Annandale House twice,” says veteran volunteer Deb Beard. “My mother-in-law, Mary, got me involved in the project, and it became a family tradition.” The challenging aspect, of course, is that Annandale is a Victorian home. The scale takes some getting used to, especially for first-time decorators. “We have a limited supply of lights, garland and Christmas trees that people can use in their designs,” she says. “But the decorators are responsible for everything else. They can use items from their own personal collections, or buy new items, but we don’t give them a budget.” Further complicating things, decorators can’t decorate the same room in back-to-back years. “It’s first come first-served,” explains Patricia. “So if someone
chooses the parlour this year, they have to tackle a different area next year.” Patricia says the system helps ensure the house always has a fresh look, and decorators love the ongoing challenge. “The main hallway is massive,” says Deb. “It’s probably the toughest ‘room’ to do. You have a set of stairs leading to all three floors. What do you do with a space like that?” The answer, apparently, is to ask your mother-in-law to start spray painting Saran Wrap in her garage. “At first we planned to use real ribbon, but when we calculated what it would cost, we started looking for an alternative,” recalls Deb. Their unorthodox DIY solution was pure genius.
“We created rosettes and reams of ‘ribbon’ and it really did look great when we were done,” she says. “People still come up and ask me about it.” “There’s no overall theme and we don’t restrict the style of decorations,” says Patricia. “The decorators can’t put holes in the walls obviously, or use any kind of adhesive, but the only other limit is their imagination.” “Every year the house is different,” says museum staffer Marie Blake. “Visitors love that. They like the unique approach to each room. It’s part of the fun.” One year visitors were quite taken aback to find a Halloween- themed holiday display, complete with a black Christmas tree and black garland. Other years decorators have found inspiration in popular movies or classic books. One of Patricia’s personal favourites was the time a 12- foot tall tree was decorated with white beaded evening purses and feather hats. Then there’s Abigail. A creation of long-time decorator Diane Mackeigan, this near life-sized stuffed figure has appeared in literally every room of the house. “It’s kind of like our own version of ‘Where’s Waldo,’” says Patricia. Decorators typically have three weeks to decorate their rooms, with visitors welcomed to tour the home from late November until the Mayor’s Levee in early January. “I’m looking forward to seeing what the group comes up with this year,” says Patricia. “I’m sure there will be some surprises. There always are.”
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