Tom Harrington - designing the magic of Christmas across homes in Cheshire
PUBLISHED: 12:03 13 December 2019 | UPDATED: 12:03 13 December 2019
Tom Harrington brings sparkle, shine and smiles to homes across Cheshire, as the busy home-owner’s secret Christmas weapon.
One day in December 2015, Tom Harrington was asked to decorate the company Christmas tree. Upon being handed a battered box of aging Christmas decorations and some limp tinsel, he agreed - but only on the basis that the petty cash was handed over and he was able to update the decorations. And from this one moment a business idea was born.
'The decorations were all old and mismatched,' he tells me, 'so I went out and bought new, in our company colours. Feedback was great, and I thought I might have an opportunity here to set up a business for myself. The following spring I decided on the company name and set up a website. I then had leaflets printed and walked miles delivering them to homes in Hale, Bowdon, Prestbury, etc - the types of homes that I thought might be interested in a professional decorating service. I got some briefs straight away. It wasn't a busy first year, but really once I had done those first homes the word started to spread and now I get more briefs every year.'
Tom has worked in beautiful houses across Cheshire, including several footballers' properties and the homes of famous faces. They've all recommended him to friends and neighbours and he has been invited back every year by happy, loyal clients.
'Some customers are very specific in their requests,' he says. 'They want a tree here, in these colours, and a garland there, to match. Others ask for ideas and it's a consultative process, and others just ask us to create a theme and go wild. Some want everything and we can let our imaginations run wild. Whatever quirky or exuberant ideas they come up with, we will try our very best to fulfil them.
'For example, the Candyland theme has been very popular since Kris Jenner did it, in 2016. The following year one client requested it and this year six clients want it. It's fabulous - all red and white with over-sized sweets and candy canes. It's pure childlike fun.
'Most clients will request a specific colour scheme, if not a theme, or ask us what we think will work. In these cases, we tend to look at their artwork or soft furnishings and then pick out one colour and highlight it via the baubles on the tree. It's all in the attention to detail.'
Before moving into Christmas decorating, Tom was on the career ladder in a structural surveying firm, hence his eye for detail, but where did the creativity spring from?
'I actually studied art and design technology at A-level, followed by an art foundation course at university. I always loved architecture and design, which led me to a five year degree course in structural surveying.'
Here, Tom's partner, George Pullar, interjects: 'Tom's taste is impeccable. He has a really good eye for design - not only for colour, but for sizing and spacing too.'
George is Tom's right-hand-man during his busiest time, taking holiday from his own job to lug boxes, hang decorations, steady ladders and tidy up houses before they leave, so that clients come home to an impeccable scene of sparkle and light and not a mote of dropped glitter to be seen.
All that beautiful décor - and the man cleans up too!
This is Tom's busiest time, of course. 'I get all the repeat clients booked in and their requirements all planned out in September, but of course get people approaching up right up till December - and even into December! It's not unusual to get people calling really quite late, but we always manage to turn it around and deliver. It's such a special time, I couldn't say no. It always has to be just perfect though - never any rushed solutions. In January we're busy taking it all down and packing it back into our warehouse and then it's time for the shows. The Christmas trade shows are in January, with the biggest one, Christmasworld, held in Frankfurt. Businesses - manufacturers, retailers, decorators - come from all over the world to that one. It's massive, acres and acres of stands. It's great for inspiration; there's a trends section for the coming year and displays from across the globe. We love the Harrogate Christmas and Gift Fair, too. And it's much smaller, so a lot easier!'
In 2017 Tom added external installations to his list of services too. 'We started with the small stuff, just archways and doors, while I learned my way around it all. Now roofline lighting has become very popular and we're doing a lot of that this year. It looks amazing, but subtle and very tasteful. We have also introduced a new feature, a 'cone of light', which you can place in the garden and means there's no need for a real tree. This year we're putting in some up to 8m tall, with 4,000 LED bulbs. We have been invited to do a trio of houses in a gated development which will all have the same roofline lighting, then a series of cones, increasing in size from 6m to 8m tall. I can't wait to see it all done!'
Having spent a happy hour browsing through Tom's photo albums, I can assure you it's all amazing. I know what's on my Christmas wish list!