Palo Alto Weekly

Real Estate - December 7, 2012

Merry lighting without the migraines

Palo Alto-based services design and install holiday displays

by Sarah Trauben

At the end of Thanksgiving comes the inauguration of the holiday season, a time for crooning by Bing Crosby and homes ringed with wreathes and festooned with lights. The tradition, however ubiquitous and central to Christmas cheer, is not without its hassles.

Take, for instance, the potentially migraine-inducing ritual that begins for many with families digging into their cluttered storage in search of tangled and hopefully unbroken strands of lights. Cue less-than-festive differences of opinion regarding design followed by hours in the cold on unsteady ladders, infamously the cause for many a holiday accident.

Oh, what DIY cheer! Or perhaps not. Many Palo Alto households are leaving the design and installation of their twinkling holiday lights displays to the experts. Even those who have fond memories of lining the home with lights see the appeal.

"I've always enjoyed it; it would get me into the holiday spirit and people would initiate conversations as they walked by. But I've found myself increasingly uncomfortable crawling around on the roof," Palo Alto resident Michael Hindery said.

Hindrey put up lights for decades before hearing his neighbor had help installing a "neat" display last year. This year, Palo Alto-based company Christmas Light Pros installed lighting around his second- and third-story rooflines and on his front-yard bushes, in addition to setting up a snowman from Hindery's collection.

Among the advantages of the service, he said, are "the ease and convenience of having someone else do it and the consistent effect achieved without (having) to go to the local hardware store to replace lights."

According to Christmas Light Pros owner Bradford Eakes, other benefits include professional design and access to decorations leased and stored by the services.

"The average person that contracts me to do their Christmas lights is looking for a very original and elegant lights display for their home and landscaping," Eakes said.

Eakes designs the majority of displays for his clients' properties, generally with homeowners' input, and leases about 90 percent of the decorating supplies used.

"The advantage is that no client is locked in on their lighting design year to year, and they don't need to store decorations," he said.

Services offered by companies such as Christmas Light Pros include a variety of decorating options.

Installers can drape and wrap lights on rooflines and trees, hang garland and wreathes in windows, install walkway lights and spotlights and even set up laser projections.

"If someone has a profession and that's what they do for a living, they know how to do it well. You don't pay the baker to do your gardening," Eakes said.

The owner of Christmas Light Pros, he has hung holiday lights for nine years and estimated he has worked on approximately 3,000 holiday-lights installations. His business currently designs, installs and maintains seasonal building and landscaping decoration for residences and businesses in Palo Alto, Atherton and Menlo Park.

Services such as Christmas Light Pros ensure displays outshine those of the rest of the block using careful design and installation strategies, Eakes said.

"My goal from a design perspective is to create what we call a trifecta," he said. The approach, done successfully, ensures that the full effect of the light decoration comes through regardless of the angle from which the viewer sees the installation.

The cost of professionally installed holiday displays varies widely. Modest displays can cost approximately $375, while the bill for residential and commercial customers preferring "more elaborate designs and displays" can run up to $15,000, Eakes said.

But cost-conscious readers need not fret: Budget-savvy decorators can save 90 to 95 percent on notoriously high Christmas-season electrical bills by selecting LED lights. An increasingly popular option, LED lights save on cost without sacrificing style.

"The color is very similar to incandescent lighting and yet it's of a higher quality. It's known as 'warm lighting,'" Eakes said.

Contracts for services include maintenance and service throughout the holiday season. If rain shorts an electrical circuit or light bulbs shatter, there's no need to schedule an evening to start anew.

Professionally assisted decorators don't need to troubleshoot and repair displays themselves.

"It's definitely convenient," Hindery said.

And the best part of leaving your lighting to the professionals? Once the holiday season is over, the homeowner doesn't need to schedule a weekend to take down the lights and put them in storage. Installation crews guarantee they'll take down displays in the first two weeks of January.

"It creates a stress-free holiday," Eakes said.

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