Shelf life

Changing décor reflects holidays, local and international events

Created date

February 18th, 2019
On the left, a white cat sports an American flag and a 4th of July headband. In the center, a cat dresses as a French artist and bears a French Flag. On the far right, a dog wears a chef's outfit next to an Italian flag.

The shelf outside Jackie Amadeo and Corinne Krueger’s apartment home pays tribute to Diversity Month, an annual event at Brooksby Village.

Some people measure  a year’s milestones by the date on the calendar. Those who live at Brooksby Village, the Erickson Living community in Peabody, Mass., need only stop by the apartment of sisters Jackie Amadeo and Corinne Krueger.

Jackie flexes her creative talents by matching the décor on the shelf outside the sisters’ apartment to coincide with holidays and current events, sometimes changing vignettes within a week’s span. Corinne acts as a sounding board, helping Jackie’s vision come to life.

“It started out small,” says Jackie. “At first we only decorated for major holidays—Valentine’s Day, Easter, Fourth of July, Halloween, Christmas. People took notice and kept asking what’s next. We started changing the scene more often.”

A touch of whimsy

Each apartment at Brooksby Village features an exterior shelf for residents to display decorations, photos, or even a treat to share with passersby.

“When we moved to Brooksby, I wasn’t sure what to put on the shelf,” says Jackie, a retired mutual fund group account manager. “We brought a dog statue and two cat statues from our house in Saugus, so I put them out on our shelf.”

Now the trio of porcelain pets anchors every scene Jackie and Corinne create.

“The magic is in the accessories,” says Jackie. “Those are the details people find most entertaining.”

Jackie and Corinne ushered in 2019 as they do each year with a nod to their favorite NFL team, the New England Patriots. One cat featured Tom Brady’s number 12 jersey, the other cat was dressed as a referee, and the dog was a cheerleader complete with pompoms, a megaphone, and hair bows.

“Sometimes I surprise myself,” Jackie says, who sews each pet costume. “It’s become a challenge to find small items I can repurpose for the shelf.”

That’s where Corinne comes in, racking her brain for trinkets to enhance the scene. When Jackie was searching for something to use as a cat’s lunchbox for a back-to-school-themed shelf, Corinne suggested an Altoids tin. Jackie decorated the tin and put a toy mouse inside.

“It’s fun,” says Community Resources Coordinator Cheryl Whittier. “People at the community look forward to seeing what Jackie and Corinne create.”

Some residents even offer suggestions.

“They’ll say, ‘Have you ever thought about decorating for such-and-such,” says Jackie. “Over the past few years, we’ve done a shelf for both the winter and summer Olympics, the Tour de France, the annual gala here at Brooksby, and the community’s Garden Fair.”

Change of scene

This month, the sisters are outfitting their shelf to coincide with Brooksby’s Diversity Month celebrations, which run throughout March, followed by their St. Patrick’s Day décor.

“Our mother was French and our father was Italian, so we incorporate both those flags into our diversity-themed shelf,” Corinne says. “Our apartment is near the enclosed walkway that connects the Kingsbury Clubhouse and the McIntosh Clubhouse, which is always decorated with flags from countries around the world during Diversity Month. The flags on our shelf are a nice tie-in.”

Next month, Jackie and Corinne will put out their April showers display, followed by their May flowers tableau.

“I keep the accessories for each scene in individual tubs,” says Jackie. “One of the features that drew us to this apartment was all the storage. It comes in handy for storing the tubs.”

A new lifestyle awaits

Jackie and Corinne chose their two-bedroom Fairmont-style apartment shortly after the record snowfall of winter 2015.

“That was it,” Jackie says. “We said no more; we’re not staying in our house in Saugus. We were tired of dealing with snow removal and home maintenance. We thought briefly about moving to Naples, Fla., where we’d vacationed a number of times, but when we toured Brooksby and realized it was more affordable than we thought, we decided to go for it.”

Jackie and Corinne jumped into life at the community and tout the benefits of moving early.

“We were in our mid-60s when we moved, and we’ve been able to enjoy all that Brooksby has to offer,” says Corinne.

Both sisters tend prize-winning gardens in Brooksby’s onsite community garden area, each of them taking home awards in the community’s annual Garden Fair. Corinne plants a bounty of American and Chinese vegetables, including Chinese eggplant, scallions, shishito peppers, squash, cucumber, and cherry tomatoes. Jackie plants a combination of vegetables and flowering plants.

Jackie and Corinne also volunteer on campus in Brooksby’s onsite continuing care neighborhood and help out the resident life staff with special projects. They both serve on the Welcome Committee, too.

“Brooksby is like our version of Disneyland,” says Jackie. “There’s so much to do here. You can pick and choose what interests you.”

And of course, the pair do their part to add a little fun to their corner of the community.

“Our shelf was featured on Good Day Brooksby, one of our in-house television programs,” says Jackie. “Now people recognize us and say ‘Oh, you’re the ones with the neat displays.’”