Making home design merry

A tangle of cords and a lopsided light display can take the fa-la-la-la-la out of homeowners’ attempts to have a home brimming with holiday spirit.

Although the holidays happen only once a year, planning ahead when building and designing homes can be a gift during November and December, making it easier to display seasonal decorations.

Just like some people are savvy enough to buy presents throughout the year, working with your architect and builder to make sure you have everything you need to put up an outdoor holiday display with ease can save time and money. That’s something you can be thankful for, now and in the future.

If you need inspiration, some new homes have the holiday focus, such as Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles' Home for the Holidays Designer Showhouse & Marketplace, which is open Thursdays-Sundays, Nov. 15-Dec. 8 (closed Thanksgiving Day, The American Colonial home is custom built by Atlanta-based Dovetail Homes and designed by Harrison Design Associates, which has offices in Atlanta, St. Simons Island, Washington, D.C., Locust Valley, N.Y., Beverly Hills, Calif., and Santa Barbara, Calif.

Limiting lights headaches

Holiday decorations vary, but some homeowners want to have lights on every part of their property, from the roof line to the gutters to the doors to the trees, said Sarah Fishburne, director of trend and design for the Home Depot.

“They plan for it and love it every year,” she said.

When designing the architecture of the home, envision how you could spotlight special features such as columns or a bay window. Experts with Lowe’s recommend accenting architectural details with items such as icicle lights.

Weaving extension cords underneath porches or snaking cords through the landscaping may be an annual holiday tradition, even if you’re not going to the lengths of a display that would impress Clark Griswold in “Christmas Vacation.” Amping up your power sources on the porch, deck or patio can be beneficial during the holidays, according to builders.

Homeowners who are planning to put up outdoor decorations should consider putting in additional electrical outlets to power those displays, said Bryan David, owner of BK David Construction, based in Atlanta.

“With the multiple outlets, you don’t have to have the extension cords dragging across your sidewalk or your steps on your porch,” he said. “You have several on either side of the porch and cut extension cords down to a minimum.”

When helping clients with their lights and illuminated decorations on windows, David has experienced what homeowners face. The challenge can be trying to find power on either side of the home or tucking in the extension cord and/or taping it to the home.

If trying to illuminate architectural elements such as columns, an electrician also could install outlets in those spots during the building process.

The holiday look would not only be cleaner, but it would be cheaper than installing outlets after the home is finished.

If you want to pull off fun holiday decor ideas, planning ahead with your builder or electrician will make it easier later. Here are some ideas from Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia:

  • Create a landing strip on the roof for Santa and his reindeer.
  • Hand-twist rope lights and hang them from their cords along your porch or eaves.
  • Fashion stars from garden stakes, wrap them with lights and attach them to the side of your house.
  • Line your outside fence with lights to create a welcoming look for guests.

Timing it right

Light displays can increase your power bill, so having the ability to turn lights on and off and control the timing is important. In the past, you may have waked up in the morning to discover the lights were on all night.

If building a new home or renovating an existing property, installing a timer system in the garage, for example, could allow you to properly schedule when lights will turn on and off. Options such as photocell timers also have dusk/dawn settings.

A home automation system also can help you program the lights to give the home a glow each evening, whether you’re at home or away, according to Lowe’s.

Entertaining effectively

Outdoor living frequently is part of the discussion among architects, builders and homeowners. In addition to considering how you plan to entertain during Atlanta’s pleasant spring and fall, think about plans to host holiday get-togethers. If you’re used to having a large holiday open house or party, builders suggest making sure your home is laid out to accommodate those guests. You may have to envision your outdoors during the holidays, even if you are planning the home during the spring or summer.

“Most people, when they build or when they renovate, one of the most common things that comes up is entertaining,” David said. “Certainly the Christmas decorations are part of entertaining.”

Your outdoor space doesn’t have to be ignored during the holidays. A front or back porch can be made warm and inviting during the holidays, with a few tweaks, said Steve McKenzie, owner of Steve McKenzie’s, a home and lifestyle brand store in Atlanta’s Midtown West Design District.

“Make it special, but make it intimate, so that people want to linger and spend time, not just observe it from the street curb,” he said.

When creating an outdoor fireplace, consider whether you want to add a mantel for holiday greenery or decorations, or if you want to hang a wreath on the chimney.

Whether you’re putting holiday touches on the front or back of your home, talking to a builder or contractor can put the right steps into place to make it easier to decorate without frustration.