A Very Cooper Christmas

In the picturesque community of LionsGate, fall quickly turns to winter as Marty Cooper prepares for Christmas.

“I have really been decorating since I was single,” she says.

“Passion” doesn’t quite sum up the dedication behind a 12-foot Christmas tree (one of six trees on display). No, there is something larger at play, something magical about the Santas, the cozy colors, whimsical trimmings and treasured memories.

The great room, with its grand tree, illuminates a room full of nutcrackers. Marty’s youngest son, Davis, was drawn to them at an early age, providing her with the perfect reason to start a collection that he will one day inherit.

“Through the years I’ve been buying the nutcrackers for him,” she says. “It just got to be one of those themes.”

Meanwhile, the mantle is dripping with garland, lights and bows, while a glorious nativity scene is set on the center table.

Nearby, the dining room is set for royalty with a table that beams brighter than any tree. Big red bows hug the chairs of her antique Duncan Phyfe table, as displays of Christmas china, Santas and a gorgeous centerpiece set the mood.

“It’s more formal; this is where we have Christmas Eve dinner,” says Marty.

The china remains a symbol of the many celebrations with her husband, Brent — they were a wedding registry gift from over 21 years ago.

In the corner, next to a glowing china hutch with holiday accents, is a ficus tree with a Santa tree topper.

In typical Marty fashion, she says, “You can put Santa anywhere!”

Near the kitchen is a small powder room where Marty has playfully placed a Santa Claus that holds a sign reading, “Santa is Watching You.”

Plenty of giggles ensue and it becomes clear that Marty is more than just a holiday decorator extraordinaire. She is the heart and soul behind the holiday for her family and friends.

Cooking Up Creativity

The Cooper kitchen and hearth room are where the family can be found sitting near a Christmas morning fire, Marty baking up a storm and another series of holiday traditions. Stockings hang off the hearth underneath a selection of Possible Dreams Santas — Marty’s favorite. In fact, she gets a new one every year, usually from her three children, and they match her fun-loving nature.

Displays of cookbooks, Santa hats and that famous red-belly-turned-cake-plate pepper the kitchen. The room also features the Christmas Kitchen Tree, sparkling with the appropriate culinary ornaments.

Symbolic Santa

As guests enter the Cooper home in the LionsGate community, they will be greeted by a small table placed under an iconic painting of Santa Claus.

Holiday décor is everywhere, but it’s this one nook that is most important to its creator, Marty Cooper.
“This is the dream Santa for me,” she says. “That’s how he looks, that’s what I believe. That’s the magic of Christmas right there. He’s got a big friendly beard, big eyes and the friendly bell.”

A few meaningful elements are poised near the painting, including a cross and family picture, keeping the space semi-focused.

“When I found that painting, I was like, ‘I have to have this.’”

And when they moved into their current home 12 years ago, she knew the perfect spot for his watchful gaze — just inside the front door.


Merry Method

When asked how she does it, Marty laughs.

“I am really detailed and organized.”

Beginning in October, she starts to decorate by unpacking the many boxes from the basement storage area.

“I tell my kids, if I am not around, it’s ‘decorating for dummies,’” she says. “The box says ‘Hearth Room.’”

Typically by New Year’s Eve, the house is back to normal.

“I guess [decorating] comes easier for me than some people, so I just get going,” she says. “I probably have way more tchotchkes and things than people would even want.”

New this year is the delicious centerpiece atop the family breakfast table. Marty, who currently serves as the president of the National Charities League, Heart of Kansas City Chapter, took a cue from her own NCL campaign — “Sweet on Service” — and dolled up the table with a touch of Willy Wonka.

“I thought it would be fun to throw in some sweet jars around my table,” she says.

“I had it done and my friend came over to help me ‘oomph’ it up a bit.”

Enter the cake plates, creating a layered effect of candy canes, peppermints and more.

Adding to the sweets are the family-made gingerbread houses — a tradition that began 10 years ago.

“We make one a year and then I just save them,” says Marty.


Whimsical Retreat

Most of the year, the basement serves as the social scene with its bar, home theater and plenty of games.

During the holidays, however, it gets a complete makeover — Christmas whimsy at its best.

“It just evolves like I’ve done this for years,” says Marty. “Like this table looks the same as it did last year, but maybe I just added those poppers. I always try to have something fun.”

The 6-foot tree at the foot of the stairs resembles a page out of the Halls decorating book.

“I just steal ideas!” says Marty. “It’s called R and D — Rob and Duplicate!”

Cartoon-like ornaments enhance the tree as big bows billow down the front.

The game table-turned-holiday table is tucked into a nook of shutters where wreaths hang by red and green plaid ribbon. And another small Christmas tree is perched on the bar: the golf tree, a fitting display for this links-savvy family.

Marty says she draws her inspiration from many places: Nell Hills, the Kansas City Holiday Mart, Halls department store and, of course, Pinterest. Among the trends and styles she’s picked up are treasured items, such as the toy train found in a Tulsa gift store and loved by her oldest son.

Jolly Style

Known fondly by her friends and family as “Party Marty,” Marty Cooper knows Christmas. After decades of decorating her homes, she’s got holiday décor down to a science.
Here are a few decorating tips to emulate her jolly-good style.

Fill in with Santas!
Marty boasts over 50 Santas and she chooses the ones she loves. There are no rules when it comes to Old Saint Nick, his costume or his size.

Don’t be afraid to “Rob & Duplicate” holiday style ideas. Marty finds many at Nell Hills in Atchison, Kan., the Kansas City Holiday Mart and Halls Department store.

Greenery, lights and bows.
These three elements can make all the difference in any display.

Shop after the season.
Marty will often supplement her inventory with post-season sales.

It’s easy to stay on budget by using things you love year after year.

Maintain traditions.
Incorporating your family’s traditions into holiday décor will make for memorable designs.

A Christmas cocktail.
Why not bring a little more cheer to the season!

The foyer stairs feature a new design of garland, tiny lights, bountiful bows and Santas perfectly spaced on each step. And soon, the house will sound of Christmas music throughout the many rooms.

With little doubt, Marty will always be the first to exclaim, “I always want to do Christmas.”


photos: William & Jill DiMartino