fabric. In one room she used it on the tree as garland, in another room she wrapped presents with it, in another it was used as a tree skirt. You could the same. Buy a fabric you love and use it as garland swags on your tree. In another room, you could use the fabric as a base of a table top display -- you get the idea.
Finally, the First Ladies try to decorate with meaning. Think of something close your heart and make sure it is part of your decorations. First Lady Michelle Obama loves to have White House visitors write messages to to those who will visit, or to those serving in our military. You could easily do the same on your tree -- you could have your children write messages of hope and gratitude and hang them from the branches.
Burke Decorates a White House Tree
When should a homeowner consider hiring a professional holiday decorator?
A homeowner should hire a professional when they are feeling overwhelmed or there is no joy in it for them. Some of my clients just have no time, some doubt their own abilities, and some just want a buddy to get through all the work. When I work with someone at Christmas, I really want to know what type of story they want their home to tell at the holidays. I get great joy creating wonderful Christmas' memories for families!
Any final advice?
Dont look at holiday decorating as a chore. Take a few minutes and try to figure out why you are decorating. Then decorate from that inspiration -- it will make the whole experience so much more meaningful and fun.
You can follow Burke, and her many home decorating tips on her lifestyle blog, "By Coleen."