Just how do local retailers transform their stores for the holidays?

By: Eileen Wilson, Granite Bay View Correspondent
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Pottery World and Bushnell Gardens Nursery may be known for their high-end patio furniture, unique fountains and plants, but each November both stores are transformed into a winter wonderland, thanks to designers and their merry elves.

Like Disneyland for Christmas lovers, both stores are go-to places for those who want to grab new festive finery, or to simply soak up some holiday cheer.

Whether your style is old-fashioned home-for-the-holidays, or Candy Cane Lane, the sights, sounds and smells will put you in a merry mood.

But seasons-greetings transformations don’t happen overnight.

“It literally starts in January — we go to markets, we take photos and we start to plan our looks,” said Ann Garrett, Pottery World’s store manager, buyer, designer, and member of the family that began the business decades ago.

“We start putting up holiday decorations beginning in September — it takes a few months to get it all up before our open house, which is the second Saturday in November.”

Bushnell creates their Christmas Shoppe by closing the store for an entire week.

“We decorate night and day,” said staff member Itzel Oros. “What started years ago as something really simple, has turned into something really exquisite.”

If you’ve never visited the shops in December, put these two venues on your to-do list and make an afternoon of it.

Granite Bay resident Nancy Silva-Sutton starts her holidays with a stop at her winter favorite.

“I visit Pottery World with a friend each year around Veterans Day to get inspiration for my holiday decorations,” she said. “Some of my best holiday displays have come from Pottery World — both the ideas and the decorations.”

Visiting the store is a tradition for many — a tradition that often includes lunch or a decadent dessert in Pottery World’s café, which serves lunch daily, breakfast on weekends, and high tea the first and third Thursday of each month.

But it’s the grandeur — the elegance and decadence, not to mention the anticipation of what each new holiday season will bring — that keeps regulars coming back to both stores year after year.

Past years at Pottery World have included densely forested rooms, complete with brown bears and other elements from nature, and a snow-filled room with polar animals and shimmering crystal icicles.

This year’s favorite holiday scene might be the room that Garrett calls “T’was the Night,” a room that’s a toy-filled wonderland. Another favorite is the area Garrett calls “Celebrate,” a space that offers black, white and silver ornaments that simmer like diamonds.

“This look, for me, was inspired by fashion. You’re usually adding sparkle this time of year. Because we have a clothing boutique, I wanted to surround mannequins by all these dazzling jewels,” Garrett said. “Every display evokes different emotions. The products themselves have inspired me, and also hearing peoples’ feedback each year. Shoppers say they want to go home and bring out their holiday things to create something nice for their families.”

Must-have holiday items this year include tinsel — an update on an old favorite that Garrett says can dress up a tree, or be used in holiday arrangements of any kind to add a special shimmer.

Additional favorites include the store’s glittering variety of crystal strands, and Bushnell’s use of large flower pieces, like hydrangea, as ornamentation.

Garrett also loves the upside down Christmas trees that she says can really showcase the ornaments, which just “drip off” the branches. The upside down tree is also perfect for small spaces, and can more easily accommodate holiday gifts.

For a showpiece tree, Garrett recommends using a handful of oversized ornaments, tucked in the interior of branches to give the tree depth.

“We actually wire ornaments on to inside branches — a lot of people use several small ornaments, but you should use large ornaments as well, if you’re looking for drama,” she said.

Garrett also recommends tinsel on the tree.

“It has been our most-purchased item so far this year,” she said.