For this Curtis Park homeowner, one Christmas tree isn’t enough
By Marybeth Bizjak
Step into Karen Champany Hamilton’s Curtis Park home and you instantly know one thing: This woman loves Christmas.
Garlands laden with fruits and flowers adorn every doorway and window. Santa figurines perch on floors and tabletops. Festive candies fill large, clear-glass jars in the kitchen. And there’s a lavishly decorated tree in every room, from the tiny ground-floor study to the guest bedroom upstairs. This is a house that practically screams “Merry Christmas!”
Hamilton’s joyous approach to holiday decorating has its roots in a searing personal tragedy. Thirty years ago, her first husband died at Christmastime, leaving her a young widow with an 11-month-old daughter, Sarah. “It was difficult,” she says. “Christmas was sad for me, but I wanted it not to be sad for Sarah.” To make the season bright for her young daughter, Hamilton started decorating a tree just for her. When Sarah grew older, she encouraged her mom to decorate a tree for herself. From there, the tradition grew like Topsy.
Hamilton and her current husband, Scott, purchased their Curtis Park home—a handsome 105-year-old American Foursquare—10 years ago. She knew it was the house for her the second she laid eyes on it. “Oh my gosh,” she told her husband. “This would be the perfect house to decorate for Christmas.”
As a store manager for Macy’s, Hamilton works long hours during the holidays. In order to get the house ready for Christmas, she starts decorating in early November. While the rest of us are tossing out the jack-o’-lanterns and eating the last of the Halloween candy, she’s already putting the finishing touches on her Christmas décor.
Hamilton has a system for getting the job done as expeditiously as possible. One weekend, she hangs garlands throughout the house. The next weekend, she sets up and decorates the trees.
Once the decorating is done, she can enjoy the fruits of her labor. “When I come home at 11 o’clock at night after a long day at work, I turn on the Christmas music and relax,” she says.
Each tree has a theme. The living room tree is a harvest tree, decorated with fruits, gourds and pheasant feathers. At the tree’s base, a large Santa and reindeer stand guard next to a sleigh filled with pumpkins.
Hamilton decorates the dining room tree with peacock feathers and autumnal fruits. For the guest bedroom, she uses fairy ornaments and roses. For her husband’s study, she does a Western-themed tree. Snowballs and snowmen decorate the tree in the library. And the master bedroom has a whimsical Asian theme, with koi fish ornaments, Chinese lanterns and Chinese takeout boxes tied with red bows.
In the foyer, Hamilton fills two trees flanking a doorway with Santa ornaments—part of a collection that numbers in the hundreds. “I’ve collected them for years,” she says. “People at work give them to me all the time.” A former merchandise manager for Macy’s, she’s often inspired by the over-the-top way the store decorates for the holidays. “When I see something at work, I think, ‘I could do that at home.’”
She also has some great decorating inspirations of her own. When Hamilton saw a Christmas plaque printed with the words “’Twas the night before Christmas,” she got an idea. Why not take apart the famous poem written by Clement Clarke Moore and scatter the sayings throughout the house? So she has a sign that reads, “The stockings were hung” on her fireplace mantel, another reading, “Not a creature was stirring” on top of the grandfather clock, and in the bedroom, a sign that says, “Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.”
As much as she loves the holidays, once they’re over, Hamilton is just as happy to return her house to its pre-Christmas state. She packs up all the decorations in six large bins and stores them in the basement and attic. The overflow ends up in trunks, closets and drawers. “It’s not unusual to open a dresser drawer and find it full of ornaments,” she says. “It’s lovely to put it all up, but it’s great to take it down and pack it away for another year.”