Leveling Up Your Holiday Decor

Photos by Kevin Milton
Photos by Kevin Milton

It’s officially December, which means — if you haven’t already — it’s time to decorate for the holidays!

Do you have your go-to boxes of decorations but are perhaps wondering if you’re missing something (like safety precautions)? Or are you new to decorating and not sure where to start?

We chatted with Kevin Milton, who’s a Business Development Manager by day but has a side gig as a very successful Holiday Consultant, to bring you essential tips and tricks for the season’s holiday decor.

Start with Safety

Lights

“Safety is key,” says Kevin. He begins by encouraging folks to “own your age” because “I have read too many articles, year after year, about seniors getting up on ladders and falling… don’t be afraid to ask neighbors and friends to help. It’s better to ask for help than to be in the hospital.”

Regardless of age, if you feel unsteady on a ladder or on your roof, don’t push it. Ask for help!

Similarly, don’t wait for the snow to fall to finally find your holiday spirit. Every year emergency rooms in the Minneapolis area report falls, sprains, and broken limbs thanks to folks waiting for the first snow to decorate — in icy and slippery conditions.

Big box stores especially have their lights on sale early, so don’t wait.

“Put up with getting chastised by some neighbors (‘It’s a little too early, isn’t it?’). Watch them struggle in the snow while you’re watching from your living room window,” says Kevin.

Kevin continues that you don’t have to plug your lights in right away; just install them and light them up whenever you want.

As a bonus, Kevin adds, “Early holiday light installations can help decorate and illuminate your yard for other seasons, like Halloween.”

Choose solid color Halloween lights when that holiday approaches, then simply change out the blow molds and plug in the other colors for when Christmas comes around.

Left to Right: ”Minnesota State Fair Tree,” ”Halloween Spooktacular,” ”A Thanksgiving Wish.”

Cords, Wiring, and Electricity

Make sure to only use grounded electrical cords outside. Remember: standard two-plug cables are for indoor use only.

A GFCI receptacle (your breaker) will snap the second moisture gets into an unused port.

“If you use a 3-way extension cord, for instance, and only use two of the three plug-ins, place an electrical cap over the unused port,” says Kevin.

Also, make sure your cords are off the ground, away from animals who might want to chew on them, and not near any downspouts or waterways.

Got a hand-me-down tree or set of lights that you just can’t let go of? Enjoy, but be careful.

“I know some decorations have sentimental meanings,” says Kevin, “But some old decorations are dangerous. A fire is not worth holding on to grandma’s old tree and lights.”

That doesn’t mean you have to toss all of grandma’s vintage items, however.

“I try to find a middle ground between ‘negotiating’ old decorations and adding appropriate ‘new vintage’ ornaments,” says Kevin. “I look at tree installations like doing a painting: one needs to start with a steady, clean canvas. Same with decorating. The tree must be free of hazards and up to code before the decorations are added. A house cannot be built on a shaky foundation.”

”Nylas Tree,” a tribute to Kevin’s mother.

Consulting How To Level Up Your Holiday Décor

What Kevin Provides

Kevin is a Holiday Consultant, which means he doesn’t get up on ladders to light residential exteriors. Instead, he focuses on outdoor holiday projects, though, “the indoor tree installations I will design and decorate myself.”

“A holiday tree should tell your story, your family’s, or your business’s story,” says Kevin. “I like to ask questions about the person, family, or business and, more importantly, what they like and want to accomplish. I ask things such as: if they’re having a holiday party, have young kids, animals, and of course, I ask to see what they have currently for decorations.”

Kevin’s main goal is to repurpose someone’s existing decorations so they can become a safer, manageable expression of their holiday spirit. He not only looks for fraying wires or if a tree is falling apart; he uses a fresh eye to help families see new ideas with the materials they already have.

Other decorations include designs that complement an existing room, and some designs might be more conservative. For example, he once decorated a 15-foot tree at the mall and kept it simply multi-colored.

”Airplane White Bear Tree.”

Decor Shopping and Decorating Tips

Kevin’s biggest tip? Don’t wait for the holiday season.

“Pick out what you like during the season, but wait till after Christmas to get it, or better yet, wait for the Christmas-in-July sales,” advises Kevin. “Why buy at the top price when 50% or more off is available?”

He encourages people to place a reminder in their calendars to start shopping online in July. It may seem odd, but lights and decorations are definitely cheaper in the off season.

For example, “I have a former client that knew enough to reach out to me over the summer. I found the perfect new artificial tree online,” confirms Kevin. “People need to know that holiday vendors/suppliers are begging for money during the off season.”

Another tip? Don’t ignore the big box stores.

“People will ask where I purchased supplies, and the answers often surprise them,” says Kevin. “Many big box stores have incredible vendor lines/decorations exclusively on their online platforms.”

So if you perhaps missed scoring discounts this year, set your calendar reminders now, and get ready to start thinking about Christmas next July.

And if you need help, reach out to Kevin.

“My holiday motto is: ‘Know thy client and arrive at their endgame.’ Give their project a voice, a vision, and bring the installation to fruition.”

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