Chattanooga decorators give tree decorating tips and trends to know for the holidays

Photo contributed by Kathie Penland and Kyle Ferrin / Some trends in Christmas tree decorating for 2022 include trees with fewer branches, supplementing heirloom ornaments with generic Christmas balls placed on interior branches and using ribbon as added decoration. The designers say artificial trees are cost-efficient and can last for a decade or more.

For about 11 months of the year, Kathie Penland and her design partner, Kyle Ferrin, busy themselves with traditional interior design jobs. But come late fall, they quickly switch gears and begin to decorate homes and businesses across Chattanooga for the holiday season.

November is a busy, busy month for K.P. Interiors, Penland's design firm. "We usually only have about a month to do everything," Penland says. "We start [holiday decorating] around Nov. 1, and we work a lot of hours."

You might have unknowingly seen the company's holiday design work at any of the campuses of Erlanger medical center, Republic Center, Liberty Tower or the BlueCross and BlueShield of Tennessee corporate headquarters.

Penland and Ferrin formerly worked together at Yessick's Design Center before deciding to form their partnership. Penland says she has been doing holiday designing since the 1990s, when she and her mother operated Custom Greeneries, a company that specialized in manufacturing and distributing lifelike artificial plants.

  photo  Staff photo by Matt Hamilton / Kathie Penland and her design partner, Kyle Ferrin

Aside from their corporate work, Penland and Ferrin decorate homes in the Chattanooga area, too. Their home packages can range from $2,000 for basic decorations to tens of thousands of dollars for high-end designs. Each job begins with an in-home consultation as the designers consider the home's existing decor as a canvas for holiday design.

"We try to design a color scheme based on what they already have," Ferrin says. "One client on Signal [Mountain] had a lot of navy and white, so we used [that theme] in sprays and ribbons."

As for Christmas trees, the designers say they often do one tree full of jaw-dropping flourishes and another smaller, family-themed tree in another part of the house.

"It's very gratifying when you can make someone happy," Penland says.

Chatter asked the designers to identify trends in holiday decorating for 2022, and the two said four themes stand out.

1. Neutral Colors. Christmas decorations are often associated with vibrant, primary colors, but the designers say that neutral color palettes are gaining popularity this year. Minimalist holiday color schemes with blacks, tans, terra cotttas and golds are gaining popularity in Christmas decorations, much as they have in the broader design world.

2. Trees with fewer branches. Under the "less is more" theory of design, modern manmade Christmas trees have fewer branches. This makes them look much more authentic and opens up space for ornaments.

3. Retro tree adornments. Sometimes what's old is new again. Penland and Ferrin say mid-century tree decorations, such as stringed popcorn and paper chains for garland, are making a comeback as people yearn for the simple holiday seasons of previous generations.

4. Flora and fauna prevails. Mixing flowers, berries and greenery of all varieties is a big interior design trend for the 2022 holidays, the designers say.

  photo  Photo contributed by Kathie Penland and Kyle Ferrin / Interior designers say that neutral colors are in style for Christmas decorating in 2022. Adornments are often chosen to blend and accentuate a home’s existing decor.

Tips for the Do-It-Yourself Decorator

1. Hang tree ornaments from the inside of the tree out. The designers say that using generic Christmas balls as "fillers" on interior branches makes a Christmas tree look fuller. Cherished ornaments should be the last to be hung and should occupy the outer branches for greater visibility.

2. Use ribbon to embellish tree decorations. Cut ribbons to 14- to 16-inch lengths and tuck them into branches to create a woven effect, the designers say.

3. Use clear plastic boxes to store Christmas ornaments and other decorations. Label the boxes to make sorting easier and use tissue paper to individually wrap breakable pieces.

4. Shop early for Christmas decorations -- ideally by the end of October -- for the best selection. Good places to shop locally, the designers say, are Target, Hobby Lobby and At Home. Good catalog/online shopping destinations are Pottery Barn and Front Gate.

5. Artificial trees with LED lights provide the best value. Manufacturers have gotten good at making artificial trees that look lifelike, and the newer trees are extremely durable, lasting a decade or more.