It’s early Sunday morning, and Susan Sage and Linda Forsythe are pulling out one big plastic storage tub after another. They’re in a basement storage area in the main house of a 68-acre farm on the southern-most tip of Kansas City.
The tubs contain Christmas decor for the Baty family: more than two dozen Santa Clauses, yards upon yards of faux evergreen garland, a 12-foot pre-lit Christmas tree, a porcelain manger scene, hundreds of feet of lights, dozens of large red and bronze glass ornaments, reindeer galore, spools of ribbon, 10 or so large wreaths, more than 30 nutcrackers, a large assortment of Fitz & Floyd ceramic Santa Clauses and dishes and on and on.
That is just for the main floor of the home. They will unload more later to decorate the basement’s large recreation room.
Not everyone has the time, patience and skill required to transform their homes into Pinterest worthy winter wonderlands. That’s where holiday decorators for hire like Sage and Forsythe come in handy.
They bring the skill and aesthetic-wherewithal to fluff and install lush garlands in all the right places, to artfully arrange Yuletide vignettes and to perfectly pouf bows just so. And they do it faster than most other humans.
They aren’t the only ones for hire in the Kansas City area. An internet search finds several “holiday decorators,” including some at home decor boutiques like Trapp & Company and KC Surroundings.
Sage has been decorating the Baty home for 11 years, and Forsythe, who has her own holiday and event decorating business, has helped her the last six years.
Ellen Baty owns several horses and donkeys that she cares for — you can hear the donkeys braying in the barn when you drive up — so she’s no stranger to physical labor. But she’s had a series of problematic hand conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome and bone spurs so decorating her own home is practically impossible.
And not decorating is not an option, since her husband, Lee Baty, a lawyer in Kansas City, has a penchant for buying Christmas decorations, especially Fitz & Floyd ceramics. He finds something new pretty much every year, says Ellen Baty, including the 12-foot tree he found a couple of years ago at Costco.
Sage and Forsythe spent close to 18 hours decorating the Baty’s traditional home with the elegant, traditional decorations they pulled from the tubs.
On the home’s main floor, they lined stair railings, mantels, consoles, kitchen cabinets, the counter area behind the kitchen faucet and transom windows with faux evergreen garland, often two entwined strands — for added lushness, Sage says — tucking lights, reindeer and nutcrackers in among the needles.
They decorated the 12-foot tree with hundreds of ornaments, floral picks and handmade bows, which involved running up and down a 9-foot ladder dozens of times.
They found places for all the Santa Clauses, filled a large gold sleigh with ornaments to set beneath the tree near illuminated gold-wire gift boxes, covered tables with Christmas textiles and hung a giant wreath over the bath tub in the master suite, across from a matching floral arrangement and Santa Claus on the double vanity.
“We have done it so long that we’ve gotten it down to one and half days from days, and that’s for inside and out,” Sage says, noting that they do hand string lights, create floral arrangements in urns, place decorated lanterns and hang wreaths outside including two on the front gate leading into the property.
“Thankfully, this house has only one tree. Some houses have three or more,” says Forsythe.
Sage will decorate 10 homes this year. Forsythe can’t even count the number she will do. She began decorating some places — mostly businesses — back in September and expects to average two such jobs a day — mostly homes — until Christmas. Her own home, however, gets minimal Yuletide decor.
“My Christmas tree is a Charlie Brown tree,” she says.
Sage and Forsythe charge up to $75 an hour per person. Some clients have specific ideas how they want their homes decorated, like the Batys; Others let the decorators do what they want. Some clients buy their own decorations, some clients have the decorators do it.
Forsythe had a new client last year who didn’t have any decorations, but wanted five Christmas trees. That client ended up paying $14,000 for the decor and Forsythe’s time to put it all together.
The two finished the main floor decorating at about 5 p.m. and were starting on the downstairs recreation room.
Once Christmas is over, they will return to pack everything away until next year.