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Decking Our Halls Is A Year-Round Process

Posted on 10/25/2016 by Jean Sexton

From miles of garlands and hundreds of wreaths to thousands of lights and decorations on more than 70 trees inside America's largest home, our annual Christmas at Biltmore celebration is guaranteed to put you in a festive holiday mood!

But where does it all come from each year? How and when does it start? We asked members of Biltmore's Floral team to give us a behind-the-scenes look at creating such a spectacular holiday happening.

A storyboard basket of ornaments for Christmas at BiltmoreA year of planning

"All the Christmas decorations you see this year began to take shape more than a year ago," said Cathy Barnhardt, Floral Displays Manager. "Our team spent several early December mornings walking through Biltmore House before guests arrived. We evaluate what’s great and what elements we might do again in another room,” Cathy said. “We already know the following year’s theme, and our designers are eager to choose the rooms they want. Sometimes it’s like a bidding war--they have to sell me on their ideas.”

The selection process

This year, a 12-foot tree under the Grand Staircase has a vintage, traditional Christmas look reminiscent of a Charles Dickens novel. Close by the tree, a fresh arrangement flanked by large lanterns on stands and planters of red poinsettias provide a lovely contrast to the iconic evergreen. Creating the designs, selecting the decorations, and figuring out how many flowers of which kind took months of careful planning and review by team member April Partain who chose this area in 2015.

Grand Staircase tree for Christmas at BiltmoreApril selected some ornaments during the December walk-through; others were chosen from Biltmore’s warehouse a few months later. Some ornaments are new, purchased at the Atlanta Gift Mart last March. April created a kind of storyboard featuring a sample basket of ornaments and detailed design sheets to show Cathy the look and feel of her plan; the design was tweaked and approved in spring 2016.

Meanwhile, the 12-foot tree spent this year upright in Floral’s warehouse (sometimes called the tree farm) in a spot reserved specifically for it. By early summer, April had gone over all the tree lights to make sure they were in good condition and she had also placed an order for fresh poinsettias to arrive at the proper time. For the next few month, the remaining decorations needed for the area were created.

Putting it all together

During the entire month of October, our Floral Displays team is busy decking the halls and rooms of Biltmore House. Guests enjoy watching Christmas at Biltmore come to life and tell us it often inspires ideas for their own homes.

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