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Merry & Bright

Rich in color, history and personality, a collection of cherished holiday decorations transforms a Manitou Springs home

Don Riley

When Doyle Svenby hauls the bins of Christmas decorations in from the garage for his wife, Melissa, the week before Thanksgiving, the holiday season officially begins in the Svenby household. Soon the southwestern-styled stucco house—a contemporary, minimalist space the other 10 months of the year—is bedecked, festooned and embellished inside and out, with all manner of holiday finery.

“I’m inspired by my mom’s holiday decorating and décor,” Melissa Svenby says. “When I was growing up, our home was magical—you might even say ‘over the top’—during the Christmas season. My mother paid a lot of attention to detail, and I’ve always strived to fill her shoes.”

A third-generation native of the small mountain town of Manitou Springs, Melissa loves that she can see where her grandmothers once lived from the couple’s home. Her husband is a metal artist and sculptor who’s created a number of the home’s fixtures and furnishings. “We’re big on color, and we’re both art junkies,” says Melissa, who manages a home design store in Colorado Springs called Rich Designs. “We like classic, neutral furnishings with pops of color around the room.”

But their minimalist leanings go into hibernation in late November. In addition to decorating two indoor Christmas trees and another outside, the Svenbys put out an impressive assembly of vintage Santas, reindeer, snowmen, miniature trees and ornaments that they’ve accumulated during 23 years of marriage.

“When we first started collecting decorations, I don’t think either of us expected that we’d end up with as much as we have,” Melissa says. “We started buying things on eBay, but these days we think it’s more fun to go to antique shops and shows because we enjoy the search so much. My husband is still the best scout.”

Standing sentry near the front door, a tall, thin metallic silver tree is “dripping with glass ornaments,” Melissa says. “We positioned the ‘skinny tree’ in front of the window so you can see it when you come up the front walk.”

In the living room, a more traditional tree is also loaded with ornaments. “We love real trees, but we switched to an artificial tree because it lasts longer and we like to keep the decorations up until after the first of the year,” Melissa says. The indoor trees are dressed in white lights, but outside, a potted pine tree is wrapped with colored lights. “At night, from the front of the house, you can see all three of the trees and our lighted Santas glowing through the windows,” Melissa says. 

Smaller arrangements of decorations appear in unexpected places throughout the home. Jaunty snowmen in top hats adorn a sideboard blanketed in artificial snow, and mercury glass trees bring sparkle to the dining table. Dozens of Santas—including heirlooms from the couple’s families—are amassed on the fireplace mantle. The requisite herd of reindeer, including a red-nosed Rudolph, gathers on a side table. For added color, Melissa wraps presents with pretty paper and special bows, and places them around the home. “When it comes to gifts, I just love the whole package,” she says.

The Svenbys have curated a thoughtful and vast assemblage of Christmas decorations over the years. But they’re not quite ready to call the collection complete. “We still enjoy looking, but we don’t buy much these days,” Melissa says. “Well, unless we find something that’s very old. And very special.”

Fresh and Festive
Melissa Svenby shares her tips for creating holiday arrangements that shine:

Create thoughtful groupings. “I like to make intimate vignettes with our decorations,” Melissa says. “Look around your house and you’ll find plenty of novel places to arrange things, from the center of the dining table to a corner of your bathroom counter.”

Mix tall with short. “Vary the height of the decorations to add interest. I also like to include a few lighted pieces in our larger arrangements so the decorations can be enjoyed in a new way at night.”

Give ornaments a year off from the tree. “For a pop of color, I display special ornaments in clear glass containers. This is a good solution for people—like us—who have so many decorations that they don’t all fit on the tree.”

Wrap gifts in style. “Beautifully wrapped gifts are like decorations, and when the outside of the package is as special as what’s inside, you double the delight of the gift.”

Keep a carefree spirit. “It’s impossible to keep all of the decorations free of dust, so instead of worrying if a little dust gathers, we just sprinkle some more artificial snow!”

Be smart with storage. “To protect our collection from moisture and dust, and so we can easily see the contents, we store our ornaments in clear plastic bins on raised shelves in the garage.”

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