Cheerful Abundance

Holiday decorating with a creative twist

By Gina Parsons

Photography by Anne Matheis


Each year when they visit for Thanksgiving, Liz Mantych’s four adult kids go into the attic of her Town and Country home to help her set up Christmas trees. “The attic ladder comes down, and it’s kind of a three-person job,” she says. “There’s a person on the top of the ladder, on the ladder and on the floor. It’s craziness. Every year I think, ‘Maybe I won’t do this next year,’ but then next year comes around.”

Once the trees—last year there were 12, this year there will likely be 11—are set up and “fluffed,” Liz spends the next week decorating, sometimes late into the night. “I get such joy in that,” she says. “My adrenaline kicks in. I love it. I just put the music on and start.”

Liz describes her holiday decorating style as cheerful, warm and plentiful. “I want someone to look at the tree and have lots of things to look at,” she says. “I always overdo everything. I can’t be a minimalist.”

Liz gets creative, coming up with themes for each tree. She lets each room’s purpose and décor determine how it should look during the holidays. Last year when her home was on the Deck the Halls of Glennon Homes Christmas Tour, she created a charming tree in her enclosed sun porch by adorning the tree with real blue and white china plates and tea cups taken directly from her cabinet.

She attached plate hooks to the plates, then used wire to put them on the tree and interspersed the real dishes with ornaments. After the holidays, she put the dishes back in the cabinet. “Anybody can decorate a tree that makes them happy or expresses their interests,” she says. “Just tell me what you’re interested in; you could do a twist on that.”

Built in the 1970s, Liz has lived in her house for 26 years. Her kids are in their 30s and now live out of the area, and she decorates a tree for each of them. For her son, she decorated a tree in a music theme and sports. She bought multiple 45 RPM records and used ribbon to hang them on the tree. She also adorned the tree with rolled up sheet music, plus music and Cardinals baseball ornaments.

“It was so full! I could have just put a couple of records on there, but I just can’t. I’ve got to keep going,” she laughs.

Liz loves adding ribbon to her creations. Last year Katie Warren, visual merchandiser and manager of Rusted Chandelier in Kirkwood helped Liz make bows for a few of her trees. “I think ribbon makes such a difference on the tree,” Liz says. “How you weave it or how you do your topper. I do like to put different things on top of the tree that dictate how the tree is.”

Her favorite holiday decoration stays out all year. Filled with bittersweet memories, it’s a Santa figurine kept under a glass dome on top of the piano in the living room. Liz’s late husband, neonatologist Greg Mantych, had the Santa on his cart as he made his rounds at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital at Christmas 15 years ago, where he was giving out candy canes and spreading holiday cheer.  “It reminds us that we have to have Christmas spirit all year,” she says. “Goodwill and cheer. That’s how he always was. He was always so cheerful and humble. We use it as an example.”

To match the special Santa and the room’s red, white and blue décor, Liz decorates the tree in the living room with various Santa decor that she’s collected through the years.

However, her favorite tree is the family tree in the family room because it has all the ornaments that hold heartfelt memories—ornaments made by her children or given to her as keepsakes. “It’s sentimental,” she says. “There’s no decorating pressure.”

When her four children were growing up, they each had a tree in their room with decorations that reflected their interests. She wonders if they’ll carry on the tradition and is hopeful that they will.

Liz is getting married around Thanksgiving this year, and she plans to decorate a tree in a theme of her fiancé’s interests or perhaps her own. She believes that when decorating for the holidays, everyone should do what works for them. “That’s what’s so fun about the holidays, you don’t have to be a maximalist decorator,” she says. “It could be a simple wreath with a pretty satin bow and it’s beautiful.”