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How the wealthy outsource Christmas; and you can, too
[NEW YORK] Too many to-do lists and obligations, not enough eggnog—Christmas is coming. If you'd like to remedy that imbalance, throw some well-earned money at the problem and consider outsourcing the holidays to the experts, from wrapping gifts to trimming trees, from cooking turkeys to addressing cards. You deserve it.
Designing and Addressing Holiday Cards
Bernard Maisner trained as a fine artist at Cooper Union in Manhattan before turning to custom social stationery 20 years ago. He offers an off-the-peg line at Bergdorf Goodman alongside one-off designs. Any such bespoke clients can also hire him to address their envelopes, with various script styles that range from classic to flourished.
Of the Loeffler family, for whom he has created custom holiday cards for many years, Maisner says,"We always meet in person at their home in New York and sit down for a creative discussion, often over a glass of Champagne." The most recent design was a complex, hand-assembled card engraved in two colors with an interactive, spinning arrow; Maisner hand-addressed each of the 300 envelopes accompanying the card, using the Loefflers' favorite purple ink.
Card design and production, from US$2,000 for 100 cards and envelopes. The spinner card, as described ,cost US$12,000 for 300 cards and envelopes. Envelope-addressing, from $3 per line.
Decorating Your Tree
Every Christmas tree selected and decorated by interior stylist Erin Swift and her Holiday Workroom team is one-of-a-kind—even when a client orders many for the same home. That's what happened last year, when they installed eight individually themed trees in a mansion in upstate New York, all in one day. It was even tougher to transport a 10-foot fir through the streets of Soho and via a tiny elevator to the loft of an art-loving client who wanted a tree that played off a favorite artwork: a giant day-glo piece by Robert Swain, who's known for trippy, Pantone-like contact sheets. Swift festooned the custom tree with 2,000 lights and 500 ornaments, each painstakingly color-matched to the blues and pinks in Swain's artwork.
Neatness freaks need not fret, as Erin Swift will tackle both artificial and real trees. For the latter, Swift recommends the premium Balsam Hill to minimize needle-dropping.
From US$1000 per tree.
Remember Candy Spelling's notorious gift-wrapping room? If you have neither space nor inclination to install one of your own, hire Mia Canada. The Atlanta-based entrepreneur of That's a Wrap! has spent the past eight years wrapping gifts year-round. An event planner by training, a local mall's urgent last-minute request for gift-wrapping service changed Canada's career. After a few hours poring over YouTube videos and some competitive shopping to see the standard set by Macy's and others, she landed Candy Spelling's dream job. Her team of a dozen works with corporate and private clients across the country; the gifts onscreen in Mark Wahlberg's new movie, Instant Family are Canada's handiwork.
"I have one client who insists on waiting until the last minute to have them wrapped, because he doesn't want the family to find them. And it's well over 100 gifts because it's a huge family," she says. "So, each year, we're traditionally wrapping them well into Christmas morning. We have to dress as elves in case the children find us placing them under the tree."
Prices vary, from US$10 for a one-off gift to US$125 per hour for larger projects.
Christmas is one of the busiest periods for Dante Giannini of Farm to Fork. The former private chef for Jimmy Buffett now runs a company with 15 Michelin-level kitchen vets on its roster. They have been hired out by the likes of Paul McCartney, Debra Messing, and David and Lauren Lauren. He and his team are often tapped by clients who are juggling two Christmases.
"One is a very, very successful real estate agent who has her own celebration at her house in Bronxville for family, but also hosts an open-house/holiday party for clients at a home nearby," Giannini tells Bloomberg. "I have two chefs collaborate on that, and she goes back and forth between them."
Another family splits the day between both sets of in-laws, who live two blocks apart on New York's Upper East Side: The same chef cooks a traditional, roast-driven lunch at one home around 4 p.m. before decamping with the family to the other apartment, where he preps an Italian-style feast that's heavy on fish and pasta. Giannini's crack kitchen team isn't limited to working in New York. One festive client whisked him off to Saint Barts for Christmas and New Year, bringing all his ingredients by helicopter and storing them on a refrigerated cargo barge.
Plated dinners range from US$100 to US$225 per head, plus servers and bartenders
Tim Connaghan is the Ari Emmanuel of the North Pole, running the country's largest Santa-for-hire agency. He personally understands the gig's requirements, having channeled his inner St. Nick for the first time in 1969 while in Vietnam: sporting a foamy, white beard made of Barbasol, he handed out gifts to his fellow soldiers. For 18 years, he has been hiring out Santas via his agency, supplying them to more than 1,400 events annually for malls and corporate and private clients. His roster of Santas undergoes full background checks and wears custom-made suits, boots, belts, and—most important—a tug-proof, all-natural beard.
Rural Santa fees start at US$75 for a 30-minute visit and rise to US$200 per hour in cities and US$350 per hour in New York
Absolutely Everything Else
Think of Lindsi Shine and her team at Insider NYC as real-life elves with the power to work magic. Every year, they're the behind-the-scenes team for a slew of VIP clients. They work on everything from holiday cards—she estimates they handle around 5,000 every year—to gift-buying, for which Shine produces an exclusive, in-house version of the Neiman Marcus catalog, filled with impossible-to-find treats. She estimates that they spend around 20 per cent of their time during the holiday season handling decoration, from sourcing a local tree-trimmer for a client's second home in Aspen, Colo., or stepping in to help during an emergency.
"Last year, a client had bought a new house in Pebble Beach [Calif.], and we had two hours to get a tree for him when he asked," Shine tells Bloomberg by telephone from her New York office. "So we persuaded the local Pottery Barn to take it off the floor and deliver it to their house. The store's lead decorator went with it so he could put everything back on the tree exactly as it was."
Even better, in January, Insider NYC will happily tackle the hassle of returning all of those unwanted gifts.
Initial subscription:US$750 per month for 5 hours, with additional hours charged at US$150.