A Coolly Calvert Christmas

Too much is just right when it comes to holiday décor. Interior designer Pamela Calvert decks her home with holly-jolly Christmas cheer.

By Barbara E. Stefàno

Photography by Anne Matheis


    Pamela Calvert’s Christmastime holy trinity is plucked straight from the holiday decorator’s bible: lights, texture and glitter. The seasoned — and seasonal — interior designer has added her magical touch to scores of St. Louis-area homes over the years, but it’s the glitz and sparkle of Christmas she enjoys more than most.

    Pamela has a stable of faithful clients, some of whom have called upon her to gussy-up their digs for the holidays and other occasions for more than 20 years. “It’s really the joy of what people get out of it that makes it worthwhile,” she says. “I like decorating my clients' homes when the homeowners aren't there and seeing their reaction, so they see it the way their guests see it for the first time.”

    While seasonal color schemes may vary from client to client, the interior designer gravitates toward traditional Christmas hues in her own home — bold red, green and metallics on the main level, primarily silver in the foyer and a living room laden with gold. Likewise, the level of flashiness may vary by space.

    “I like ‘less is more’ in a lot of applications but with the fireplace, more is more. I almost overdo it; I put a lot of sparkle and a lot of lights to it,” says Pamela. The heavy-handedness simply works, particularly in the living room, where evergreen foliage festooned in red and gold ornaments, sprigs and lights cascades from the mantel.

    “And there is no way to overdo the tree. I start with big-scale pieces and begin layering with a lot of small-scale decorations, eventually adding lots of lighting. The more I collect, the better it gets.” The Christmas trees are decorated according to the color scheme of the space, brimming with silver reindeer and sparkling, wintery ornaments in one room and decked in colorful hats, orbs and brightly dressed elves in another. 

    Like any decorator worth her salt, Pamela collects constantly, and each acquisition shuffles the décor on deck. “I re-envision it every year. I like things shaken up a little bit. I may move one or two things around that will totally change the look.”

    Pamela’s menagerie can’t readily be counted but one can measure its vastness by the time she puts into arranging her home for the holidays. The day after Thanksgiving, she starts moving out everyday décor, serving dishes, glassware and more, replacing it with similar collections in the holiday theme. In a typical season, she’ll spend up to 12 hours a day for a full week getting her home fully into the Christmas spirit. Somehow in the midst of all this, she starts on her clients’ decorating. In roughly a months’ time, it all comes down and goes back into storage until the next year.

    It seems a great deal of effort for such a short show, but Pamela doesn’t do it just for her own edification. She and her husband, Bruce, love to entertain, and Christmastime is when families gather. “Probably twice a week, whether it’s friends or neighbors or my husband’s work or my work or clients or family, we’re having people over,” she says. “My family’s very big, so these can be huge gatherings.” While Pamela has no children of her own, the Calverts have been known to host sit-down dinners with up to 100 guests, including family, extended family and friends. It is important to her and Bruce to have a warm, welcoming space and guest tables that are joyful yet functional.

    “While decorating for the holidays, I keep in mind that I don't intend to move things around when entertaining. I try to make the table as festive as I can without interfering with dinner conversations.” That means bold splashes of red from holly berries, crimson trees and Santa hats, with a few rattan reindeer surveying the tablescape.

    To achieve a festive holiday home, Pamela insists one doesn’t need to splurge a fortune on rare finds. You just need to know how to use what you have. Not every piece must be precious. Simply “lay a base” with inexpensive tchotchkes from the local hobby/craft shop or home décor store, she says, then place meaningful family heirlooms front-and-center.

    “It’s OK to start small — or start big,” she says. “You can add every year, or you can scale back what you have. Try different arrangements to see what your gut tells you.”