Decking out Meadow Brook Hall

By: Linda Shepard | Rochester Post | Published November 28, 2017

  Designers Melody Osgood, from Lansing, and Cheryle Mast, from Lowell, add Christmas magic to Matilda Dodge Wilson’s study.

Designers Melody Osgood, from Lansing, and Cheryle Mast, from Lowell, add Christmas magic to Matilda Dodge Wilson’s study.

Photo by Donna Agusti

ROCHESTER HILLS — Holiday decorating is serious business at Meadow Brook Hall.  

Three solid days of bedecking are accomplished by more than a dozen expert designers who do not like to repeat themselves.

“You need to wow people,” design team leader Alice Waterous said. “Our aim is to take people’s breath away.”  

Boxes and boxes of tree and mantel finery are sorted through while Meadow Brook staffers choose a yearly color theme and shop for new items.

“Every year there are a few things they have to retire,” Waterous said. “Then we come and go to town. It is very different every year. That is part of the challenge.”

Waterous, owner of Alice’s Christmas Elves, and her team have decorated the hall for the past five years, along with other large venues like Ford Field and several Detroit casinos. “The designers travel all over the country,” she said.

“This is our most fascinating job,” Waterous said. “My team loves this job. The house is beautiful to begin with. And we see something new every year.”

The hall’s dark wood tones contribute to both a design challenge and a benefit.

“It takes a massive amount of lights,” Waterous said. “And then it shows off the lights, making it cozy and feeling like a home.”

Meadow Brook Hall’s annual Holiday Walk will be a little brighter this year. In addition to lavish holiday displays in each of the hall’s main rooms, a lighted pathway will take guests young and old down Candy Cane Lane to Knoll Cottage.  

“Knoll Cottage and Danny’s Cabin will have outdoor lights,” said MBH Marketing Director Shannon O’Berski. “And an outdoor fire pit with hot chocolate. We want visitors to experience not only the hall’s interior, but the estate as a whole — all of the magic of Meadow Brook.”

“Lights on the rooflines, the garages and the shrubbery at the cottages will add a little more pizazz this year,” said Kim Zelinski, MBH director of estate operations. Zelinski also coordinates decorating volunteer efforts, with members of the Meadow Brook Hall Squires Club and the Oakland University track team transporting hundreds of tubs and boxes of stored decorations from the hall’s garage loft.

“It is a huge job,” Zelinski said. “We appreciate the track team members.”

In January, the entire job must be reversed.

“Takedown takes two to three days,” she said. “We pack it away, and back to the loft it goes.”  

Meadow Brook Hall is the historic home built by Matilda Dodge Wilson, widow of auto pioneer John Dodge, and her second husband, Alfred Wilson. Constructed between 1926 and 1929, the 88,000-square-foot national landmark is regarded as one of the finest examples of Tudor revival-style architecture in the country.     

Meadow Brook’s 46th annual Holiday Walk will be held through Dec. 23. Tickets cost $20 for adults, with discounts for children and seniors. All tours are self-guided, and reservations are not required.

Children are invited to take a Kids Candy Adventure, inspired by the “Candy Land” board game, where kids search for treats and sweets while touring the mansion and collecting prizes at Candy Cane Lane.

Special Holiday Walk events include candlelight tours and visits with Santa. Meadow Brook Hall is located on the grounds of Oakland University, off of Adams Road, south of Walton Boulevard.

For more information and a full schedule of events, call (248) 364-6200 or visit