How a local designer transforms Galleria Edina into a luxe winter wonderland.
Last year, the management team for Galleria Edina decided it was time to freshen the upscale mall’s holiday themed décor. Marketing executives began a search for the best possible holiday décor company to transform the mall’s interior into a sophisticated holiday experience for shoppers. But when nationally known firms recognized for decorating major department stores, malls and amusement parks didn’t express a vision that resonated with Galleria’s marketing team, a locally known designer was invited to pitch her vision for the Galleria at Christmastime.
Jeanne Anselmo of JJ Designs in Edina has always had a creative streak. She recalls drawing furniture design layouts of her childhood home while in the third grade and always being asked to help decorate friends’ dorm rooms during her college years. After graduating from Augsburg College with a degree in television broadcasting, Anselmo took a job with a marketing firm. “But I would always take a leave of absence around the holidays to work on holiday home decorating jobs,” Anselmo says. Appreciation for Anselmo’s eye for design snowballed into an avalanche of referrals that eventually led her to pursue a career in design. Her business is geared to making residential and commercial spaces, as well as special events, especially beautiful.
One of Anselmo’s personal clients, Jennifer Smith, also happens to be director of leasing for the Galleria. So when ideas from those national firms kept missing the mark, Smith thought about her own home holiday décor designed by Anselmo a dozen years ago. Smith still uses the decorative items Anselmo selected or created for her home. “My pieces have a timeless elegance and sophistication that are exactly what the Galleria was looking for to match its collection of boutiques,” Smith says. And then, an epiphany; the designer this Edina mall was searching for was right here in Edina.
A last-minute invitation to an expedited meeting with the Galleria marketing team meant Anselmo had no time to prepare elaborate vision boards like other firms. But Smith assured her there was nothing to lose by making a pitch. It would be a big project, even bigger than when Anselmo was invited to decorate the governor’s mansion years ago. But this designer and mother of three knows the Galleria. “This is not the place a family comes to have a picture taken with Santa Claus,” Anselmo says. “This is where I shop and where I meet friends. My kids call it ‘Mom’s mall.’ ” This may have been a key ingredient to Anselmo being chosen for the project. Not only is her energy and enthusiasm infectious, Anselmo understands what sets the Galleria apart from other shopping malls. And unlike other design firms that were adamant about using lots of bright color, Anselmo, aware of the Galleria’s ambiance as well as its narrow corridors and low ceilings, insisted the best holiday décor theme would be upscale elegance in shades of white, champagne and ivory. She says, “I want it to be warm, whimsical and fashionable, with touches of trendy that can be easily updated.”
Once the decision was made, Anselmo found herself with a three-year deal (which may be extended) and an enormous endeavor in front of her. “I know how to design and direct an event,” Anselmo says, but she needed help creating and installing all of the elements of her vision. Enter another local firm, Event Lab, and its experienced team of event planners.
Event Lab stocks a large inventory of props and décor for special events. But it is different from a rental company or prop house in that it employs artisans and skilled fabricators who are able to create almost any item required to bring a particular vision to life. “Jeanne has a great vision for the Galleria and it aligned with ours,” says Becky Harris, co-owner and director of sales for Event Lab. “It’s a good marriage between a local designer and a production team.” Event Lab’s connections also provided the volume purchasing power needed for a project of this size. “It’s not like buying ornaments for one Christmas tree,” Harris says. We’re talking “a whole semi filled with ornaments, another filled with lanterns and still another containing the tree.”
Technical details included figuring out how many ornaments of each size to order for the tree and fabricating arches to support the weight of illuminated lanterns. Between 12 and 16 people worked for five nights last year to set up the new décor for the first time. “We were going for brightness and light similar to what you’d see at Chelsea Marketplace in New York City,” Harris says. The colors combined with texture from fabric-wrapped ornaments soften the décor’s appearance and give the mall’s interior an ethereal holiday mood.
Event Lab also fabricated huge multi-use picture frames for use as backdrops to another extraordinary element of Anselmo’s vision: customized dress forms with cascading skirts fashioned from holiday evergreens, and tops that evoke visions of an elegant fairy-tale Christmas gala. Anselmo invited fashion merchandising students from Art Institutes International Minnesota to help customize the dress forms. She thought it would be fun to let shoppers vote for their favorites and award prizes to participating students. (The Galleria is planning something similar this year, but with an extra twist). “Jeanne went above and beyond by involving art students,” Smith says. “It’s brilliant ideas like this that create excitement and leverage yet another local community connection.”
Smith believes anyone who knows Anselmo knows she can turn anything to gold—make it more special and more like home. “We’ve been pleased with her work so far and that we’ll be able to build on it over the years,” Smith says. For Harris’ team, the Galleria project has been more than a typical ballroom setup used for a day. They’ve helped create an experience shoppers can walk through for several weeks each year. “It’s fresh and pretty and really fits the Galleria customer,” Harris says.
Anselmo views the Galleria holiday décor project as the culmination of her various experiences as a designer. “Life flows with opportunities,” says Anselmo, someone who listens to her inner voice and still enjoys making new discoveries.
Getting the Community Involved
Anselmo invited fashion merchandising students from Art Institutes International Minnesota to help customize dress forms. Shoppers voted for their favorites and prizes were awarded. This was so popular in 2014 that this year Anselmo is expanding the dress decor from 7 to 15 customized dresses. It’s a spectacular must-see at the Galleria.