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My holiday decorating tip for the year — seek professional help

By Paul Viau | Dec 14, 2016
Photo by: Carol Viau HOLIDAY DECORATING MADE EASY — Designer Hunter Gardner gives the Viau Christmas tree top a 'winter wonderland' look, courtesy of a certificate Carol won when her ticket was drawn at the Waynesville Garden Club annual auction.

For years now, I have been photographing J. Arthur’s beautiful Christmas tree and marveling at the creativity of Maggie Valley’s decorators-in-chief, Troy Graves and Scott Nielsen, co-owners of Cabbage Rose.

This year’s 22-foot Fraser fir is (almost literally) through-the-roof spectacular, but my wife discovered a way for our, moderately-sized, artificial tree to rise (albeit, only 8-feet) to new heights of splendor this year.

Before I go into the details, I must confess that stringing lights on our tree is not exactly my favorite holiday experience. Between uncooperative lights and my OCD nature, on more than one occasion — I have completely thrown a hissy-fit and stormed out of the house in anger.

One Christmas, during our Florida days, I actually abandoned Carol and our guests from England, mid light stringing problems, and fled the premises for an hour-long, cathartic motorcycle ride.

Upon my return, I was surprised and delighted to find that Carol and ‘The Brits’ had pressed on in my absence and beautifully lighted the tree.

That should have been a clue — life is too short. Let others decorate your Christmas tree.

Fast forward to this year, where I now stand before our revitalized Christmas tree and marvel at its incredible beauty — all courtesy of ‘Lady Luck’ and Waynesville designer Hunter Gardner.

Carol, who never wins anything, broke her string of not-so-good luck and hit it big. Her ticket was drawn at the annual auction for the Waynesville Garden Club and she came went home with a certificate for “Professional holiday decoration for one room in your house” from Waynesville’s The Superior Finish.

When she contacted them, she was delighted to find out that Superior Finish would decorate with her/our own decorations. Then she started thinking — “We always put the stockings there, and the Santa there,” etc.

When I found out that all I had to do was bring up the tree, the lights, and the ornaments, then leave the house, I was ecstatic.

Carol, on the other hand, was reserved. Think about it — someone else decorating your tree, adorning your fireplace mantle (where Santa makes his big appearance) then staging all your other decorations. What could possibly go wrong?

Given Carol’s concern, I was very supportive. The morning Gardner, from The Superior Finish, was to come over, I brought up the tree, the lights and the decorations, then ‘bailed’ and left for Asheville.

About noon, I checked in with Carol and she was with Gardner at Michaels “… getting balls and poinsettias.”

I pressed on with my Asheville sojourn, visiting more breweries, then came home about 3 p.m.

Carol and Hunter were still working on the tree, and Carol had her turn to ‘abandon ship’ for a Sarge’s Animal Rescue Foundation meeting, which left me catering to Hunter. We opened a bottle of wine and I sliced some salami and slaughtered a wedge of brie. The makeshift dinner put new wind in Hunter’s sails and he pressed on decorating the mantle, buffet remaining living room area — while I finished last week’s column on the Cubs World Series win.

As Hunter finished-up, we stood back and admired his work, and then he said something like,

“You know this sofa is in the wrong place. It should be against the wall the chairs should go where the couch was.”

“And the Native American drum on that wall is lost. It should go over there,” etc.

Always being one to give designers their wings, I said, “Let’s do it.”

So in the next 30 minutes, we moved everything in the living room to a new place, except for the fireplace, and it looked great. Carol arrived home shortly thereafter, and she, too, was surprised and pleased.

Of course, it has taken some time for us to adjust to the complete furniture swap. Even our cats seem discombobulated. But the tree, the mantle and newly decorated living room areas are now differently and beautifully staged for a very merry Christmas.

As I write this column, we are readying for a holiday gathering of our homeowners association board, and can’t wait to see their reactions and hear their compliments.

In conclusion, we are extremely grateful to Hunter Gardner; we are considering having him stage the house for Easter, autumn and again next Christmas.

I might even let him stage my beer-themed man cave. He could put some ‘tap’ in my tap handle collection and give a new look to my predominantly New Belgium theme.

A toast to looking at things through a true designer’s eyes.