An expert on home decor shares a few of her best (and easiest) ideas for brightening up the holidays.
“Bright copper kettles… warm woolen mittens… brown paper packages tied up with strings…”
Sing it, Julie! Like Ms. Andrews (and Martha Stewart, too), I love to share my favorite things — especially when it comes to holiday decorating ideas.
’Tis the season to reflect on childhood memories and special moments with family or friends, which means that many of us deck the halls in the same fashion year after year. That’s all part of the fun — but it’s also possible to renew your seasonal spirit by trying some fresh (and easy) new looks. Here are a few of my favorite ways to do just that.
Pick a theme. This is where your imagination steps in. Pick a theme — and stick with it throughout your house. You could go rustic (snowy ski lodge, cabin in the woods, fish camp), or contemporary. You could aim for whimsical or vintage, or go all out with color: red (dramatic); white and gold (regal); blue and silver; blue and green; or earth tones – especially apt if you want to carry out a green (as in ecological) theme in your home. Helpful hint: If you haven’t tried the thematic approach before, rummage through all your existing decorations and separate them by color or theme. Chances are you’ll come up with a favorite motif or two just by taking a look at your existing decorations with fresh eyes.
Still at a loss? Buy ribbon — wired, beautiful ribbon at a craft store. Let that be your guide in setting a theme. The ribbon can be used on your tree, garlands and wreaths as well as on gifts, candlesticks, mantel displays, drawer pulls and more.
Whatever your choice, it should complement your home’s existing décor, and for maximum impact be carried throughout the house for an explosion of holiday cheer.
First impressions. Once you have a theme in mind, start outside and work in. It’s more than a tangle of lights, inflatable cartoon characters and store-bought velvet bows. If you have a porch, create an outdoor wonderland. An architecturally interesting door? Dress it in garland. Empty flower pots? Fill them!
Light the way. Available in any garden center, inverted tomato cages secured in a large planter will create the look of a pine tree. Line several along the walkway and string with mini white lights for a winter wonderland welcome.
The big reveal. Now that you’ve wowed family and friends with the exterior trim, the entryway is the place to announce your holiday decorating theme. Think garland and bows adorning an entryway mirror; ribbon on candlesticks; shiny ornaments in a glass bowl; small wrapped gifts displayed on a bench or tables; your favorite holiday books stacked neatly in a vignette of holiday décor and candles — there’s no better time to add the warmth of candlelight to your home. The entryway is ideal to evoke the aroma of the holidays: cinnamon, pine, crisp red apples and gingerbread are just a few of the fragrances offered in seasonal candles.
Dine in style. Holidays are always played out in all their splendor over food, and your dining room shouldn’t be overlooked this season. For a more formal table, consider elevating the look with tall arrangements of flowers and branches – a stunning look that won’t block conversation across the table. Store-bought evergreen wreaths can also serve a multitude of purposes: lay one on the table with your favorite serving dish inside. Hang one (or more if space allows) in the dining area, or ring mini-wreaths around wine goblets for a fanciful display of cheer. Tuck sprigs of pliable, live greenery (fig or rosemary) into napkin rings. Candles again complete the look, but remember, it’s best to not use scented candles near food. For the table, classic white tapers lend a sense of warmth and romance.
Repurpose. Tarnished teapots, serving trays and candlesticks cluttering your closets? Wondering how you collected so many brass accessories? Old pieces of garden architecture? Display them in groups and fill them with mini cedar trees or a bough of red berries; miniature glass balls; peppermint sticks; cinnamon or candles. The list is endless.
Think spray paint. Pick a few magnolia leaves and spray-paint them gold. They look amazing tucked into your tree, garland and centerpiece displays. Naked branches sprayed gold or silver take on a whole new look when arranged in a tall glass vase. Add a few miniature ball ornaments in the same tone for a more festive display.
Nature calls. Take a cue from nature and incorporate sprigs of rosemary and eucalyptus into your seasonal décor – both are long-lasting and wonderfully fragrant. Sprigs of silk poinsettias or mini pine trees look great in flower boxes mixed with ivy or other seasonal foliage. Fill bowls with cranberries and pillar candles, or a vase of the red berries with a floating candle.
Small spaces. Tabletop trees are a wonderful way to bring the holidays into the bedroom, kitchen or other rooms throughout your home. These trees need not be adorned in lights; sometimes simpler is better.
Super-size it. Using thematic ribbon or double strands of clear fishing line, hang oversized ornaments (in various heights and odd numbers) in front of windows to catch light or to fill corners, or outside from tree branches for an unexpected twinkle.
And yes… brown paper packages! A personal favorite — brown kraft paper for all gifts. The message here is to coordinate wrapping paper in a single color palette plus fabulous ribbon — raffia or personalized trinket or ornament on each gift. Think outside the box (no pun intended). Try using sheet music for wrapping paper — especially relevant for the musical household. A holiday wrapping hint: pick the ribbon first. Don’t skimp and go for stick-on; tying a simple knot with beautiful ribbon is much more special than slapping a bow on a box. Not only will the recipient feel incredibly special, but your gifts will look amazing under the tree, and as part of your holiday décor scattered throughout the house in small displays.
The season of giving. Never overlook the opportunity to make someone feel special. If having guests in for cocktails or dinner, make sure they leave with a thematic memento of your hospitality. From a beautifully wrapped seasonal candle, to an engraved ornament placed at each table setting, this is the time to let your thoughtfulness and creativity shine.
Enjoy! Make this year one to remember for you, your family and friends. These favorite things — added to your own personal holiday memories and mementos, and sprinkled with some over-the-top sparkle — are a sure recipe for holiday magic.
P.S.: Timing is everything. If time is not on your side and budget is no object, consider hiring a professional decorator to bring the holiday magic alive in your home — whether simply for you and your family to enjoy, or for special celebrations throughout the season.
Laura Fage is the proprietor of Patina, a retail boutique in St. Petersburg, Florida that features home accents, unique gifts and little luxuries that celebrate a life well lived. Laura is also an award-winning event planner creating the most sought-after private, public and corporate special events imaginable under her own Signature Events moniker.