Need some new ideas for your holiday decor?
With its sunny climate, warm temperatures and near-total absence of snow, Tampa rarely evokes images of a winter wonderland. Nonetheless, professional holiday decorators say with a little creativity they can create a delightful holiday landscape even in tropical conditions.
Daniel Solomon, owner of highly rated interior decorating service Innovation Creation in Clearwater, says he frequently designs and installs Christmas decorations, sometimes starting as early as October. He says sand, palm trees and lights become crucial elements in a holiday theme. “We work with what we have, and that becomes the canvas,” he says. “I’ve made snowmen out of sand and called it a Florida snowman.” Solomon says he once affixed a sign reading “North Pole This Way” to the leafless trunk of a dead palm awaiting removal in one client’s yard. “She got a lot of compliments for that one,” he says.
Highly rated decorators such as Solomon and Chip Offers, owner of highly rated The Garden Gnome in Lutz, say prices range from a few hundred dollars for a consultation and a few strands of lights hung to tens of thousands of dollars for a major installation including hundreds of feet of lights, timed displays and other elaborate decorations. Experts recommend planning well in advance of the holidays. “My busiest time for holiday decorating is the first two weeks of December, but people will save themselves a lot of trouble and be much happier with the final product if they plan ahead,” Solomon says. “A lot of decorations are available to buyers like me as early as June or July.”
Richelle Rohrman Posch, an Angie’s List member from St. Pete Beach, waited to call Solomon until December in 2011. “No [other] company would do it,” says Posch, who ended up paying $300 for a light display. “Fortunately, Innovation Creation was willing to take on my project on short notice. He did quite a bit of work on my house, my palm trees and decorations.” Now, she says she uses him every year and doesn’t wait until the last minute to call.
Offers says the average job costs about $800, including setup and teardown. “It’s fairly affordable for a family to do a basic roof run of lights,” he says. He says he does the occasional Halloween decorating job, but nearly all of his business comes during the Christmas season. While some companies rent their decorations, others, including Offers’, consider them the property of the homeowner after installation.
Tiffany Maron, owner of highly rated Squeegee Squad in Riverview, says anyone hiring a holiday decorating service should have a clear idea of what comes with a company’s service. Squeegee Squad installs the client’s own decorations and charge an hourly rate. Solomon charges an hourly rate for both setup and teardown, and notes that teardown goes much more quickly. Organized homeowners make the work go more quickly, she advises. “If they have all their stuff out and ready to go, it goes faster,” she says. “If we end up waiting for the lights, cords and clips to come out, we’re wasting time and money.”
Most decorators offer other services in tandem with holiday decorating, due to its seasonal nature. Solomon works as an interior designer, and Offers devotes most of his time to landscaping and exterior design, but has the ladders, extension cords and wasp spray needed for decorating. Likewise, Squeegee Squad primarily washes windows, but installs holiday lights on about a dozen houses each year, all owned by regular clients with regular window-washing contracts. Pam Musser hires Squeegee Squad to hang holiday lights every year on her three-story home. The Lakeland member says their experience with ladders makes them uniquely qualified for the work. “I like to do things myself, because I’m hard to please, but my home has a third-story turret high up,” she says. “They researched how to walk on my tile roof so as not to cause any damage.”
Offers says some people require a bit of convincing to hire an outside provider to install holiday lights for a job that many consider DIY, but safety makes a compelling argument. “A woman hired us some years ago because she didn’t want her husband up on the roof anymore,” he says. “He wasn’t happy we were there because that was sort of ‘his’ job. But after it was done, he really liked it. Now he’s the first customer to call us every year.”