Christmas at Heart

Written By: Heather Lee Gordy | Photography by: Mary Me Photography


As I listened to Dillon Mclamb tell his story, I could imagine the ten-year-old him waiting impatiently each day for Thanksgiving—the day he finally was able to set up his Christmas display, the day he longed for every year. I could envision him becoming more ecstatic as the day approached, thinking about nothing other than how he’d set up his decorations that year. Maybe trying again to beg his mother to let him set up sooner, knowing one of these days he’d get her to. When Thanksgiving Day finally arrived, he’d wake up early from excitement, and start gathering boxes full of lights, wreaths, inflatable reindeer, and other decorations that had been stored away all year. He’d waste no time, spending all day setting up until his masterpiece was complete.


“I would come inside to eat lunch and then I was right back out,” said Dillon. “It would be pitch dark, freezing cold and I would still be outside working until it was finished. I did it all by myself. It was mine. I loved it even down to running all the cords to one power strip, so there was one switch to turn it all on and off with.”


Each year Dillon waited for the day he could decorate the outside of the house full of Christmas decorations. He would even ask to receive Christmas decorations as gifts knowing he wouldn’t be able to use them until the following year.


“As a kid, my thing used to be the inflatables,” said Dillon. “I would get those as gifts. That’s what I wanted. My mom has four brothers and sisters and I would get gifts from them too. I would always make my mom do their Christmas way early, so I could use them that year. I’ve always just loved Christmas.”


While Dillon continued to talk about the development of his skill, I could see this childhood excitement still in him, driving his passion for decorating. Dillon never knew that one day his craft would grow into something more. It wasn’t until his senior year of high school that he started decorating for other people. His first client was his friend’s aunt who asked him to decorate her tree one year, and that’s when it occurred to him that maybe he could turn this into something more. He posted her tree on social media and it wasn’t long until he had clients already booked for the next year.


For the most part, Dillon’s skill is self-taught, with the exception of working for Dewayne’s and New River Pottery picking up a few tricks here and there. One of Dillon’s biggest influences was Gretchen Mitchell, the owner of New River Pottery during the time he worked there. Dillon worked under Ms. Mitchell for almost a year and described her as a great teacher and role model.


“She used to do all their Christmas displays,” said Dillon. “She’s passed away now, but I would say I learned a lot from her.”


One big take-away Dillon learn from Ms. Mitchell was how to hang ornaments.


“Most people just hang their ornaments on the tree,” Dillon said. “She taught me to not just let them hang there, but to take them and wrap them around until the ornament is directly under the branch, like it’s growing from the branch, rather than having a loop hanging.”  


Over the years, Dillon has developed his own style for Christmas decorating by trying new things and exploring his creativity at home. He likes to add non-traditional ideas while keeping a classic look using white lights rather than LED or colored lights. One of Dillon’s signature styles is adding a huge topper.


“I’m not your traditional angel or star topper kind of guy,” said Dillon. “I like to make it wild and crazy. I like to make a seven foot tree into a nine foot tree.”


Dillon is also one to not use a lot of ornaments. Instead, he likes to focus on making a tree full.


“I use a lot more of your picks, ribbons and mesh,” said Dillon” “stuff that’s actually going to fill your tree up. I love to fill a tree. As far as ornaments go, I may use twelve red balls.”


Dillon’s favorite part about the process is the unexpected. With each tree, he sees growth in his designs and learns something new. He views himself as very detail oriented, sometimes stepping back hundreds of times throughout the process to make sure each detail is perfect.


What inspires Dillon to decorate is to be able to create happiness through his work. He loves that a Christmas tree can bring with it all the merry feelings associated with Christmas.


“Christmas is that time of year where everyone feels warm and everyone’s cheerful. A Christmas tree is a good home base for all these good feelings. You walk into a room and there’s a gorgeous Christmas tree and it makes you feel good—it makes me feel good being able to make other people feel good.”


Now at age twenty-four Dillon is finding a way to offer his services as a business. He’s decorated trees, mantels, banisters, and whole exterior homes. He can come into your home and style anything himself, or use your personal decorations to decorate your home. Dillon also offers to come back after the season and take everything down if needed. For this service he brings the tubs to organize everything in, labels it all to make it easier for the next year, and will also put it away for you.  


“I’m hoping my business name to be Designs by Dillon. I have someone working on a logo and website for me right now,” said Dillon. “I’m hoping to be registering for a LLC by the first of the year when I have my logo and website ready.”


Dillon’s vision for his business is to offer designs for weddings, events, and small private house parties ten out of the twelve months in a year. When November comes around, he’ll reserve the last two months of the year to do only Christmas decorations, following in his true passion for decorating.