Jennifer Houghton doesn’t feel one bit famous. However, after she began sharing her over-the-top holiday decorations online about five years ago, her Internet popularity exploded. Her @turtlecreeklane Instagram account has nearly 800,000 followers. She has a podcast, online shop, and blog. Houghton has partnered with big box brands like Walmart and At Home. She’s even been parodied by SNL actor Chloe Fineman. (Fineman referred to her skit as a “love letter” to Turtle Creek Lane.)
But Jennifer doesn’t pay that sort of attention any mind. Does she love meeting followers and hearing their stories? Of course. However, for the mother of five and soon-to-be grandmother of two, “I am here to strengthen home and family.” Ever since she was a child, she’s loved the magic of decorations, and she crafts her outrageous holiday setups to create memories for her friends and family. Her goal, she says, is to spark joy in people. “For me,” she says, “it’s not about the amount of stuff. It’s about the amount of joy we felt doing it.”
We visited Jennifer to get a tour of this year’s Halloween setup (themed “Fam-O-Ween”) and chat about her decorating philosophies, favorite Halloween traditions, and more.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
You’ve previously told D Home that your decorations collection began with just a strand of Christmas lights and has grown over the years. Do you have an idea of just how many pieces of decor you now have?
No clue. Absolutely no clue the number of pieces that I have.
What inspired your love of decorating?
I have a vivid memory: I was probably six or seven years old. I was living at home in Utah. It was wintertime. And I remember about 11 o’clock at night I woke up. For some reason, I could hear something underneath my bedroom—there’s a garage underneath my bedroom. So I climbed out of bed came downstairs and I opened up the door in the garage, and my mother was out there making hundreds and hundreds of homemade Christmas ornaments. I remember looking in there, and as if I was there today, I thought, ‘This is heaven. Oh, my goodness, this is heaven to me.’ And ever since that moment, it just instilled in me a love of decorating because it was a feeling for me. It wasn’t even about what she was making. It was the way it made me feel.
What is your favorite holiday to decorate for?
Honestly, I never met a holiday I didn’t want to decorate for.
Is there a holiday that you don’t decorate?
Maybe Tax Day? Is that a holiday? I don’t really decorate for Tax Day. But beyond that, no holiday is safe.
You’ve talked at length about creating memories for your loved ones with your decor. But what are the reactions of strangers who see your home?
It is magic in their eyes. Like, they come in and they just stop, and they just look around. And you can just see the joy in their eyes. Even adults. It’s like they become kids again. And it’s like somehow, they are taken back to this childhood fantasy. For me, that is so rewarding to see the looks in people’s eyes when they just go, “I can’t believe this, this. This is magical to me.”
You always pick a theme for decorating. What’s your favorite theme that you’ve done?
I actually loved the ‘Halloween Books.’ I loved that theme. The elementary school kids: I got them all involved. And they were helping me, and they came over to the house. The book was on display in every single room. And so, I was encouraging the children to read the book. And they were all books that I read with my children. And I absolutely loved that theme because it was like bringing a book to life for a child. I love, love that theme.
Honestly, I never met a holiday I didn’t want to decorate for.Jennifer Houghton
Besides decorating, does your family have any fun day-of Halloween traditions?
My brother and [his family] always come over and we have that big Halloween dinner. We’re all in our costumes. And it’s such a fun Halloween dinner. What you do is you get 12 items. Three of them are knife, fork, and spoon, and then the other items are food. And, of course, they’re always Halloweeny-type items. And then everybody gets an envelope with the numbers one through 12 in them on their on their dinner plate. They take the envelope and they opened it up. In their first course, they get to draw three numbers. So, they may get spaghetti, Jell-O, and oranges, but no silverware. They eat that first course with whatever they get. Or they may get their knife, fork, and spoon, and they don’t even get to eat, you know? By the end of the four courses, you get to eat everything, but it’s all done in a crazy way.
What’s been the craziest combination of foods someone’s gotten at this dinner?
One year we had Shawn Bradley over. He used to play center for the Dallas Mavericks. He’s a really good friend of ours. And I remember one time he was over, and he did our Halloween dinner with us. I remember he was using his Doritos to eat his orange Jell-O, because he didn’t get any silverware. I just have this memory of Shawn trying to get that Dorito, but it kept on breaking as he was trying to get that orange Jell-O. That’s been a really funny one.
Why is it important to have traditions like these?
I think that traditions are what give your children roots. I think that things that you do over and over and over again as a family are super important to creating a family unity and creating a family identity. And so, my husband and I have always been very proactive on family traditions.