Making Christmas Magic


Written by Kristen Hampshire | Photography by Pamela Aquilani

SEASONS GREETINGS From the moment one enters the home of Marcia Schieck and Richard Greenfield during the holiday season, they are welcomed by a dazzling extravaganza of trees, decor and keepsakes.

When Marcia Schieck was a young girl,  she watched as her mother would forage at garage and estate sales, craft stores and even in their own attic for materials that could be repurposed to set the stage for a cozy, special holiday. Eventually, she helped and has carried on the tradition over the years, designing and decorating spaces for Christmas and beyond.

“I grew up in a small town in Western Pennsylvania, and we had to be creative,” Schieck related, adding that her mother made “all of our holidays feel like a parade — a magical movie.”

Schieck has spent years gutting, renovating, designing and staging homes. “For me, it’s not just the home design, walls and floors but also how you fill the space with love, comfort and happiness,” she said. “It’s about creating spaces with passion, love and a giant sprinkle of magic.”

Giant, to be sure. Schieck has a 25’ x 10’ storage unit lined with shelves and containers of holiday decorations. Her Dewey Beach home is transformed into a Christmas wonderland featuring a dozen trees that Schieck decorates herself as her husband, Rich Greenfield, helps with logistics — like hooking up all the lights to Alexa, so they can simply say, “Turn on Christmas magic,” and pop-pop pop, the trees all turn on within a minute, and their three-story, 7,700-square-foot coastal home is glittering with spirit.

Schieck’s holiday “extravaganza,” as she calls it, really started about eight years ago, when the couple would rent the du Pont estate in Dewey in the fall, where they’d enjoy some preholiday time with friends and family. “The elements of the house we are in now lend themselves to coming alive during the holidays,” she said, “and I wanted to create something you would see in a magazine — a place where you’d want to go to spend a week over Christmas.”

So, that’s exactly what she did, and every year the decorating starts before Thanksgiving and extends through winter. “I encourage people to keep the happiness up,” she added.

When asked how she pulls it off or where she finds the inspiration, Schieck suggests looking in magazines, selecting some photos of an ideal Christmas setting and considering how to recreate the look as her mother taught her.

BE OF GOOD CHEER!  To keep the joyous holiday momentum flowing, Schieck begins decorating before Thanksgiving and continues throughout the winter.

A Show of Trees

All but one tree is changed up annually. “My longest-standing tree is the fairy tree, with about 20 hand-painted, hand-designed whimsical fairies,” she said. “On a 10-foot tree, they come alive.” Other trees she designs based on the space. “I might get boxes from my storage unit and pick one element that becomes the theme,” she described. For example, last year she wanted a red-and-gold look for one of the trees. “I found the most sparkly, pretty bows that were red and handmade them. Then I started tucking in ribbon and ornaments, and next came painted pinecones.”

Schieck emphasizes the fact that gorgeous trees can come together on a budget. “You don’t have to spend a lot of money to make it special,” she said. “One of my favorite strategies is a simple green tree sprayed with white frosting and lights, and what carries the tree is the lights. Then I take boxes and get beautiful red-and-black-checked wrapping and make big bows to put underneath.”

Sprinkling Magic Throughout

Beyond the evolving tree collection, Schieck dresses bannisters, mantles, shelves and wall space with festive garland — some blooming with colorful ornaments — and wreaths of all sizes hanging from felt red ribbon. Holiday throw pillows adorn seating, and bow sashes transform dining room chairs. Throughout the home, candles introduce warm, cozy light. Schieck also works in natural elements, especially pinecones, since they are so plentiful in the area. “Just take some from the front yard and spray paint them white or gold — that is one of the big design tricks I use because they are everywhere,” she said.

THE MAGIC TOUCH  To give her space that extra sprinkle of magic, Schieck embellishes mantles, shelves, bannisters, and more with festive garland and wreaths of varying size.

SITTING PRETTY  In Marcia and Rich’s holiday home, you’ll find throw pillows adorning the seating as bow sashes transform the dining room chairs.

Simply Creating a Cozy Space

Schieck has grown her holiday decor collection (and stash) over the years by shopping after the season ends. Another tip she shares is to hit the sales where ornaments that might have been priced at $8 are marked down to a dollar or less. This allows you to be elaborate the next year or to add a tree or several. But above all, Schieck’s secret to making Christmas magic is to focus on the feeling, not on the “stuff.” “Decorating at Christmas and creating a special place is really individual,” she said. “It’s about making it feel like a cozy blanket and your own.” CS

WHAT A FEELING  Schieck advises holiday decorators to “focus on the feeling, not on the ‘stuff’” when it’s time to deck the halls of their own homes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *