Greenville designer decorates First Lady#039;s parlor for Christmas

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Walk into Karen Rainey Interiors on Commerce St. in Greenville, and discover a world of glittering Christmas trees and reindeer, majestic wise men gleaming in gold and colorful, smiling Santa figurines.

Sparkling tree ornaments catch the light and rich fabrics beg to be touched.

For someone who loves beautiful home decor items, the feeling a visit to Rainey's shop evokes, is not unlike that of &#8220a kid in a candy store.”

Even Alabama's First Lady can't resist it.

A plum assignment

It's not every day a small-town interior designer gets the chance to decorate a room in the Governor's Mansion for Christmas.

However, decorator Karen Rainey was offered just such a plum assignment this year.

The Governor's Mansion Event Coordinator, Kim Nall, contacted Rainey about the opportunity.

&#8220Kim came in my shop last Christmas. Apparently, she really liked what she saw. She remembered me, and decided to call and invite me to do one of the rooms for Christmas,” Rainey said.

Rainey visited the 1907 Colonial Revival house and toured the public rooms available for decorating.

&#8220We were given several rooms to choose from…we had free rein in terms of the style or theme we chose for the d\u00E9cor. The only restrictions were the budget they gave us,” she said.

Rainey chose the First Lady's Parlor as her project.

&#8220After looking over everything, I decided to go with a religious theme for the room.”

The upholstery of the furniture in the parlor features many rich, warm colors – terra cottas, golds and coppers – that Rainey chose to play up in her decorating theme.

&#8220On the coffee table, I used figures of the Holy Family, adding various glitter-dusted Christmas trees to add height to the arrangement.”

A chest in the parlor features figures of the three wise men and their camels.

&#8220The mantles have angels, each holding a different musical instrument, nestled among golden magnolias, smilax and glitter stems,” Rainey said.

The effect is a rich, sumptuous homage to the real meaning of the holiday – one that greatly pleased First Lady Patsy Riley.

&#8220The First Lady was there when my assistant Stephanie Steadham and I were decorating the room. Mrs. Riley was very gracious, even inviting us out for lunch,” Rainey said.

When Mrs. Riley inquired where the decorator had gotten the items used in the room, Rainey explained they came from her own shop in Greenville.

&#8220I told her if she was ever headed down to Mobile, to please feel free to stop in the shop and visit us…and, sure enough, she called us one day recently and said she wanted to visit my shop.”

A visit from the First Lady

The First Lady chose several things for the Riley's personal Christmas tree and mantles, and bought some gifts while at Rainey's store.

&#8220We had a very nice time visiting with her…she is a delightful person,” Rainey said.

The decorator says she was thrilled to have the First Lady shop in her business.

&#8220I was so honored to have Mrs. Riley here. She could shop anywhere she liked, but she took the time out of her busy schedule to come down and see us.”

The First Lady was so pleased with the job Rainey and Steadham had done in the parlor, she has already asked Rainey to come back and decorate a different room next year.

&#8220I already think I am going to chose the sunroom,” Rainey said.

She and Steadham have also been busy decorating homes in the Greenville area for the holidays.

&#8220I try to limit it to about three homes…we go in and do the trees and all the other decorations for them,” Rainey said.

&#8220We've been busy this season, but it's been great fun. We're getting new things all the time…we encourage people to stop in and see us.”

Those who want to see Rainey and Steadham's

decorating prowess at the First Lady's home in person, can enjoy a candlelight tour of the Governor's Mansion between 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. next Monday night, Dec. 19. The tours are free and no reservations are required.

More information about the Governor's Mansion Candlelight Tours is available online or by calling 1-800-Alabama.