Each year more than 1 million tourists visit the Biltmore estate in Asheville, N.C., and 300,000 of those sightseers stop by during the holiday season.
For 33 years, Christmas at the Biltmore has been a grand event, which is open to the public.
Decorating the 8,000-acre estate, which includes America's largest private residence, can be a daunting task, but a large staff helps prepare the national historic landmark for the holiday season.
The Biltmore has more than 50 indoor holiday trees and 100 more across its landscape. About 25,000 ornaments adorn the branches, which are surrounded by miles of garland, 25,000 lights and 1,500 poinsettias.
And while the home's decorations may be too grand for your residence, you can reap some of the its professional decorating tips. Check out the Biltmore's suggestions on preparing your home for the holidays below.
First, choose a theme that coordinates with your decor and consider the details and colors in the room where your tree will stand.
The decorations in your home should tell your guests something about you and create a spirit for your holiday season. They can feature decorations from your childhood, they can be designed from natural materials, be opulent and glittering or they can reflect current trends.
Though many are tempted to simply decorate their homes and in green and red, they are not mandatory holiday colors.
Don't be afraid of using other colors for the Christmas season. Deep reds and greens certainly have a traditional look, but terra cotta, French blue or celadon green can say "Christmas" if seasonal accents and greenery are used.
Remember to have a theme that repeats throughout your decorations to achieve continuity, a thread that pulls everything together, from the front door to your tree.
Add the lights after your tree has been fluffed and shaped. Biltmore uses 50 light strands with 6-inch spacing. So a 6-foot tree requires eight sets of 50 lights, a 12-foot tree needs 26 sets, and a 14-foot needs 32 sets.
Connect up to six strands of lights together, but no more. Never plug more than six strands into an extension cord or single outlet. For taller trees requiring more than 300 lights, wire a power bar found at any hardware store against the trunk midway up the tree.
This gives you multiple outlets to plug into safely. The power strip can then be plugged into another power strip or a heavy-duty drop cord.
Place the lights from the top of the tree working them in and out on the branches to create depth of light. Judge the placement of each light so the tree is evenly lit. Step back, squinting your eyes and look for dark spots. Rearrange as needed.
Add any garland material, beading, vines or other materials that would be wrapped around the tree. Do this before placing ornaments, as it is much harder afterward and will result in broken ornaments.
Beading should start at the top of the tree, and then be wrapped in scallops, dropping down a branch level at the back of the tree. When going around the tree, the point of the beading should be under the middle of the upper scallop.
Add a variety of coordinating ornaments to add character and interest to the tree. Use a variety of shapes and size ornaments, placing the largest ornaments toward the bottom of the tree. Work shiny ornaments back into the tree to catch the light. Place ornaments in and out on the branches to create depth. Be careful not to put the same kind of ornaments beside one another on the tree. Space them out on the tree. Ornaments that may be unusual or delicate should be set aside to go on the tree last.
Topping the Tree
The tree topper completes the look of the holiday tree, and while many people place the ornament on last, it actually is best to place it on the tree before standing it up. Also, you don't have to go out and spend money on a tree skirt once you've gotten it decorated.
Be creative. Tree toppers can be something simple like a bow, angel, blown glass point, dried flower bouquet. Streamers from the bow should be weaved or curled to the sides of the tree for interest.
Chose an appropriate tree skirt such as a piece of tapestry or velvet material, a tablecloth or even a solid colored throw. Add some wrapped packages, toys, poinsettias or other plants to the base of the tree. Placing crumpled tissue paper under the fabric can fluff the tree skirt. This tissue can be used to wrap fragile ornaments when you take down your tree at the end of the season.
For additional information, please call 877-BILTMORE or visit www.biltmore.com.