For the last 30 years, Bloomfield Hills interior designer Paul Feiten, of Paul Feiten Design, has offered his clients a whole-house Christmas decorating service to complement the lines and furnishings he’s created in their homes.
“It began by accident,” the designer says, “after a client asked me, ‘You’ve designed it, now can you decorate it for the holidays?’ ”
Every Christmas season since then, Feiten has returned to decorate the homes of those clients who choose to take advantage of this special service. He says the fee can be sizable, and depends on the size of the project. “I always do a tree (or several) and something on the mantel. It depends on what the client wants.”
Take the case of the Rochester Hills residence shown here. “Because this home is more contemporary, the clients wanted things more lighthearted in nature,” Feiten explains.
Each room of the house follows a nontraditional color theme but still captures the nostalgia and memories of holidays past with garlands, wreaths, shiny bulbs, and twinkling lights everywhere — on several trees, along windowsills, up the staircase, across the mantel, adorning the chandelier and bathroom sconces, and even strung around the canopy rails in the bedroom. Large ornaments, polka dots, and squiggly lines give the living room a feeling reminiscent of Dr. Seuss, while the dining room’s graceful, narrow tree is glammed up with leopard-print bows and the windows are dripping with Swarovski crystal snowflakes. A tree in the homeowners’ son’s room features sweet teddy bears.
Feiten designs and conceptualizes a plan for each client; he says the plans are often dictated by product availability.
“I don’t have a big aha moment; I have to evaluate what’s on the market. The client purchases things, too, like the hot-pink roping on the stairs,” Feiten says. After the plan is finalized, his associate, Lisa Bommarito, and her team install it. Depending on a home’s size and intricacy, it can take up to three days to execute the plan. Once the decorations are up, Feiten returns to tweak the display and take notes for the following year.
When the holiday season is over, Bommarito and her staff return to take everything down and box the items up in big, solid plastic bins. They carefully label each bin, specifically indicating where all of the pieces will go the next year. The bins are stored in the client’s home.
Like so many people who grew up in the Detroit area, Feiten says his holiday design inspiration comes from his visits to the gone but never forgotten Christmas display at the J.L. Hudson Co.’s downtown department store — an annual fantasy land of lights, toys, faux snow, and animation that dazzled kids and adults alike.
“I remember my family piling into our station wagon and driving from Farmington to downtown Detroit. My parents dropped us off in front of Hudson’s. We went inside, rode up the elevator to the 12th floor, the accordion iron doors opened, and — boom! — we were in La La Land. It was like magic.”
As for the designer’s own home, which he still has time to decorate even after doing all the others on his list, he likes to keep it simple and organic.
“I like more neutral browns and beiges, with a little bling. What I do on my Christmas trees is layer the multicolored big bulbs I grew up with, along with white mini-lights. It makes for a beautiful glow with the old, warmer bulbs and the newer, bright lights.”
Feiten offers these tips for DIY decorators: “Use removable Command hooks and pipe cleaners to hang and attach bulbs, garlands, and wreaths, and label everything when you’re taking down your tree.”
But if the thought of pulling out your tangled mess of bulbs, lights, garlands, and other ornaments year after year overwhelms you, Feiten’s got the answer: “Hire a professional.”