As with most successful careers, Deb Ryan’s is one built on passion. She found her knack in the creative realm, doing displays at Macy’s department store.
By Caitlin Brown
As with most successful careers, Deb Ryan’s is one built on passion. She found her knack in the creative realm, doing displays at Macy’s department store. She was given still more creative license when she moved on to Neiman Marcus. “If it wasn’t for Neiman’s, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I learned from the best in the business — their flair for style and presentation, their attention to detail and emphasis on customer service.”
It was while working at Neiman’s in the 1990s that Ryan’s holiday business began. An Assistant Visual Manager at the time, one of her job duties was maintaining their Gift Galleries department and seasonal holiday Trim-a-Tree section. A customer happened to walk by as she was wrapping and twisting lights on a tree display, and asked if Ryan could do something similar at her home. “Sure!,” was her ready answer, always excited to add her creative touch. After that home project, many others quickly followed through word of mouth.
She left Neiman Marcus in 1999 to devote time to her decorative painting business, Deb Ryan Designs LLC, which keeps her busy. Her holiday decorating business was really an outgrowth of her visual work at the store and word traveling. Word traveled still faster, when Ryan’s painting clients discovered her added talent. Her clients are spread throughout Fairfield and Westchester counties, but her concentration is in Rye.
Ryan started out doing simple things, like adding more lights, to enliven holiday décor, but now she has a lot of clients who want an entire indoor/outdoor holiday decorating scheme. Nearly all of her assignments start with lighting up and arranging greenery around the front entry. But she is always ready to follow a client’s vision all the way to the top ornament on the tree.
Her holiday business begins after Halloween and goes through the end of December; she is full throttle/full time with her painting business the other months of the year.
As far as holiday decoration, Ryan says most people “don’t realize how many lights and extension cords are required to make the exterior of their house look full and beautiful. The same goes for interiors. There are so many elements in a lovely garland. I love working out the details.”
She pays little attention to trends in holiday decorating. “Clients may look at holiday catalogues like Restoration Hardware or Frontgate, but I just concentrate on what the client prefers and design with the elements and colors they choose.”
Ryan notes that she has a few holiday clients she’s never even met. “They go away for Thanksgiving weekend, we go in and decorate and ‘poof,’ when they come back, the house is decorated!”
Sometimes a client just wants her to come in and wrap the tree lights, i.e. do the things most consider tedious and don’t want to be bothered with. They, then, can do the fun part — hang the ornaments with the family. “It keeps them all in the holiday spirit without anyone getting cranky having to putting up the darn lights… that’s what they tell me, anyway,” she said with a laugh.
What’s the best part of her holiday business? “It makes everyone instantly happy!” She added, “It allows me to be creative in an intense and fast-paced manner, plus who doesn’t smile when you see those lights and smell those freshly cut greens?”