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Light Like a Pro

Local Professional Decorators Give Tips for Giving That Holiday Glow to Your Home

By now everyone is in full swing decorating for the holidays. The early birds who couldn’t hold back are most likely already finished, but for those of us that still could use to add a few more trimmings, there’s help out there. We chatted with Terra and Nikos Phelps, owners of Utopian Landscapes, which, come winter branches out to become Christmas Décor of Harrisburg. Here, the company brings all of the outdoor light and decor needed to make a home or business facade look fabulous throughout the season. No more ladders in the snow, chilly hands and tangled up wires. The husband and wife team offered some holiday hints for making your outdoor light show picture perfect this year.

By now everyone is in full swing decorating for the holidays. The early birds who couldn’t hold back are most likely already finished, but for those of us that still could use to add a few more trimmings, there’s help out there. We chatted with Terra and Nikos Phelps, owners of Utopian Landscapes, which, come winter branches out to become Christmas Décor of Harrisburg. Here, the company brings all of the outdoor light and decor needed to make a home or business facade look fabulous throughout the season. No more ladders in the snow, chilly hands and tangled up wires. The husband and wife team offered some holiday hints for making your outdoor light show picture perfect this year.
 

What's the most common mistake you've seen over the years by DIY decorators?
Nikos:  Net Lights! As a professional who has been trained at the national level, net lights can always make me cringe. It’s a manufactured look that’s supposedly one size fits all, but they never really fit anything.
Safety is a big issue with DIY decorators. I’ve seen ladders not properly set up. I actually saw a homeowner fall off a ladder while I was meeting with his neighbor to give him an estimate. Other examples of safety mistakes would be overloaded circuits [and] dangling cords.Quantity vs. Quality. Taking more time to do less items would make all the difference in the world for DIY décor. We’ve all seen it, the lazy “S” that’s featured on so many displays. You should never be able to trace the pattern of a light strand. Taking more time to ensure the lights are installed thoughtfully on one shrub versus haphazardly on several would be a vast improvement for a display.

What's the trick to stringing lights like a pro?
Terra: Precision. You can always tell which homes we decorate because they look so pristine.


How many feet of lights does the average home need?
Terra: We get asked this question a lot. It really depends on the roofline. Peaks, ridges, scale, and height are all factored into this equation. We have some places with 40 feet of roofline and others with 2,500.

What's the trendiest thing this year in terms of outdoor home holiday displays?
Nikos: COLOR. There has been a huge shift in color. 10 years ago when we started, over 95 percent of our jobs were warm white. Today, over 40 percent of our jobs have some element of color in them. Some of our clients have more traditional color combinations such as: red, white and green. While others have more edgy color combos such as purple and white or red and blue. Some clients let their children choose the colors.
The nice thing with our program is you can swap out color combinations year to year at no additional cost. So even though it’s more work on our end, we encourage our clients to try new looks.

What are some inexpensive ways to add big impressions to your outdoor display for not a lot of money?
Terra: Uplights. They can add a lot of impact to a display and you can choose from a variety of colors. Just be careful not to overdo it. Also, focus on one area, such as a front entrance, vs. trying to decorate your entire exterior.

What is your favorite place to look at Christmas lights in the Harrisburg area?
Nikos: Meadowview development in Mechanicsburg. Almost everyone in the neighborhood decorates and on Christmas Eve they set up luminaries lining the streets. It’s magical.
 
Do you have any tips on keeping lights untangled?
Nikos: The obvious answer is to put them away neatly. Our tip would be to take each strand of lights and place them into a one gallon plastic storage bag. No more than one strand per bag.
 
Do you have any trade secrets you're willing to share on taking decorations down, organizing and storing that could help the rest of us out?
Nikos: What goes up, must come down. Keep that in mind when you’re thrilled about getting the very top of a tree. Chances are the weather isn’t going to be as nice when it’s time to take the lights down. That being said, if you have to take décor down when it’s wet or snowy, make sure they have a chance to dry before storing them for next year. Otherwise you can run into electrical issues or corrosion.


 
 
 

 

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