Designer's creations a holiday tradition for some

Brittney Lohmiller/The Herald
Paul Wehr of St. Anthony creates Christmas decorations in his home workshop on Friday morning. For the past 40 years, Wehr has created decorations for local homes. "I like making door pieces," Wehr said. "You can make them three dimensional and long, rather than just having dinky wreaths." 


‘Tis the season for beautiful decorations.

Beautifully-designed and placed decorations is the reason clients use Paul Wehr’s services each year.

“It’s become a tradition at our house now, that he comes to help me decorate every year,” said Jeanne Heltzel, who has Paul decorate her Jasper home annually. “It’s like a holiday tradition.”

Paul, of St. Anthony, has been doing interior and floral design for more than 40 years. During the Christmas season, he has a list of clients whose homes and businesses he transforms into a holiday wonderland.

“Many of my clients have become dear friends of mine, and have stuck with me through thick and thin,” he said. “I go out of my way for them, and they do the same for me.”

Paul starts working on homes and businesses prior to Thanksgiving and continues through the first couple weeks in December.

“I could do trees in an hour and a half, if everything goes smooth,” he said.

Some clients have been with Paul for more than 20 years. “I started with some when they had kids in kindergarten,” he said. “And now those kids have kids.”

Paul Wehr of St. Anthony adds nylon ribbon to a holiday wreath while working at home on Friday morning. Wehr worked in his sister's floral shop through high school and college. "I get to create pretty things but that's 1 percent of what I do," Wehr said about adding decor to homes. Brittney Lohmiller/The Herald

A design job typically includes a meeting to walk through the home or business and discuss with the owner holiday decoration ideas; that includes outside pots, porches and doors. After the design is decided, Paul goes back to his studio to work on pieces that will be used. Some of those designs include items the owner already has, and some require new materials be purchased.

“I’ve done some clients’ homes for so long that many say, ‘Paul, you know where everything is at,’” he said. “‘Just come in and do what you want.’”

Paul works on decorations for his clients in his home studio, where he preps decorations and creates new ones with various materials like southern magnolia, white pine, evergreen and other greenery, holly, metal, ribbon and even paper towel rolls.

Paul has been designing and doing interior decorating for more than 45 years.

He’s had a floral design certification from the American institute of Floral Designers for the last 21 years; only 1,800 people in the world has this certification, 23 of those in Indiana, he said. Paul also owned a brick-and-mortar business for years. He now does work at his home studio and works at Traditional Arts in Ferdinand. And he has his clients.

Paul has had to slow down some, due to previous medical issues. In 2015, he had a brain tumor that was successfully removed. And a year later, to the day, he had three stents put in; his family has a history of heart issues.

“Most of my clients have seen me come from running up and down flights of stairs with garland to the point of where I couldn’t even walk,” Paul said. “But I’m pretty much back now. I’m not at 110 percent by any means. I’m mostly 75 percent.”

For those years that he couldn’t be as mobile, some of his clients would have him over to instruct them how to put up their decorations. They love his skills and taste that much.

“I would sit and direct them how to put the garland on the stairs or how to decorate the tree,” Paul said.

And the clients did not mind. In fact, many of them have standing annual appointments with Paul for his holiday decor design services.

“I’ve learned a lot from him over the years,” Jeanne said. “When I first started having him decorate, I worked full time. But I tried to be here when he came, so that I could learn from him.”

Jeanne got to know Paul through a shop Paul owned near Krempp Lumber in Jasper, she said. “I had a lot of confidence in him that he would do a great job,” she said, “and just decided one year to get him to come help me decorate my house for the holidays.”

That was more than 10 years ago, she said. She typically has him decorate her stairwell, mantle, outdoor pots, the door and the tree inside. It used to be two trees when her children were still living at home; now it’s one.

“I give him ideas, or send him a picture of something I’ve seen,” she said. “And then he would look for ribbon and ornaments to accent that idea.”

After the kids were gone, the Heltzels simplified their decorations some. But this year Jeanne and her husband, Tom, are expecting the family to gather at their house, so she had Paul ramp up the decorations.

This year’s tree features family ornaments, with Paul adding ribbon and other elements to complete the tree’s look.

“He does all the finishing touches that makes it look so special. He is very talented and has the sense of what will work,” Jeanne said. “We’ve gotten to be good friends over the years. He’s a wonderful person. I love his sense of humor. And I look forward to when he is going to come over. I love working with him. He’s such a good man.”

He cherishes those relationships that built over time.

“That’s really what the true meaning of Christmas really is,” Paul said, “not the decorating. It’s the loving relationships with people, the friendships. The decorations put you in the spirit.”

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