By Debra Smith Special to The Herald
For Corky Coury, decorating for Christmas is not about perfection.
It’s about family and tradition and memories worth preserving. It’s about the joy she feels watching a child’s face expand into open-mouthed delight.
“It’s for me and my family,” Coury said. But quite a few people in the neighborhood stop by for a look too.
Coury isn’t a professional designer, but she does have that magic Christmas touch. Maybe it’s inherited. The grandparents who raised her, the late George and Ella Wardell, were featured as Mr. and Mrs. Claus in a full-page feature in The Herald in 1969. They were well-known for their charitable work for the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Step into Coury’s Lynnwood home and find that same Christmas spirit and warmth tucked into nearly every room — all of it arranged in a way that makes a visitor want to lean in and get a closer look.
She has quite a few good ideas worth trying. Just for starters, consider the nifty Advent calendar strung across her fireplace mantel. Each of the felt cones strung on a pretty ribbon holds a small gift for guests that pop by each day. It’s simple, elegant and thoughtful.
Another neat idea: She’s taken a typical wreath and added found bells of all types, including sleigh bells.
Small vignettes of treasured items can be found on the kitchen windowsill, the bathroom counter, on side tables and in bedrooms. The items may be all a little different, but there’s one trait they all share. For instance, some favorite figurines on her kitchen windowsill are all Scandinavian. Her favorite vintage Gurley candles are grouped together by type.
Here are some other bits of wisdom Coury shared:
•Create a picture-perfect tree by sticking to a theme. Her four Christmas trees — yes, four — each have a theme.
The big tree in the living room is decorated with several hundred bells in red, green and gold. Another is all Santa.
A third holds ornaments that remind her of time spent living in the United Kingdom. The last is limited to crystal, white and silver ornaments.
•There is no such thing as too many lights. The best way to light the tree is to zigzag the string from the trunk to the outside edge and back again.
Go beyond tinsel and traditional ornaments. Think creatively about the theme and bring in some unexpected items: a Santa hat on a Santa tree or a cluster of sparkly bells atop a bell tree.
She incorporated favorite Christmas books into her vignettes or near her trees. For instance, Dr. Seuss’ “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” is near the Santa tree, which holds a few stuffed Grinches.
•Fill empty space with a variety of “fillers.” These could be beaded sprays, stuffed animals, mittens, tiny stockings or even those decorative sayings found at craft stores.
Fillers don’t have to be traditional Christmas decorations, but they should fit with the overall theme or color of the tree. Use multiples of the same item for a cohesive look.
•Add a touch of whimsy. This is about what brings pleasure, not perfection.
Coury does strategically divert from a theme. On her main tree, she’s placed a real bird’s nest, found years ago. She coats it with hairspray annually to keep it together.
•Incorporate beloved family traditions. Coury follows the German tradition of placing a pickle ornament in the branches of the tree the night before Christmas.
The practice is meant to keep children looking at the splendor of the tree Christmas morning, not just the presents underneath.
•Make decorating an event. Put on Christmas music, brew a holiday drink and take time. Coury starts putting up trees in early November, and she doesn’t try to get it all done at once.
Shop for ornaments when you travel. They are the perfect souvenir and interesting ones can be found abroad.
Change it up. Make your beautiful things feel fresh and new by moving them around and trying new combinations each year.
Take the effort to store items properly. When it’s time to put everything away, Coury keeps everything in labeled plastic totes.
All ornaments are wrapped in tissue paper. The totes are stored in a warm, dry location.