I decorate other people's homes for Christmas. I'll put absolutely anything on a tree and charge my clients at least $1,800 for the privilege.
Maxine White, 45, is a Christmas consultant at The Christmas Decorators in England.
She charges a minimum of £1,500 ($1,800) to decorate high-end homes for the festive season.
Despite what most people think, White is busy year-round – and always thinking about Christmas.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Maxine White, 45, a specialist Christmas consultant at The Christmas Decorators. It has been edited for length and clarity.
I'm a professional Christmas consultant — which means I get paid to decorate other people's homes and businesses for the festive season.
"What do you do for the rest of the year?" is a question I probably get asked every single day.
Despite what most people think, it's a full-time job. Even at the height of summer, I'm thinking about festive garlands, lights, baubles and pine trees.
In January, my team and I take down all of the decorations that we put up in October, November and December. We start off with the commercial displays, because businesses are usually keen to switch to more seasonally-appropriate decorations, and then we move onto the residential homes.
As soon as we're done with all the removals, the whole business of Christmas starts up again.
It takes a lot of planning. We organize many of our commercial deals at the beginning of the year and then start developing plans, drafting designs, and making unique decorations.
A lot of our designs are bespoke, so we'll spend several months building or commissioning specialist pieces.
We generally start getting a load of new calls to decorate high-end homes in September. Our customers are people who want something truly luxurious — and can afford to make it happen.
I work closely with all of my clients so that I can give them exactly what they want. I'll offer some advice, but it's really all down to them.
My minimum price for decorating a residential home is £1,500 (a little over $1,800). That's just for a standard scheme with a single tree, decorations, garlands, and light displays. Our lights are commercial-grade, so they're a lot brighter than anything you'd find on the high street.
My fee includes all the decorations — but my clients usually add in some sentimental items of their own.
It takes me about two hours to decorate a standard 8ft tree, with the help of one of my team members.
I use at least 360 baubles — and that's just as a base — and people pay a lot more for more personalized and elaborate displays.
After that, I'll honestly put anything on a tree. I hang lanterns, bird cages, feathers, flowers, mirrors, and big lumps of wood. I'm always looking for unique items when I go for walks.
My philosophy is this: If you can dangle it, you can put it on a tree.
I don't have any specialist tools for decorating people's homes. It's just me and my hands.
Most people see festive decoration as a personal activity you do with your kids, but everyone's different.
Some women say: "No! I don't want the kids touching the tree!" That's not the sort of person I am — I love it when the kids get involved.
When I'm decorating for a family, I decorate the base of the tree myself, and then I let the children put on some more sentimental decorations with their parents.
That means they get the best of both worlds: a personal and a professional touch.
When it comes to festive decoration, there's nothing I wouldn't be willing to try. One Christmas, a woman commissioned me to arrange some baubles in the shape of golden lions, in honor of her husband's racehorse — which was called Golden Lion.
This year, for example, I've noticed that color schemes have been quite unusual. Jewel colors are really popular.
I recently decorated an amazing house in the East of England. It had an indoor slide, which we incorporated into our decorations. The lady who owned it opted for pastel hues in blue, pink and purple.
My clients all love Christmas so they like to go all out. One of them has five Christmas trees inside her home — and they're all completely unique to match the décor and color scheme of each room.
I still always decorate my own home as well — but I have to do it early. My kids and I put up our Christmas tree around November 1. If I leave it too late, I get quite sick of decorating trees, and then my own one won't look as nice.
I became a full-time professional Christmas decorator about five years ago. I was turning forty, and I decided it was important to find a career that I genuinely really wanted to do.
I definitely enjoy it, but it's hectic. People are always calling with last-minute requests and it's tough to fit everything in because my calendar is completely full when it gets to November and December. Because it's Christmas, you have to let a lot of stuff go over your head, because otherwise you'd get super stressed.
It's the perfect job for me because I've always loved Christmas and had a good eye for design. In my old job, I used to refurbish homes and I've kept all my favorite parts of that — just with a festive touch!
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