Meet the Master of Christmas Porch Displays, a New Instagram Craze
There’s perhaps no more important season for an influencer than that of Christmas. The baking, the shopping, the decorating—all things that are perfect for Instagram. One thing I’ve noticed in particular these past few years is the way creators have extended the festivities past their doorsteps. Pumpkins and other harvest-related installations appear on stoops and porches in the fall, only to disappear and become four-foot-by-four-foot winter wonderlands that make my meager apartment door wreath look almost Grinchian.
This year, Canadian influencers are doing it with the help of Margaret Valley Landscaping. Jillian Harris, The Birds Papaya, Cheryl Hickey … one by one, I noticed some of Canada’s biggest creators enlisting the same small, family-run business to get their porches picture-perfect for the season. Founder and landscaper Samantha Ulasy had already collaborated with Harris on a number of side projects, so when she finally decided to launch Margaret Valley Landscaping in 2019, the television host and designer was more than happy to give her a boost on Instagram.
“And then from word of mouth, it just spread like rapid fire,” Ulasy tells me over the phone. Inspired by the name of her grandmother, Margaret, and as a nod to her hometown of Okanagan Valley, Margaret Valley Landscaping was born and swiftly awarded The Best Landscaper in Kelowna, a city in Okanagan Valley, in 2020. Ulasy shared with us some tips for anyone, anywhere, to deck out their porch like an influencer this holiday season.
How did you end up doing displays for influencers?
Displays started with Jill, actually, because we do spring, summer, fall, and winter displays in her house. And because of her wide audience, it spread like fire. That's how I was able to do Cheryl Hickey [and] Birds Papaya. My initial plan with Cheryl Hickey was to fly down there, and I asked Sarah [Landry, of The Birds Papaya], “While I'm down there, would you also like a display?” Because of COVID I couldn't go, so I ended up having cousins that live in Ontario basically do the prep work and installation for me.
Has the pandemic affected your work in other ways?
Our platform has grown so much through social media and I think it is because it is now so easy to access information on the how-tos and follow the daily lives of influencers. I am able to connect with people all over the world and help them plan their planters and redo their gardens without having to travel there. I have helped people create displays for all seasons in Greece, Germany, Australia, and all over the States and more. I still have a ton to learn in regards to making videos/reels/TikToks and then we will really be shining.
I’m curious: Are porch displays actually a new trend, or are we just noticing them more on social media?
For me, it's always been a thing but because social media is the way of life now, I think people are seeing it more and wanting to create their own. There's such a bigger audience now. I feel like with COVID too, everyone's home, they're doing more DIY stuff. It definitely has been around, but it is grown, I'd say the last three years, for sure.
Do you have any tips for people looking to make their own seasonal porch displays?
For greenery displays a lot of times you can actually find everything that I put in my displays in your own backyard. Spruce trees, Cedar trees, the swirly little sticks that everyone pays a fortune for are just Dogwoods that grow wild. So I say, look in your own backyard and see what you can use and create out of that and then check out your Christmas stuff. Maybe there's something that, instead of putting it inside, you could put outside. [I also do] a lot of repurposing, especially if we're on a tight budget. I'll go to the dollar store and get a planter that's kind of ugly, spray paint it, and then it looks really expensive. There's a lot of tricks that you kind of just don't even think about.
What are some of the biggest Christmas decorating trends you’ve noticed this year?
Well, to speak on Jill specifically, she used to be very white and purple, and last year we did colored lights instead of just white and this year we're doing white, but different colors on the tree. So every year I find the color palette is changing. Even actually this fall, normally it's pretty much just greens and purples, but this year people wanted the oranges. They wanted the reds, like uncommon colors that I generally don't get to work with.
Now that you’re blowing up, what’s next for you? Would you ever collaborate with influencers on sponsored posts?
I would love to be able to do that. When I started MV I truly never thought it would take off like it has, and I am so ready for the challenges ahead … maybe even a Margaret Valley TV show. The opportunities are truly endless if you work hard, believe in yourself and your work, and take risks.