When you dream of a classic Christmas setting, chances are good that you picture something akin to Sarah Richardson Design‘s Canadian cottage project. You can almost hear White Christmas playing in the background, smell the hot cocoa heating on the stove, and feel the warmth of the fire. If this isn’t Christmas decorating #goals, I’m not sure what is.
But while it might seem as though a beautifully decorated home such as this one is way out of your reach, Sarah Richardson Design’s Lindsay Mens Craig and Laura Fremont believe in timelessness, which means you can build your collection of decor — and the memories that go with them — over time, rather than trying to do a full-on classic Christmas overhaul all at once.
We chatted with Lindsay and Laura to get the inside scoop on the designers’ approach to decorating someone else’s home for Christmas, their own holiday decorating plans, and what they consider to be their Christmas decor secret weapon.
Name: Lindsay Mens Craig & Laura Fremont, Designers at Sarah Richardson Design
Location: Muskoka, Ontario
Sq. Ft: 3,300
When do you start decorating for the holidays?
Laura: We start decorating for the holiday the first weekend in December.
Lindsay: End of November
Tell us about your holiday decorating process. How is it different working with clients than it is in your own home?
Laura & Lindsay: Decorating for the holiday at our house is pretty relaxed. We head out to pick out the tree on the first weekend in December, come home and plunk it into the tree stand and let it relax and settle overnight. Sunday is all about getting to decorate and the holiday music keeps us company all day long while we set everything up.
When it comes to decorating for a client for the holiday, it’s a lot like a load in or install day. We are on the clock and move as quickly and efficiently as possible. We have a call with the client prior to setting everything up, about what they want and the tone of the decor they would like to see for the holiday. We get everything purchased and organized in advance to bring to their home. From the moment we arrive to set up, we hit the ground running to get everything in place and then leave to let them enjoy the space over the season.
How do you budget when it comes to decorating seasonally? (Things can get expensive for such a short time of the year!).
Laura: When budgeting for holiday decorating, the bulk of our spending always goes to fresh greenery and flowers, which often needs to be refreshed throughout the season. We tend to buy flower varieties and greenery that lasts a little longer during the holiday season. We reuse all our lights and ornaments year after year; we like to stick with a classic theme so it never dates itself.
Lindsay: I’m about the same as Laura, with a tad more sparkle.
Where do you shop for holiday decor?
Laura: When shopping for holiday decor we like to keep things easy, you don’t need much to make it look amazing — some greenery and flowers from your local flower market, lots of votives, and tapered candles to keep things magical and bright. You can buy candles anywhere, and they really do wonders during the holiday season.
Lindsay: We love to shop at our local nursery for greenery.
Do you have any holiday traditions that are special to you?
Laura: We head out for brunch and then out to pick our tree, it’s a great day to spend together and to kick off the holiday season. The following day we decorate the tree while listening to holiday tunes and drinking hot chocolate.
Lindsay: Cookie baking day with my sisters and my kids — we tend to eat and drink more than we bake though 🙂
Do you have any tips for readers who may live in smaller apartments (and who are on a budget) who might not be able to decorate to their heart’s desire?
Laura: Use what you have and get creative. Grouping candles together that you already have with some greenery snipped or foraged from a hike or a walk can look very festive. Also, if you have some nice bowls or trays, throw in some ornaments or pinecones and add them to your coffee table or console to bring in more of that festive flair. Just a few holiday moments throughout your home go a long way.
Lindsay: Lots of lights, from candlelight to mini lights — for me they create such a cozy environment at night.
What was your childhood home decorated like at the holiday? Did you take any influence from your childhood when putting your clients’ homes together?
Laura: Our house had a lot of fun holiday decor, I wouldn’t say it was classic or timeless, but just a hodgepodge of stuff that we accumulated over each holiday season. I think what influenced me was to scale back, have less, and instead invest in some better quality ornaments and decor that I wouldn’t grow tired of for years to come. I aim for this with client work as well.
Lindsay: My mom went all out and started early — it was very tasteful, so in a way I’m still always trying to keep up with her.
How has decorating for the holidays evolved over the years for you?
Laura: My holiday style has evolved into edited timeless classics.
Lindsay: I think I have taken down the shine and sparkle. A lot of people agree that my Christmas decor has gotten more classic. I do have little girls though, so they like lots of lights — we went all out this year on both the exterior and interior with a ton of lights!
Is the decor you use in clients’ homes theirs? Do you use similar decor year after year or do your approach and theme change from one year to the next?
Laura & Lindsay: The decor we use in a clients home is theirs and it’s decided if it’s something they want to invest in and use year after year, or if they want to play up a certain theme or color each year. It’s all about having a conversation with the client and getting an idea and understanding of what they want.
What’s your favorite piece of holiday decor to work with?
Laura: Fresh greenery — nothing smells better throughout the house during the holiday season.
Lindsay: Completely agree, but I wrap mine in cordless lights.
Overall, what’s your favorite thing about styling homes for the holidays?
Laura: That we get to create a space for our client and their families to enjoy throughout the holiday season. Where they can laugh, celebrate, and be together.
Lindsay: Creating a space where our clients and their families will celebrate the holidays and entertain is a pretty good feeling.
What does your Christmas morning look like?
Laura: Wake up, hang out by the tree with a morning coffee, and dive into our stockings and presents, followed by a family breakfast.
Lindsay: It consists of a lot of baked goods, coffee with Bailey’s, and relaxing.
Do you have any holiday traditions you haven’t started yet, but are planning to?
Laura: We just had a baby who will be celebrating her first Christmas this year. She loves books and we thought it would be great to get her a holiday book and add on to her holiday book collection each Christmas and mark the year and date on each one.
Lindsay: A client of mine just told me she gets everyone in her family — young and old — PJs to wear Christmas Eve and I like the sound of that, so that’s on my list for this year.
Lindsay and Laura are The Everygirl…
Hot chocolate or hot cider?
Laura: Hot chocolate
Lindsay: Hot Cider
Favorite Christmas song?
Laura: Bing Crosby, “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”
Lindsay: Bing Crosby , “White Christmas”
Favorite Christmas movie?
Laura: The Holiday
Lindsay: Home Alone
Favorite Starbucks holiday drink?
Laura: I like to stick to a plain old cappuccino.
Lindsay: I can never veer from my coconut latte.
The best gift you’ve ever given?
Laura: Ski/spa weekend with the hubs, I guess it was a gift for me too… lol.
Lindsay: A really nice purse for my mom who never indulges on gifts for herself.
The great debate: when do you start listening to Christmas music?
Laura: We start the weekend we pick out our tree, which is typically the first week in December.
Lindsay: End of November
What’s at the top of your Christmas list this year?
Laura: Honestly, just spending time with my family and watching the kids enjoy all the holiday fun.
Lindsay: Lots of R&R with my family.
Credits: Photos originally published in House & Home magazine, December 2016