A tree decorated with 42 pairs of Christian Louboutin stilettos instead of baubles, 25ft angels in the driveway and a battalion of Nutcracker soldiers marching through the garden.
That’s before every single tree, inside and outside, has been wrapped in enough fairy lights to rival Blackpool.
Welcome to Christmas with the super-rich, where decking the halls can cost a bell-jingling £40,000 – even if the owners only see it for a few hours before they jet off to their next luxury home.
When decorator to the stars Adele Gregson first told a client that a giant bauble stack would set them back £8,000, she admits even she winced at the extravagance.
“But now I know that if they really want something, they’ll pay whatever it costs without a second thought,” she says. “Money is no object – they just want Christmas taken care of.”
Adele, who owns and runs The Christmas Decorators Cheshire, has given a glittering seasonal makeover to the homes of super-rich businessmen and women, and celebrities including Sharon Osbourne, Jonathan Ross, and Liverpool’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and his Little Mix girlfriend Perrie Edwards.
And she’s used to taking every request in her stride, no matter how outrageous.
One fashion-obsessed client, she reveals, mentioning no names, asked to have nothing but Louboutin shoes, bags and boxes covering her bright red tree. The price? More than £20,000.
“If you want the best, most extravagant Christmas and you’ve got the money to do it, then why not?” says Adele.
As a millionaire company boss (maybe only half jokingly) told her: “I want you to be able to see my tree from space.”
“It already had 140 sets of lights on it,” Adele says. “It was unbelievable, but he still wanted more.
“We also ended up putting 36 massive white stag heads all over the property and drilled into the ceiling to attach more lights. When we told him, he just said, ‘Don’t worry, the interior designers will sort it afterwards. It’s Christmas’.”
This attitude is typical of Adele’s clients, who she discreetly calls “high-net-worth individuals”. In reality, that means the glamorous Cheshire set for whom Christmas is a competition of extravagance played out on social media.
“If one has a 30ft tree in their lobby, the next will insist on 33ft. Big isn’t enough, it has to be the biggest. They love the reaction they get on Instagram if theirs is the best.”
But some clients are so wealthy, and so fiercely protective of their safety and privacy, that Adele never even gets to know their names.
“They don’t have social media accounts and they would never dream of sharing personal details,” she says. “They do it purely for themselves.”
This high-level festive planning is done through concierges, wealth-management companies and security staff.
The clients are often on the other side of the world as a team of 10 decorators works around the clock.
“We have some clients who will only be in their house for a couple of hours on Christmas Day,” says Adele. “They can spend tens of thousands for just the time it takes to eat dinner, then they’ll fly off to another property, maybe in Aspen, which we’ve decorated as well.”
Landing a £40,000 bill might seem like a nightmare before Christmas, but it doesn’t bother a multimillionaire.
So what do they get for that?
A mansion can take a team of eight at least three days to complete, using cherry-picker cranes to install roof-line lighting and huge garlands on the outside. It can cost £10,000 to light just one tree with a dazzling 33,000 lights.
Every external tree along the driveway will have an extra 10,000 lights, and it can cost another £10,000 for a giant bauble stack for the garden. Add to that lavish decorations in every room, and the cost soon mounts up.
Adele, who lives with her two daughters in Melling, Merseyside, has been decorating the homes of the rich and famous for the past eight years, ever since she hired professional Christmas decorators for her own home and liked the idea so much, she decided to do it herself.
Although Cheshire is her core area, clients often have second properties, either in London or abroad, meaning Adele’s teams are in demand across the globe. Last year one group of decorators spent two days flying to Australia and back for just two hours’ work.
With 120 client briefs to fulfil in the hectic eight-week run-up to Christmas, she has 20 decorators
out working right up to Christmas Eve.
And if the designs sometimes seem over the top, the rules around what can and can’t be done during installation are even more draconian.
“Before we even set foot on site, everyone has to be vetted, searched and sign a non-disclosure agreement,” says Adele. “We ban mobile phones from being taken into homes so there is no risk of photos.
“If you’re a multimillionaire, it’s all about privacy and security, so we’re often watched and escorted room to room.
“Our staff are asked not to look in certain rooms or ask any questions, and the only things allowed in are the boxes of decorations, which are put in a secure room and monitored.”
It’s strict, but Adele says she understands. “At first, to be honest, I thought it was rude. But they have to be protective – they’re letting you into their home. There’s a huge element of trust which comes with that which we never underestimate.”
While most families are digging dusty baubles and home-made adornments out of the loft, Adele’s decorations are made bespoke – the company has two factories in China producing all year round. “You wouldn’t find anything we use in a department store,” she says.
Although installation is concentrated into eight weeks across October, November and December, she spends the rest of the year sourcing pieces from around the world and designing.
“We only get two weeks after Christmas to take everything down, and the minute it’s gone, those clients – or their concierges or agencies – are planning for the following year, so the work never stops.”
Not everyone manages to be quite so organised though, and inevitably there are last-minute phone calls.
“We’ve had housekeepers ring us on Christmas Eve because they’ve only just found out the owner is going to be in the country on Christmas Day,” says Adele.
And yes, Adele admits that when she receives a panicked call, she is prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice.
“The year before last I had seven trees in my house, which looked amazing. But the closer it got to Christmas Eve, the more the phone started ringing with late bookings,” she remembers.
“I was going to Lapland with my daughters so I just let the staff take everything. By the time we went, there wasn’t a single tree or garland left, the place had been stripped bare.”
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