STANLY MAGAZINE: For many residents, Christmas is a time for decorations

Published 9:59 am Tuesday, November 22, 2022

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Every year, in early October, Austin and Megan King begin decorating for the holiday season. But they are not getting out ghosts and goblins for Halloween; the Kings are preparing for Christmas.

And unlike many people, who often wait until after Thanksgiving and decorate only certain portions of their home, the Kings, whose house on North 3rd Street in Albemarle has been featured on the Holiday Tour of Homes, go all-out.

“Everything’s intentional,” said Austin. “So the wrapping paper will match what’s on the trees. There’s a method to the madness.”

Megan added that she does not buy wrapping paper that will not complement the decor.

Family room fireplace with handmade custom stockings, a holiday family canvas and vintage candle blow molds. Photo courtesy of Megan King.

There are typically at least two full-sized Christmas trees in the house and most of the family’s pictures and other items on the walls get temporarily replaced with all kinds of Christmas decor. The couple enjoy looking for vintage items, especially antiquing.

Over the years, the couple, who married in 2015, have accumulated lots of holiday decorations, especially on the day after Christmas, when Megan enjoys shopping at Target.

“If we see something we want to get it and then we want to use it and showcase it,” Megan said.

One of the signature pieces is a large Santa Claus painting created by Eli Williams that was commissioned by Atrium Health.

Both Megan and Austin come from families that liked to decorate for the holidays, but they took it to another level once they came together. Utilizing weekends to set up both the interior and exterior of the home, the Kings typically have their house fully decorated for the Christmas season by the beginning of November. They like to watch the classic “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” while getting everything set up.

Each of the main rooms are usually color-coordinated (the formal living area, featuring vintage pink tweed furniture, is typically set with silver and gold decor) while the exterior includes multi-colored lights and wreaths along the the windows and old Albemarle street bells.

While their teenage son Khi has largely outgrown wanting to help his parents — Megan jokes that he thinks the family is “ridiculous” — their daughter Ellison, who is 3, still really appreciates the magic of the holiday season.

“She just gets so excited,” Megan said. “She just has so much joy that it’s worth the work that we have to put into it.”

Austin and Megan King with children Khi and Ellison and family pet Boone. Photo courtesy of Megan King.

Having always had an eye for design, the family had an interior design business a few years ago, helping people decorate their homes, especially during the holidays. Between juggling two kids and their own jobs, they could not sustain it though they still find time to decorate a house in the community each year for Christmas.

Both have a passion for interior design and have certain skills that complement the other. Austin, for example, can often visualize what a room will look like before the decorations begin.

“We work tougher well, which makes the process a little easier,” Megan said. “It’s a team effort.”

And despite the notion that interior design is often more associated with women, Austin is just as passionate about getting his home decorated.

“He cares just as much about what things look like as I do,” Megan said.

Some of the Kings holiday traditions include hosting Christmas breakfast or lunch with both of their families along with driving around looking at lights and getting Chinese food at night.

Formal living area featuring a vintage pink tweed furniture set with silver and gold decor. Photo courtesy of Megan King.

Another Albemarle resident who enjoys the holiday is Rose Smith, who regularly bedazzles her home with an assortment of Christmas trees and other items, including a life-size sleigh and numerous Santa figurines (she estimates she has around 25). The outside of her home, which is more minimal, tends to include wreaths on the windows, yellow lights and trees beside the door.

In a tradition that began in 2015, Smith invites her friends and family to attend a lavish Christmas open house every other year in early December. With each iteration seemingly getting more festive than the last, Smith finds ways to add more and more decorations. Smith had 17 trees inside her home for last year’s event — her most ever.

“I love Christmas and I love decorating,” she said.

Smith had 189 people attend her party in 2019, the most ever, though the number declined to 132 last year.

After spending so much time over the years decorating her home, her sister Debbie suggested she open her home up to the public.

“She said, ‘Why don’t you do an open house? There’s people that would love to see this,’ ” Rose recalled her sister told her.

During off-years, Smith still enjoys decorating, but, like the Kings, she also enjoys helping others to spruce up their homes.

“I have a lot of people that reach out and ask if I will come and help them, and so my off-year, I’m at other people’s homes helping them, which usually is friends and family,” including her three daughters, Smith said.

Her passion for Christmas dates back to her childhood years, when she remembers being enamored with silver tinsel trees her family regularly put up. Her father would mount a color wheel on the wall, behind the tree, which appeared to show the tree turning colors.

“As a child I was just fascinated that that tree would turn a different color,” Smith said. “The silver tree would turn whatever color it would come to — it would be blue and then it would be green.”

Smith also liked when her mother spent hours meticulously attaching icicles to the trees, which made them look frozen. It was this dedication and thoroughness to the craft of decorating that Smith said she inherited from her parents.

Smith did not go all-out when her children were younger. But now that they are married with kids of their own and she recently retired from a 40-year career as a pharmacist technician, she has ample time to purchase new decorations and ornaments and methodically place them all around her home. She likes to be the only one decorating, because she often changes things a lot.

The original Dept.56 Christmas Village. Photo courtesy of Rose Smith.

During the years when she hosts her Christmas party (the next one will be in 2023), every room is decorated with a specific theme in mind. Her trees, which are about seven and a half feet tall, are each different: Last year, for example, she had a snowman tree, a gingerbread man tree and a red, black and white tree, among others.

At her parties, Smith lets people vote for their favorite Christmas tree, which she always enjoys.

“That to me is the most fun of all of it,” she said, adding after people leave, many will reach out, wanting to know which tree received the most votes. “Everybody is very inquisitive about what tree wins.”

Whenever her trees are lit up and she has the time to sit and enjoy them, the magic sets in, and she said it feels like she has just entered a department store, such as Macy’s, during the holidays.

“It makes you feel like a child again, and you just hope you can inspire other people.”

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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