With clients who range from directors Steven Spielberg, J.J. Abrams, and James Cameron to the music world’s Barbra Streisand, Christina Aguilera, and Beyonce, Dr. Christmas (aka Bob Pranga) is the “doctor”on everyone’s speed dial when it comes to creating unforgettable holiday settings. He sits down with Editorial Director Linda Longo to discuss ways to shake up holiday decorating.
Linda Longo: You have devised such imaginative and wildly creative holiday scenes for celebrities, which one was your favorite to pull together?
Dr. Christmas: It’s hard to decide after all of these years, but I would have to say my favorite Christmas display would have to be Leeza Gibbons’ winter white dining room I did for our book Christmas Style. Leeza was so great to work with and she let me do my thing. The concept was to create a space for all the holidays to come together and create a neutral celebratory space.
As far as my favorite tree, well let me put it this way, any time I get to use famous Hollywood film props such as Dorothy’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz, I’m in heaven! I also enjoy inventing a persona for each tree using classic Hollywood stars.
LL: If you were to design a holiday tree for a lighting showroom’s front window or centerpiece, what would it look like?
DC: If I were hired to design a window or a tree for a lighting store, depending on the product and the feel of the store, I would probably do something educational and historical like a salute to Thomas Edison. If not for him, we would still be using candles. I believe New Jersey [where Edison was based] was the first to have a Christmas tree lit up for the public.
Otherwise I would probably do something more high-tech and futuristic like a “Christmas of Tomorrow.” There are so many options and vibrant colors these days that you can literally paint with light.
LL: Garlands are a classic decoration used by both stores and homeowners. What are your guidelines for using it correctly?
DC: Garlands, although a fairly simple decoration, still require some thought. They are second only to the tree in holiday décor and often are used as a substitute when space is limited. My personal preference is that garlands are symmetrical and should be fitted properly to the mantelpiece. I like them to drape all the way to the floor for two reasons: for style, and so that they hide the electrical cords. If the home does not have a mantel, garlands can be used for window treatments, pillars, table centerpieces, and draping from the ceiling to create a canopy.
LL: LED Christmas lights are everywhere these days, especially on the novelty end. Have you ever used the new LED lights?
DC: I have to be honest about LED lights. I think they are beautiful for exterior use and when you want to bathe a building in gorgeous color. I’m not quite a fan of using them interiors. They still lack the magic and warmth that I think is important for those cozy Christmas nights. Having said that, they are getting better, but for me they are far too intense to sip a glass of wine by.
LL: There were a lot of homeowners last year opting to “decorate” by using novelty LED spotlights that projected images on the house or those
“laser” star lights that were the rage (much to the dismay of pilots). What is your advice for Decorating 101 that every homeowner – and store manager – could benefit from practicing?
DC: I am not one of those decorators who like to make people feel bad about their decorating skills, but I can offer a few tips — especially when using LED lights on the exterior. 1. Design a look before you start. This saves time and money. 2. I’m not a fan of mixing the old with the new lights. They don’t complement each other in style, color, or feeling. 3. Respect your neighbors. Anything that will keep them up at night, or create dangerous electrical situations, should be addressed. “Remember “electrocution should not be part of the holiday festivities!” 4. Don’t mix too many mediums when decorating; for example grapevine deer, plastic nativity scenes, blinking lights, and laser lights is just too much.
LL: People groan when they see Christmas merchandise in summer, but in your opinion, when should a lighting store set up its holiday displays?
DC: In certain areas, Christmas is sold year-round. If you are a retailer and don’t have holiday lights available by July you are running late. The fanatics will be buying early and the grumblers will remember you sell them only when they are ready to buy them.
LL: In a winter wonderland motif, it’s common to pair white with crystal lighting and accents, but if you were going for a whimsical or fantasy look, what would be a more interesting pairing?
DC: The winter wonderland design is very popular because it’s supposed to be non-threatening and appeal to everyone. I know we all love Frozen, but it’s not very cozy and all that white and crystal gets a little dull after awhile. If you are an earthy person, add natural forest elements to break up all that white. If you crave color, then add a layer of rainbow lighting to give it that Aurora Borealis effect. If you want a little “Silent Night,” then crisp blue lights with candlelight is beautiful. And when all else fail add RED! It is Christmas after all!