By Emily Williams
Marsha Baker may be a registered nurse, but her business these days is coming up roses. As the holidays approach, she has a few tips to help hosts and hostesses festively decorate their homes and tables for Thanksgiving.
After giving birth to her children, Baker quit nursing professionally to stay home with the kids.
“I started doing flowers through my church – Vestavia Hills Baptist Church. They have a big flower guild there and I learned from some of the women there,” Baker said. “They are all really talented. Some of them have their own businesses and do weddings and larger events.”
After learning the trade, Baker went on to start her own flower arranging business out of her home. In 2005, she started Eden Designs. At times she had her own retail space – one in Vestavia and one in Pepper Place – but gave them up to spend more time with her kids before they left for college.
“I haven’t had my own retail space since, but I’m working on opening one this year,” Baker said.
Baker consults with clients about decorating their homes for the holidays, but when it comes to her own Thanksgiving, Baker said she leaves it to her mother-in-law, who hosts her family every year.
“I’m always thankful when my family is all together,” she said. “I lost my mother in 2011 and my kids are off at school, so whenever I can get everyone together, that’s when I’m most happy.”
Though she already is working hard on Christmas orders, she said she always gets a few orders for Thanksgiving tables. When they approach her, clients don’t typically know what they want, Baker said. All they know is they want something different than the run-of-the-mill cornucopia and Indian corn.
Baker’s Advice for Holiday Decorating
The first thing on Baker’s list is the front door. She suggests hanging a festive wreath to welcome guests.
“Burlap and cotton are good neutral materials that can easily transition into the Christmas season with the addition of a holiday ribbon,” she said.
She also suggests bringing the outdoors inside by cutting branches with fall leaves, fruit or even berries from the yard.
“Things like wild persimmons, beautyberry, cotoneaster, smilax, sumac, Japanese maple and oak leaf hydrangea foliage with or without the bloom are wonderful,” she said. “Be sure to soak the freshly cut branch overnight in water with flower preservative.”
As for centerpieces for the table, Baker urges amateur tablescapers to think outside the usual cornucopia. Interesting vessels for arrangements usually can be found around the home.
“Unusual containers like birch bark, carved out white or green pumpkins, old wooden boxes, galvanized tin, old china pieces, silver service, transfer wood or milk glass make for a vintage look,” Baker said.
For decorators who love an amaryllis centerpiece for Christmas, Baker suggests placing the bare bulbs in the centerpiece among pumpkins for an easy transition into the holidays.
Lastly, layer linens and chargers under place settings to create texture and height variations. Baker suggests items such as burlap table runners, copper chargers, antique tablecloths and napkins with interesting rings.
As for Baker’s don’ts for Thanksgiving décor, her main rule is not to stress over perfection.
“A little imperfection – mismatched place settings or oddly placed chairs – make for a more interesting table and lets your guests know you don’t have to be perfect and you don’t expect them to be either,” she said.
Hosts also should not feel they have to spend a lot of money on flowers, either. For last-minute arrangements, she suggests filling cylinder vases with apples or pears. Another idea is filling long baskets with big, white pillar candles surrounded by gourds, acorns, moss or pinecones.
“Throw in a few potted mums or succulents for a fresh look,” she said. “It’s always nice to have something live on the table.”
Don’t forget candles – real candles – to add a touch of light to the table, Baker said.
“The flicker of a candle adds a feeling of warmth,” she said. “Battery-powered tea lights, while convenient, just aren’t the same.”
For her last two don’ts, Baker reminds hosts not to rush their guests to the table nor rush themselves to do the dishes.
“Have light appetizers ready and enjoy everyone mingling in the kitchen with you,” she said. “It’s the heart of the home and where most family memories are made.”
Once the guests make their way to the table, the host should sit back, relax and enjoy the company.
“This is a precious family time that you can’t get back,” she said. If anything, she suggests wrapping up the leftovers. Her family usually has plastic containers ready to divvy up the food so each family has something to take home.
For more information, visit the Eden Designs Facebook page, check out edendesignshome on Instagram or call 566-6526.