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Look into the future for a moment — say, Jan. 2, 2021. Your holidays may have been all happy faces and good cheer, but now the fun is over. It’s time to undeck the halls. And therein lies a chief reason why interior designer Priscilla Castellano of Andrea Lauren Elegant Interiors has such success decorating clients’ homes for the season. 

She and her team will not only purchase, curate and install your holiday decor — the trees, the garlands, the wreaths, everything — they’ll also take it down. 

“The fact that we put everything away is key,” says Castellano. 

That’s one reason why she can charge a flat fee that’s, in her words, “nice and hefty.” Hers is a full-service operation — “we’re not there to service a tree for a hundred bucks.” 

A festive staircase view.

And in most cases, we’re talking not just one tree but several trees — plus doorways, staircases, even outdoor decks, all bedizened with the expert eye of a veteran designer who scours the markets for the highest-quality materials she can find. 

A winter wonderland on the South Tampa waterfront.

In the design business since 1999, Castellano added holiday decor to her firm’s portfolio five years ago. Since then, the company (named after Castellano’s two granddaughters) has bedazzled the mansions of local pro sports coaches, politicians and multimillionaire execs from Belleair to Bayshore. 

A winning design for the home of former Bucs football coach Lovie Smith.

As with so many businesses, the interior design field has faced many uncertainties due to the pandemic. Castellano usually shops for materials at a huge market in Atlanta that devotes multiple floors to holiday decor, she says, but “this year will be a little more challenging.” And while she recommends that prospective clients contact her as early as July if they want their homes adorned by December, she’s been getting calls from people who are only just now making their Christmas plans. 

An 8-foot upside-down tree in a Bayshore Boulevard mansion in Tampa. “I was worried that it would fall,” said Castellano. “All those ornaments!” But nothing untoward happened, and guests were dazzled.

Whenever she does a home, it’s the client’s tastes, not her own, that are paramount. And she’s dealt with a wide range of challenges, from hanging an 8-foot upside-down tree to devoting an entire room (and tree) to UF football. “There’s always room for their personal items,” she says.

But there’s one item she’d prefer not to use: a real tree. 

“We stay away from fresh trees,” she says. “The limbs come down, the ornaments come down.” And anyway, given the high quality of the artificial evergreens she uses, “You can’t tell the difference.” 

And how does a top designer decorate her own home for the holidays? 

Well…. Sometimes she doesn’t. 

She designed clients’ homes nonstop last year from November 1 through December 18. Afterwards, she says, “I was so burned out I just didn’t want to see another bulb.” 

Well-chosen decorations on an elegant doorway make for a warm welcome.

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