Jingle all the way
By Glen Young
Photos by G. Randall Goss
Marsha Harrison loves Christmas. And visitors to her Bay View Heights home soon learn just how much the holiday means to Harrison, as her home wears her delight in both bright colors and seasonal sounds.
“Every room in my home has a touch of Christmas,” Harrison says with a smile.
Nine distinctive Christmas trees greet visitors to Harrison’s hilltop home, the first one visible just inside the front door. There are two revolving trees, the first in the foyer area leading from the entryway to the living room, where wide views of Little Traverse Bay and Harbor Springs wait.
Harrison, a retired schoolteacher who stays active with substitute teaching, shows off pieces both new and classic.
“I made a Christmas room in miniature more than 40 years ago,” Harrison explains, pointing to the tiny but complete display with characters, furniture and more that helped start her decorating direction.
Harrison first moved north when she bought a Bay View cottage in 2004, after she also enjoyed a career as an interior designer. Those artistic skills come through as visitors move through her house, under garland hung from a doorway, accented in rice lights, and into the dining area, where the table is set for holiday guests. Four Hitchcock chairs complete the dining scene, finished with encouragements in script, such as “A Friend is the one who comes in when the whole world has gone out.”
Through careers in teaching and real estate as well as her design accomplishments, Harrison has always maintained her decorating desire; something she says is a family tradition.
“My father especially enjoyed the holidays,” she explains, and her grandmother also “always made it special for us.”
Harrison has always wanted to hand down her holiday happiness, saying, “I tried to create this Christmas fantasy for my son” and her grandchildren.
It is not only the main floor where Harrison’s holiday touch decorates her home. Upstairs, a pink angora tree just across from an heirloom quilt completed by Harrison’s great-great-grandmother brightens the master bedroom. Across the hall, spreads dating to the 1880s adorn the twin beds in the guestroom.
Santa Claus, of course, is everywhere in Harrison’s comfortable home, as are snowmen and angels. And though Harrison’s efforts require more and more time each year, as she begins putting up decorations soon after Halloween and enjoys them through the days past Valentine’s Day, the most important feature of time spent making her house look festive is, because “I have fun putting it all together,” she says.
“I want to do it while I still have the energy and while other people can enjoy it,” she adds.
Beginning in the days just after Halloween, Harrison says her process follows a pattern each year, though there are also surprises along the way.
“I start with the trees in the rooms,” she explains. Next she pulls boxes out of her storage area, and from year to year she might end up with different boxes first. “I decorate as I empty the storage area,” she adds.
Harrison explains she has a couple local go-to retailers when she is looking to add to her collection of holiday adornments, mentioning the whimsical possibilities at Grandpa Shorter’s in the Gaslight District, as well as the Petoskey area Pier One.
As for favorite decorations, though, Harrison points to a vintage top hat she uses to crown one of the larger trees, explaining how the hat originally belonged to her son’s great-great-grandfather, who wore the hat in the late 19th century. “That hat is special,” she admits.
As well, Harrison appreciates including artists she knows, most notably Debbie Malek of Plymouth, Michigan, and Laurie Weingartz from Petoskey.
Most folks are content to put up a tree with some ornaments and even a few outdoor lights to celebrate the season, taking it all down soon after the New Year. Harrison on the other hand is all in with her holiday decorations. With more than 40 years of decorating and decorations, Harrison is still thrilled when time comes to put up the lights and rearrange the house for some Christmas cheer.
“I’ve been doing it all my life,” she laughs.
The best part of the decorating process for Harrison each year is the way her holiday rooms are both a testament to previous years, as well as a new opportunity to showcase her art and her flair.
“I still haven’t stopped,” she says with a smile that brightens up the room as much as the lights that rim the doorways and cascade down the trees.
Written By By Glen Young and photos by G. Randall Goss