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Making a Home for the Holidays

by Gina Gallucci-White

Interior designer Lisa Allen pairs delightful décor, a little bit of nostalgia, and all the trimmings when decking the halls.

Growing up, Most children remember hanging store- bought ornaments on their family’s Christmas tree. Lisa Allen recalls making her own ornaments with the help of crafty neighbor Jeanette Kingsbury. “She would get together with my mom and myself and a couple other neighbors and we would make ornaments every year,” Lisa says. The ladies would make fans out of ribbon, stitch up the base and glue bows on them. They would take clear ornament balls and carefully fill them with potpourri and glue ribbon to the outside. Jeanette would teach Lisa many different ways to make beautiful decorations for the holiday season. “That was very pivotal in my life,” she says.

Today, a few of the ornaments she made growing up adorn one of the Christmas trees she displays in her home. “I have saved some of the most important ornaments that are special from my childhood, and I also have started a collection for my daughter,” Lisa says.

Lisa, who works as an interior designer, takes pride in the aesthetics of her home —especially when it comes to the holiday season. “I have items that I use every year and I use many of those items for years,” she says. “I try to change it up a little bit, but usually I find that I kind of tend to put the same trees in the same locations. I usually like to have a tree in every room. When I find a place where something works, I tend to keep it there. I change a few things here and there. I try to incorporate fresh greens from outside as much as I can and that kind of changes things up.”

Friend and future sister-in-law Shelly Brown says she adores Lisa’s holiday decor. “I tell her all the time she needs to come decorate my house like that too,” she says. Lisa helped pick out paint for Shelly’s Williamsport home and redecorated the lounge area, dining room, and kitchen. “She will give you her ideas and she listens to your ideas and she does both,” Shelly says. “She has passion for it. She really does. Some people do it for the money, but she truly has passion for it and she enjoys what she does.”

Growing up, Lisa remembers how big of a project holiday decorations could be. “Going up into the attic and pulling down all of these boxes,” she recalls, “the house was pretty much a wreck for a week while my mom decorated…She always did fresh greens and arrangements like that. Boxes of bows and different things to add to those arrangements…It was a big process.” For her own home, the Christmas decorating lasts two to three days. But a lot of times she’s adding little things here and there throughout the season, she says.

Lisa has been drawn to interior design ever since she was little. “I can remember when I was young, changing my room around constantly,” she says. “Just having a sense of joy in doing that. Keeping my room neat and organized…[My mother] took good care of her home. It was exciting for me when we would get new things in the house or redecorate. She was very good with that as well.”

When she got older, she purchased her first home and designed the interior herself. “It was something that gave me a lot of joy and I had a passion for it,” she says. “I loved picking out paint colors and searching for fabrics…I just learned as I went. I probably have owned four different homes in my life. Each time it was a different challenge and I really enjoyed it.”

Neighbors often admired her work and would hire her to do their homes. She never advertised but the offers kept coming. While she did interior design on the side, Lisa spent 15 years as a teacher — seven in Frederick County Public Schools and eight at the San Mar Children’s Home in Boonsboro. In 2014, she decided to make the leap and become a full-time interior designer.

Mary Drawbaugh, who owns her own law firm in Frederick, has known Lisa since middle school and hired Lisa to update her home. “She will take an idea and make it a reality,” Mary says. “That’s really important. I am a working mom. I own my own business. I have three kids, and so sometimes I have great ideas but not the time to carry them out, so she has been great.”

Lisa updated Mary’s kids’ rooms and redecorated the dining room. She also helped to redesign and reorganize other parts of the house by adding new touches like centerpieces and curtains. Mary plans to hire Lisa to update her law office soon. “Lisa is just a genuinely sweet, caring, giving person,” Mary says. “She really takes into consideration what your interests are and she meets your needs and your time frame and your budget and really works individually with people.”

Inspiration comes to Lisa from interviewing each of her clients to discover where their interests and taste lie. “I try to go from there,” she says. Each job varies. Sometimes clients want her to work with existing furnishings, while others start off with a completely new palette.

Picking out fabrics is a favorite part of every job, whether it’s coordinating with old ones or discovering new. “I love seeing the fruits of my labor. I like to see the end product and see what I have accomplished along the way,” Lisa says.

Economical Ornamenting

A little foresight and some creativity are all you need to avoid the puffed-up prices of holiday cheer. Decorating for the holidays can be a lot of fun, but not so great on the wallet — $35 for just one ornament!?! $90 for a live tree that will die within a month!?! Lisa has several budget-friendly tips on how to save some green and keep your budget out of the red when decorating for the holidays. She always heads to after-Christmas sales in order to stock up on decorations for the next holiday season. “You are typically going to get from 50 to 80, sometimes even 90 percent off,” Lisa says. Two of the artificial trees she displays were purchased at after-Christmas sales for about 80 percent off. “Ornaments are so expensive before the season but you can get really good deals after the season. Some people don’t want to deal with that afterwards, but it’s important for saving money.” Ornaments don’t have to be bought at the store. You can dream up some from items in your home. Make some cinnamon dough and cut shapes out using cookie cutters. Grab some ribbon and glue to create unique designs that will add a homemade touch to your tree. Lisa often incorporates fresh greenery into her home’s holiday display. She encourages people to go outside and cut some branches from pine trees or holly. Take some from your own yard or find a person who would be OK with you cutting a few branches off their trees. “You can make beautiful arrangements that are stunning on your centerpieces.”