Go all out, or scale back with simple holiday decor

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Christmas lights - 102,000-plus - at the Ronketty home in Marlton.

No, that blinding light isn't the North Star or the star of Christmas lore. It's the 102,000-plus twinkling lights from Tom Ronketty's home in Marlton.

When it comes to Christmas decorations, the Ronketty home stops traffic, literally.

There are the 10,000 lights programmed to "dance" across the roof to music. There are the 25 inflatable figures in the yard. There's a 15-foot-tall hot-air balloon Santa that Ronketty installed in tribute to the balloon-boy hoax this year. There's even a Santa that moons visitors to display a holiday greeting on his underpants.

"We have a good time with it," Ronketty said of the display at his King Avenue home that will be lit each night through Jan. 3. "It's a lot of work but we love doing it."

And, Ronketty added, his indoor decorations, while not as bright as the outdoor, are also festive, every room decorated and three, yes three, Christmas trees all aglow.

Not everyone has the time or inclination to decorate like the Ronkettys. But decor experts say there are simple things one can do to freshen up a decorating plan.

Interior designer Elaine Griffin said you may want to do a quick spruce-up before you even start.

"Holiday decorating is really about two parts," said Griffin, who is designer of the Good Works Makeovers for Oprah Winfrey's O at Home magazine. "Number one is you always want your house to bring its A game, decoratively speaking. You're going to be flooded with friends and family and tons of guests. So you want to do all those things you've been putting off for 10,000 years."

Griffin, who is based in New York, said painting a wall or adding things like a rug, a mirror, or new window treatments are easy touches.

The next step (or first step for those who don't have time or resources to overhaul) is to decorate. Griffin, who published her first book, Design Rules: The Insider's Guide to Becoming Your Own Decorator, this fall, said holiday decorations are where you can have fun and let your personality show.

Faux trees, shatterproof ornaments, and LED lights are good additions, she said. Feel free to go beyond the traditional red, green, and white.

"The hugest trend is actually the non-Christmas colors," Griffin said. "That's taking your favorite colors and ones that work with your room. It's great to keep one Christmas color in there just so people know. But then bring in something that's sexy and fun and very nontraditional.

"The one traditional color is enough to remind people you're in the season, and the other one says that wow, you're really cool."

And don't rely on store-bought decorations. Sandy Sandler, a do-it-yourself craft expert from Henderson, Nev., said homemade decorations have a special charm.

"The biggest thing people say is 'I can't do that, I'm not artistic' or 'It won't look right.' But there's something really special about homemade decorations, and homemade doesn't mean amateurish at all," said Sandler, who offers tips on her Web site Bowdabra.com.

Among her suggestions are new ways to use old ornaments - gathering them in a basket or making them into a wreath, for example.

Items like watering cans with rhinestones can be an easy and relatively inexpensive additions.

"Get away from thinking that it all has to look perfect," Sandler said. "Some of the most beautiful things are imperfect. And what's perfect anyway? Times have changed. You don't have to color inside the lines anymore."

She said homemade decorations can get kids involved in creating a holiday mood.

"Kids love to help out. Give them a project. Work with them on a project. If you have a mantel, let each child have a part of the mantel," Sandler said.

As for the Ronkettys' splashy display, Griffin and Sandler agreed that these days there are no rules. Do whatever makes you feel good.

"If you're a really bright and exuberant person, you want something that will make people say, 'Oh, we know Elaine lives there,' " Griffin said. "There's no such thing as over the top. If that's who you are that's what you should do."

 


For tips by Sandy Sandler, go to www.Bowdabra.com. For tips by Elaine Griffin and other top interior designers go to lowescreativeideas.com. To see a video of Griffin, go to www.internetmediatour.com/ videos/268/the-philadelphia-inquirer.