Santa has some competition.
Decorator Benjamin Bradley is such a whiz at spreading holiday cheer that he’s earned the nickname “Mr. Christmas.” On his reality show “Holiday Home Makeover With Mr. Christmas” (currently streaming on Netflix), he helps families make their homes festive for the season — like “Queer Eye” meets “Elf.”
Armed with tinsel, gingerbread, determination and a keen eye, Bradley, 53, can transform any living space into a winter wonderland. When would-be clients ask him for holiday help, he shows up with his dog Ebenezer — an 8-year-old black lab/pit bull mix that he affectionately calls “Ebbie” — and his head full of Yuletide inspiration.
But you don’t need to be a guest on his Netflix show for Bradley to help you deck your halls. He spoke to The Post about the do’s and don’ts of Christmas decor for this unusual pandemic holiday season.
1. Do focus on the outside
For obvious reasons (think: viral load), this Christmas will be all about the outdoors, so Bradley says festive exteriors will be essential. “The outdoor elements will see a real uptick in lights. Maybe not so much in the city — but I have seen things happening on balconies and terraces. And across America, outdoor decorating will grow since you will not be able to gather inside, as sad as that is.”
He said first-time facade-trimmers should focus on “tidy presentation.”
“Please hide your cords, whether you toss them underneath a layer of mulch or tuck them behind the shrubs,” Bradley said.
And remember: Go big or go home. “Inside, there’s an 8- or 9-foot ceiling. Outside, go as big as you possibly can. If you want a garland on your door, don’t buy a regular pinecone, buy a big one. Buy a 20-inch bow instead of an 8-inch.”
2. Don’t just unbox and prop
When it comes to trees, Bradley said there’s nothing wrong with going artificial. However, synthetic trees and wreaths still need love.
“I think artificial is great, but you can’t just pull them out of the box because they’ll be flat. They’ve been compressed for shipping,” he said.
Instead, you should “spend time fluffing them and making them look natural,” he said. Massage and mold each individual branch with your hands, keeping in mind “what a real evergreen branch looks like.”
3. Do work with wreaths
If your living space is too small for a full-size tree, there are several alternate solutions. For one, you can opt for a smaller tree — but it’s a common mistake to simply get one that’s short, Bradley said.
“A short tree doesn’t necessarily help with floorspace — it just looks like you bought a short tree,” he said. Instead, “get one with a smaller circumference.”
And if you don’t have the capacity for a tree at all, a natural wreath will do the trick. “It’s amazing what you can fit on an evergreen garland,” he said. “You can put lights and ribbons and ornaments on it. It’s a wonderful way to have a festive touch without taking up floor space, and it can hold a tremendous amount.”
4. Do consider color schemes
Bradley said a common mistake people make is mixing up years’ worth of accumulated decorations without making them look unified.
He often observes people placing their decor haphazardly, throwing unrelated objects such as a nutcracker or an ornament around a room without an eye to what might match. If you have sentimental items around that don’t automatically go together, that’s fine — there are ways to make it all look purposeful.
“Use the same ribbon on all the elements or the same color candle,” he advised. If you like staging holiday scenes on your mantle, “a base of evergreen [will] tie it together.”
5. Don’t sweat the small stuff
For someone with such strong opinions about Christmas decor, Bradley is remarkably laid-back about when to start setting up.
“It’s like birthdays — we only get so many, and if it makes you happy, put it up,” he said. “Particularly with this year, a lot of people have started early. It’s about listening to your heart. If going all-out and stringing your lights around will make you feel better, go for it.”
As for his own approach: “I usually start at the beginning of October. I know of people who keep Christmas out year-round. I am not one of those.”
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