Connoisseur: Darlene Janeiro Design

By Stephanie Hounsell  |  Photography by Nikki Wesley


The fire is crackling, the music is low, and the room seems to glow from within. It’s a few weeks before Santa makes his appearance and there you sit, gazing at the twinkling lights on a Christmas tree that’s part stunning decor, part keeper of memories. Each branch holds something that makes you smile, be it a treasured childhood ornament or newly-acquired bauble.

Some people seem to have a knack for creating a tree that wows. Some of us could use a little help. Enter Darlene Janeiro of Darlene Janeiro Design who these days can be found bringing trees to life for clients or adjusting ornaments on a collection of lavishly-decorated trees at her new studio, opening November 7, in downtown Oakville, 92A Dunn St. Visitors can pluck and purchase ornaments straight from the branches, or hire Janeiro to recreate their own.

“It (your Christmas tree) should stir a magical feeling,” Janeiro says. “You can come home at the end of a hectic day, you’re sitting there with your coffee or your drink, and you’re daydreaming and looking at your tree. That’s what it should be creating for you. A little time out from our hectic world.”

Fortunately, Janeiro is full of tips and tricks for those who want to create a Hallmark-worthy tree this year.

The basics

When deciding on a real or artificial tree, consider when you start your holiday entertaining. If hosting November parties is your thing, a real one won’t make it until Christmas day. As for size, the height of the tree should be in proportion to the ceiling height, Janeiro says. The taller the ceiling, the taller the tree.

With lights, the most common mistake is not putting on enough — the tree photographed has more than 1,000. Janeiro recommends winding lights around each branch, working from trunk to tip, to create depth.

The fun part is coming up with a vision, be it chic, rustic, whimsical, contemporary, or any variation. The colour scheme is often the best place to start. Perhaps you’re all about traditional red and green. Or maybe you’d embrace fuchsia and lime green. Janeiro recommends choosing three colours, one of which can be a neutral. (Gold and silver are considered neutrals.) A pattern can play a role too. Plaid or a touch of leopard print, anyone?

Selecting ornaments

People often find it difficult to stylishly reconcile the mishmash of sentimental and handmade ornaments they’ve acquired with the shiny, colour co-ordinated ones they see lining store shelves. One solution is to have two trees — one for memories and one for show. Or you can simply incorporate both types of decorations, Janeiro says.

There’s no doubt decorating a tree can be expensive, and Janeiro recommends first looking at what you have. If you had red and gold last year and this year want a different look, you could add in ornaments of a new colour, or put away the red decorations and replace them with a different shade.

Simply changing the ribbon can give a completely different look. (Janeiro’s trade secret is to drape the ribbon from top to bottom instead of wrapping it around.) And nature freely offers everything from pinecones to greenery.

The unexpected

Adding in unexpected elements makes for a more interesting tree. “Anything can be an ornament,” Janeiro says, including small pieces of art, family heirlooms, reindeer figures, and artificial flowers or sprigs of berries.

When hanging ornaments, be sure to hang some deep into the tree, not just on the tips of branches, for added depth. As for a tree skirt, any sort of fabric — burlap for a rustic look, a faux fur blanket or gauzy scarves for a lavish feel — can do the job beautifully.

Add some colour co-ordinated presents underneath and you’re done! Not quite right? Play around. Have fun. And go ahead, grab another mug of hot chocolate.