Meet Event-Planning Guru Meg Critchell

If you grow up on a Christmas tree farm, is holiday decorating your destiny?

Event-planning guru Meg Critchell.Did growing up on a tree farm spoil the holidays for you? Oh, no, we were always gearing up for Christmas. The day after Thanksgiving was huge and exciting. Dad would be out in the field, and families would be showing up to cut their trees. It was quintessential Currier & Ives. When I was little, my siblings and I would hop on a hayride with Dad. He would cut branches and find gorgeous leaves and things. The next thing you knew, Dad had done our mantel and Mom was creating arrangements. They made this magic happen, and it was all from the backyard.

What’s the allure of holiday decorating? Your house looks the same all year. But the minute that first branch comes in, the chair you didn’t re-cover doesn’t matter anymore. By bringing the outdoors inside, it creates a whole different house.

What’s your process for decorating someone’s house? I usually go to the house and we chat a little, and I might show some pictures. If the house is covered in chintz, we’re apt to go in a traditional direction. In a modern house, the decor is sleeker and a little bit cleaner, not as whimsical. Then, people leave in the morning and when they get home—from the wreath on the door to the mantel trim—they have Christmas. 

Huge pinecones and simple greens complement som eof Meg Critchell's favorite Christmas pieces.What’s your favorite scheme? I still go out to the farm and clip with my father. I love boxwood and magnolia leaves. And branches are gorgeous in the winter. I love all shades of greens, whites and ivories—they go with anything, and greenery lasts so much longer than flowers. I love unexpected containers—soup tureens, ice buckets. Tea sets are fabulous to arrange flowers in. They’re perfect vessels. I’ve even done flowers in the little creamer and sugar bowl.

What’s an unusual detail for a successful party? I love a food takeaway, a snack for the road—cookies for the car, something to nibble on the way home if you’ve been dancing all night. If it’s a late party, an egg sandwich, all hot and ready to go, or little bottles of a hangover remedy.  

Do you prefer parties given at home? There’s something special about inviting people into your home. But don’t experiment on holidays. Slow down, and cook things that you make well. What’s one of your traditions? We always decorate the tree as a family. I cook something easy—chili, soup or chicken potpie. Then we unwrap the ornaments. We sing carols and let the kids stay up late.

A version of this article appeared in the December 2015 issue of Connecticut Cottages & Gardens with the headline: Meet the Designer: Meg Critchell.