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“A lot of my clients are looking for something new and fresh because they’ve used their same old holiday decor for years,” she said.

Often, her approach is to design around a chosen theme or color scheme, both when working with clients and in her own holiday plans.

“I personally have a different Christmas theme throughout my house every year,” she said.

Designer Caitlyn Cuadra often incorporates colors and themes based on wrapping paper designs. Photo courtesy Caitlyn Cuadra.

“Sometimes my themes kind of revolve around the wrapping paper that I choose, and I’m thinking of what it’s going to look like around the Christmas tree, and then I think about the rest of the home and how it’s going to feel.”

This year, she’s chosen the “Gnome Home” wrapping paper made by LINNA (Bay Area artist Lisel Ashlock), which features a woodland design in rich verdant hues, giving off enchanted forest vibes.

Cuadra also owns the Pacifica boutique Malt & Stone, which features a rotating collective of local women artisans selling a variety of homegoods, gifts and accessories, such as the aforementioned LINNA designs, and prefers to work with fellow small businesses and artists on design elements when possible (she also said she’s a big fan of gift tags by CalligraBREE).

Her holiday-decorating services this year come in standard (for small jobs or spaces under 500 square feet), premium (500-700 square feet) and deluxe (700-900 square feet), and she also can create custom packages. Prices vary depending on each client’s budget and material needs, with the standard package starting at $400, the premium at $650 and the deluxe at $900.

While each job differs, Cuadra’s services could include decorating customized Christmas trees, designing table settings and mantels, and coordinating holiday decor throughout the house.

This table setting designed by Caitlyn Cuadra incorporates traditional red holiday colors. Photo courtesy Caitlyn Cuadra.

Cuadra starts with a questionnaire to find out what potential clients are looking for. She’ll then help them select a theme, or, as is commonly the case, they’ll come to her with ideas from Pinterest.

“I’ll usually take that and make my own twist on it, unless they’re really adamant,” she said. “I’m not trying to copy and paste; that’s not what interior design is; that’s not why you hire anyone.”

One past holiday design client was seeking a festive scheme with pieces that could be reused each year. In keeping with the client’s general style, she utilized plentiful greenery, twinkling lights and knit stockings to achieve the desired “minimalist white Christmas” look.

“I don’t really do a ton of traditional decorating but I’m always happy to,” she said. “Throw the reds and greens at me; I can make it happen for you.”

To Cuadra, for those who celebrate Christmas, the most essential item for feeling festive is the tree, be it big or tiny, real or artificial.

“You must always have a Christmas tree, if we’re talking about traditional Christmas,” she said. She recalled growing up with her own family’s annual tree-decorating ritual, with each member recruited to meticulously hang each ornament.

“I always was like, ‘Can we do something fun for once? I’d love to put some bows in here, the ribbons, the tinsel,’” she laughed. “I’m looking forward to doing it with my kids.”

Cuadra is a new mom this year, and while her own little one is too young yet to get up to mischief, decorating with kids in mind can certainly be part of the equation, as can curious pets.

“A Christmas tree with a cat, that is very eventful, to say the least,” she said, noting that one year, she used a chic citrus theme and the scent of the delicate orange slices decking the boughs proved a successful kitty deterrent.

She gets her own tree each year from Santa’s Tree Farm and Village in Half Moon Bay, and what she chooses varies, from lush and stately Douglas firs to the scrappier, quirky charmers.

“I really love the Charlie Brown trees,” she noted.

Find more information at The Spruce Edit.

Scott Basilotta makes front yards merry and bright

This home in Hillsborough is among the residences that Holiday Lights Inc. decorated. The company does all the heavy lifting — installs, maintains and takes down the lights. Photo courtesy Holiday Lights Inc.

Growing up, Scott Basilotta loved helping his dad put up holiday decorations. Now, as a professional, seeing children’s glee over watching his company’s holiday light displays go up is one of his favorite parts of his job.

“The kids are always out there watching us. They get excited,” he said. “We always say we work for Santa Claus.”

Basilotta was a San Jose State University student when he started helping folks put up holiday lights as a side hustle back in 2005. Nearly 20 years later, that little college gig has become a career, as his Campbell-based business Holiday Lights, Inc. illuminates more than 500 homes each year, plus numerous high-profile commercial and municipal installations, from San Francisco down to Monterey.

Clients hire companies like Holiday Lights to save time and, quite often, because of concerns over safety, he said. Going up on ladders, traversing slippery rooftops and fussing with electrical wires can be hazardous, especially in bad weather, and some prefer to leave it to the pros.

The installation crew covers the entire Bay Area, often completing multiple area jobs and maintenance work each day. The company does all the heavy lifting so residents can simply enjoy their lights, he said.

Holiday Lights works within a range of budgets, with most clients spending around $750-$2,000 and others pulling out all the stops for their seasonal light displays, spending in the tens of thousands and up, he said.

“We provide everything as a rental. We come, we put everything up, we maintain it, then we come back and take it down,” he said. “We have a big warehouse with tubs of lights with everyone’s name on them.”

Holiday Lights prides itself not only on its elegant, tidy work but also on sourcing the best material. The company uses only high-quality commercial-grade lighting, which shines brighter and lasts longer. The business has evolved along with changes in technology.

“In the beginning, we used a lot of incandescent lights. Now we’re only LED,” he said. This shift saves a lot of energy and is better for the environment.

“LED uses about 90% less power,” he said. “That’s been the biggest change over the course of the business.”

Some clients stick to the same style each year while others switch it up, trying multicolored twinkling lights, perhaps, or a red-and-white candy cane look. Others go with the classics. “Some just like their simple white lights,” he said. “We listen to what the homeowner or commercial person wants but we’ll also give design ideas. We do lots of rooflines, trees, bushes, garlands and wreaths; all kinds of stuff.”

Commercially, one of Basillota’s favorite projects in past years was providing the outdoor holiday lighting at the historic Filoli estate in Woodside.

“It was really cool, just how elegant and beautiful Filoli is,” he said.

Stanford Hospital is a frequent local client, and the company also works at shopping plazas, churches and civic areas.

“When the Warriors were still in Oakland, we worked at the Oracle Arena,” he noted. “That was a really fun one.”

Alongside partner Mike Matsis, with whom Basilotta been buddies since middle school, the company employs around 25 installers, plus office staff, for the season (about four months, starting in early October with Halloween displays), and keeps a smaller crew for the rest of the year, when they work on lighting for weddings and other special events.

“We have a great team, which is the most important part of any business, or family, or life,” he said.

Find more information at Holiday Lights Bay Area.

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