AMELIA ANN takes decorating for Christmas to a whole new level.
“My middle name is Christmas,” laughs Amelia Ann as she stands bathed in the warm light from the thousands of festive lights dotting her living room. “In fact, I like Christmas so much that this house was built for it. When we designed the apartment, I made them put in a fake mantle so I’d have somewhere to put a swag.”
And what a swag it is. Amelia has woven together three different vines and then added white peacocks (made with real feathers), small, warm white LED lights, and champagne and gold-coloured ornaments. Large crystal icicles hang down, too, along with a very special, vintage-like glass ornament she bought at the Salzburg Christmas markets.
“The markets were amazing, really exciting. Whenever I go into a Christmas shop, my hands start to tingle and my knees go weak. I need to look at everything and then my brain starts whirling, thinking about what I can do with everything. I often buy something now for later so I have it when opportunity pops up.”
How it all began
Amelia’s passion started when she decorated her first tree back in 2004. The next year, she entertained clients and friends for holiday drinks. The holiday party became an annual institution and, as the guest list grew, so did her Christmas collection.
This year, she decided to use her champagne and soft gold ornaments, but she also has a collection of red and bright gold ornaments and another silver colour scheme, too. She chooses which to use depending on her mood.
“The year I decided to change from red, I went to Pollyanna Concepts and picked out what I loved. I put it all on the table and started to build and layer. It’s all a curation really.” She bought all the big pieces at once several years ago and got a 30 percent discount by going straight to the source. It took her about five hours to piece it all together before she walked out with her prizes.
Then she shopped around for the smaller pieces, something she continues to do. She takes a photo of her tree with her and looks at it to make sure it fits in before she buys something. Christmas at Amelia’s is always a work in progress.
Getting the decorations up
Amelia mixes her own essential oils, another passion of hers. So, to get her in the mood, she creates a special holiday scent that floods the home. Then she gets busy, decorating everything herself, taking about a week to trim the 2,000-square-foot apartment. Two taller pieces in her home are topped with asymmetrical decorations she builds one piece at a time. “Asymmetrical is important because you don’t want your home to look like Lego, though the mantle should be balanced. When I do the taller pieces, I go up and down the ladder a lot. I look at what’s working and what isn’t and climb up again. I end up doing a yoga pose of sorts on top of the ladder to get just the look I want.”
The dining table is set with metallic poinsettias, white branches with golden ornaments woven together to get a magical look. There are also some special ornaments that open. She sometimes hides notes or candy inside, making dinner around the table all the more special. Another touch is the way she intentionally builds the table decorations low so they don’t get in the way of conversation.
The jaw-dropping tree
The real showstopper, of course, is the eight-foot faux Christmas tree. “I always had a real tree until my daughter was born. I didn’t want her getting into the sap so we switched.”
The tree is not pre-lit. Oh no. Rather, Amelia wraps the entire length of each branch individually, using about a thousand lights in total. “It’s important to put the lights all the way back to the trunk to give the tree depth.”
After the lights go on, she then adds a few types of lighter-coloured, frosted branches and three different kinds of swag, which she secures to the tree with floral wire. The lighter branches and swag help offset the 500 ornaments, which look like glass, but are actually plastic. “To really have an impact, you need 30 to 50 of the same type of ornament.”
She tops the tree not with an angel, but rather a whimsical collection of branches. “The tree was kind of bald on top, so I had to come up with some way to cover it up,” she smiles. “But I love it. There are so many memories tied up with it – it’s especially sentimental for me.”
Across from the tree sits Amelia’s pride and joy, her piano. To balance the tree, she dresses the piano using a white branch and spectacular, long gold swags. In the middle of it all sits Lakshmi, her goddess. “She deserves a nice place to sit,” Amelia explains. A Singaporean raised Catholic, Amelia now weaves together her religions kind of like she weaves together her decorations, taking what she likes from each and melding them together.
“I generally use odd numbers when I put things together, and with the swag, I often weave three different kinds together. I want there to be a bit of whimsy and for it to look wild, while not going ‘cray-cray’!”
Storing it all
Believe it or not, Amelia stores everything in her apartment – except the tree, which she wraps with shrink wrap to keep dust-free before taking it to a warehouse.
The rest of the items are lovingly wrapped individually in special anti-acid and moisture absorbing tissues. “It takes a lot longer to put it up than it does to get it out,” laments Amelia. “Decorating is a lot more fun than packing! But I have so much fun doing the decorating that it’s all worth it. Truth? I would like nothing more than to do this for a living!”
#1 Use floral wire to hang ornaments so they stay in place and don’t fall.
#2 Wind the lights like a ball of yarn before decorating the tree. This makes it easier to pull the lights through.
#3 For every foot of tree, you need one string of lights.
#4 Use LED warm white lights rather than bright white lights.
#5 Make decorations asymmetrical except for mantle pieces. Odd numbers are best.
#6 Use 30 to 50 of the same ornaments to make an impact.
#7 Whenever possible, go to the wholesaler.
• Check out the wholesalers at KINEX Mall, particularly Steve Florist, Vanda Win, Daco and Ming Sing.
• Pollyanna Concepts has great decorations; find it at Robinsons.
• For smaller pieces and ornaments, try AliExpress, Metro, Robinsons and TANGS.
Looking for more on the festive season?
Gorgeous Christmas gift ideas for kids
How to host an easy Christmas party
This article first appeared in the December 2019 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase a copy or subscribe so you never miss an issue!