All the Trimmings

Deck the halls with 'elf'-confidence!

When Santa visits the Southwest, he’s not looking at the same old tinsel and holly. Four local ­homeowners show us how they ­combine ­personally and regionally meaningful ­elements in unique ­decorations that keep spirits bright.



Cactus Christmas trees and cowboy boots filled with poinsettias. Red silk flowers in a cow skull and ornaments hanging off the branches of a dried agave plant. Rope and bandanas, luminarias, and spurs, deer heads and barbed-wire coyotes. All have a place in creative, highly personal Sedona holiday decorating. On the following pages, four homeowners open their doors so we can see how they bring meaning and color and cheer to their lives at this special time of year. Plus, we’ve got a look at Tlaquepaque’s plans for enlivening its public space, and info on a chance to see more local interiors on the annual B&B tour.

Deer Santa: Bring Red Bandanas

Living in rural Strawberry, about 65 miles southeast of Sedona, Brenda Dickinson has to get creative when decorating her home for the holidays. She can buy some items at Wal-Mart (30 minutes away) but prefers to find most of her décor closer to her front door.

“I’ve done fancy,” says Brenda, a former interior designer, “and I wanted to do something that felt good and homey. I want people to be able to come in, sit down and relax.”

To trim her Christmas tree, Brenda chose decorations that fit a Western theme. Bears, deer, cardinals, bird houses, and fishing-related ornaments hang beside pine cones, strips of leather made to look like barbed wire, a large deer head made from grasses and other natural materials, black and plaid ribbon, real birds’ nests and red bandanas – dozens of the latter, which she tied around packages in place of bows, knotted in garland running along her stairway banister and, perhaps most cleverly, layered with burlap fabric and wrapped around her tree as a skirt. Her husband’s cowboy hat doubles as a tree topper.

Elsewhere, Brenda gathered greenery such as juniper, blue spruce, ivy, holly, and ponderosa pine and pine cones from her yard to create a large centerpiece for her dining room table, a smaller arrangement for the piano, and swags for her two fireplace mantles. She mixed fake greenery with the real stuff and added horseshoes from her barn, spurs, discarded deer antlers and cow horns to complete the arrangements. As a tribute to her father, who died in 2003, she included one of his cowboy boots in the center of her wreath and a piece of his rope is intertwined in the stairway garland.

Brenda says it took her only about four days to pull everything together, and she usually begins decorating the day after Thanksgiving. “It doesn’t have to be about spending a lot of money and looking perfect,” she advises. “Look at me, I just winged it!”

Deck the Halls With Juniper and Cedar

Artist Marcela Panasiti brings the outdoors in by using juniper and cedar branches for the garland hanging around her door and on top of her fences. She ties the branches together with wire and ribbon, and the fresh aroma of the garland permeates the whole house. “It’s not about the expense but the joy of [creating] it,” she says.

Marcela doesn’t buy much for holiday decorating – she looks for elements in nature and matches those with items she already owns. She spreads Native American and Mexican blankets on benches around her fire pit so she can entertain outside in December and keep her guests warm. Large red silk flowers fill her Native American pots and adorn cow skulls hanging inside and outside her home. She strings white lights everywhere; she piles up red rocks and strings lights around the piles. She also makes a point of involving her kids.

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