Nearly every inch of every flat surface in Marsha Williams’ Cedarburg home has holiday accents on it. Large portions of the floors and the walls are filled, too.
In the family room the fireplace has a large nativity scene with garland and candles, a collection of holiday related Precious Moments, Christmas stockings and St. Nick figurines. The coffee table has bowls of ornaments, a St. Nick, glass Christmas trees and a gold poinsettia, and each of the side tables is topped with Christmas bling.
A cuddly St. Nick sits on the back of the sofa, there’s a large Christmas tree filled with antique ornaments, and chairs are cozily stuffed with holiday pillows. St. Nick figurines stand at attention throughout the room, there are holiday accent pieces on the walls, and garland at nearly every turn.
There’s just enough room for Marsha, her husband, Norm, their two children and their five grandchildren to relax and enjoy the season.
But while her 2,500-square-foot home is packed, what she sets out is a fraction of all the pieces she’s collected over the years.
“At one time I put all my pieces out. I have over 100 boxes. Now I put out about a third of it. I cut back on how much I put out about five years ago. But what I put out is still a lot more than what the average person would ever put out.
“When people see it they say it looks like a fantasy land because there is so much to look at,” she said.
Marsha, who does the decorating herself but gets hauling help and help setting up the tree from her husband, said she started decorating when they bought their house in 1974. Their home is a 3-bedroom 1.5-bath ranch that is decorated in a Victorian style.
“I got things gradually. We were in an apartment before and I decorated, but not like this. Through the years I collected more and more pieces, and people started giving me pieces because they knew I loved it so much.”
A retired critical care ICU and emergency room nurse at Columbia St. Mary, she said her parents influenced her in her decorating. Her husband is retired. He was in management at AT&T.
“My parents weren’t rich, but they always somehow came through with decorations for Christmas. It was always delightful being with the family. We have a big family and for me Christmas isn’t only a holiday but a celebration of family and friends,” she said.
To get her home in the Christmas mood, Marsha said, she starts decorating about three weeks before Christmas and spends 12- to 16-hour days on the project. During that time she also makes Christmas stollen she gives as gifts to people she is close to.
She puts the bulk of her decorations in the family room, living room, dining room and kitchen, and on the lower level in the TV room, which includes a bar and a room for entertaining she calls the “orange room.” She also decorates her bathrooms, bedrooms and her husband’s man cave; but not as extensively.
At first glance the rooms seem to be a jumble of Christmas pieces. But when you take a closer look, you see there are small holiday groupings at every turn.
“I don’t just put one thing out. I start with one piece, then I look to see if I have other pieces that go with it. I keep expanding it with similar pieces. After I set out the main pieces I’ll add ribbons and ornaments to fill in any open spaces and finish off the groupings,” she said, and estimated that she has nearly 30 groupings upstairs and 16 downstairs.
“I like to put colors together. On one table I have a St. Nick that is silver and gold and I put silver decorative boxes around it. I also have antique ornaments in a crystal punch bowl, antique deer, ribbons and candles.”
In addition to the groupings, she sets up two live trees each year and fills them with lights and ornaments.
“The big tree in the family room has the old-fashioned colored bulbs on it that are bigger, and mainly antique ornaments. But we also get a special new ornament each year for that tree, and it also has special ornaments from some family members,” she said.
For a tree skirt it has an antique tablecloth that was her grandma’s and a little village scene.
Their other live tree is in the TV room and has a red plaid theme, small white lights, new and antique ornaments, and a plaid skirt with Christmas houses over it.
While there are lots of places to decorate in her home, Marsha said her family room, which was part of an addition added in 1986, is one of her favorite spaces to decorate.
“It’s a favorite because of the old ornaments on the big tree. I enjoy looking through them because of all the memories. It’s also just a pretty room to decorate with the antique fireplace and pieces of antique stained glass,” she said.
The “orange room” is another favorite.
“I call it the orange room because orange is my favorite color. It’s decorated year round in orange, and for Christmas I put out all orange holiday pieces. There’s an orange feather tree with orange ornaments on it, and I have orange antique pottery,” she said. Throughout the year that room has four tables and antique church pews for seating when the family entertains.
She recently talked about her love of decorating during the holidays.
Question: How many trees do you have, and what kinds are they?
Answer: The family room tree is a live tree and is about 11 feet tall. The tree in the TV room is also a live tree, and it’s usually about 6 feet. I have about eight other trees ranging from 2 feet to 4 feet. They are mostly feather trees, but one is pewter.
Q: Can you tell me about the fireplace in the family room?
A: We added that when we did the family room addition. It’s an antique, and after we bought it we took it apart, refinished it and reassembled it. It’s oak and it’s from the Victorian era. I put the nativity scene on the mantel, and there is a top ledge where I put the Precious Moments. I collect the Precious Moments because we are friends with Sam Butcher, the artist who draws them.
Q: What are some of your favorite pieces?
A: The nativity scene on the fireplace mantel. My dad made it. I also love the St. Nicks I have. I usually put 38 of them out each year. I also have some packed away and have given some to my daughter
Q: Any favorite ornaments?
A: The ones from my parents and grandparents and some of the orange ones that are antiques. The ones from my grandparents are on a white feather tree in the family room. The ones from my parents are on the pewter tree in the family room. The orange ones are in the orange room in the lower level.
Q: What groupings do you have in your kitchen?
A: I have a small tree with red apples on it. I also put red holiday accents around the tree. It sits on a baking table with a silver St. Nick. I also have an antique Hoosier cabinet, and an antique icebox with a Christmas tea set on it. That’s one of my favorite groupings.
Q: What decorations do you add in the dining room?
A: On the table there is a gold table-scape with a St. Nick, and a crystal bowl full of gold ornaments. There’s a hutch and a library cabinet in there and other antique pieces. Every piece of furniture has something on it.
Q: Do you create the same groupings each year?
A: I take pictures every year and I do try to do something similar the next year. But I do like to switch things around.
Q: Do you pack each grouping together when you put you pieces away?
A: Yes, each one gets packed together and I mark the boxes. When I put them out each year they each go in a specific room.
Q: Where do you keep all your decorations?
A: In a storage area in the lower level.
Q: Do you remove all your artwork and replace it with holiday artwork?
A: I take some of the stuff down, but I also leave some of the stuff up and just decorate it.
Q: What’s on your pink feather tree?
A: Pink flamingos. I collect them with my granddaughter, Paulina Diamond, who is 6.
Q: How do you decorate your main bathroom?
A: With flamingos and a metal tree. Also some ornaments.
Q: How do you decorate your exterior?
A: I usually just do the front porch. I also put a spotlight and a wreath and evergreens on the shed in the back. The shed is painted orange, lime green and yellow. Inside it’s decorated in a flamingo motif.
Q: Do your children decorate their homes too?
A: When our daughter (Shannon Diamond of Grafton) got married, I helped her decorate. Now she does her decorations herself and they are similar to what I do, but not quite as much. Our son (Chad Williams of Grafton) does a little decorating.
Q: Will you pass your decorations on to your children one day?
A: Yes, but I told the kids that they can’t take just one thing. They have to take the whole grouping.