“Deck the halls” is a phrase synonymous with the holiday season. Regardless of personal taste, bringing some extra cheer into the home during the winter months is a cherished pastime for many. From minimal clean decor to the maximalist designs that enchant you, part of what is best about holiday decor is the infusion of your own style, interests, culture, beliefs and tradition into it.
Here are some of the essentials of holiday decorating, based on many years of experience working in the holiday design industry, curating year-round seasonal collections and decorating professionally.
Make It a Family Affair
This idea is self-evident to many, but worth emphasizing. Decorating for the holidays can be a formative experience for a child, as well as a nostalgic and emotionally rich practice for adults.
You are creating memories that your family will cherish and pass down for generations. Shift your focus from the “what” of decorating (material things) to the “who” and the “why.” You are cultivating traditions to enrich your family and bring them joy. Set the tone for the merry affair with cheery or meaningful music, festive foods and drinks, and your coziest apparel.
Build Your Collection with Care
One of the best ways to infuse your holiday collection with personal style and ensure it grows with you or your family is to build it incrementally and with intention. Adding a few pieces every year maintains tradition while keeping your collection fresh and exciting.
For some families, this may mean starting with a neutral ornament, ribbon and faux floral and greenery stem “base” for the annual tree, then embellishing that base by adding a new color or texture to the tree occasionally. That means that some ornaments, ribbons or floral stems stay in storage for a few years and reappear when they feel fresh again.
For other families, it could be simply picking up a new ornament to commemorate every passing year or even making a decoration together to add to an ever-growing collection. In general, mixing old, new and handmade elements together will create warm and meaningful decor.
Start with Greenery
On a budget, not sure where to begin or in a decorating rut? Greenery is the answer. You can purchase it fresh or faux, or gather from nature. It’s classic and versatile, and it’s a chameleon. Greenery is a true holiday neutral that looks serene when paired with white or silver tones, timeless when dotted with red berries, rustic when laced with a few pinecones or glamorous when adorned with gold silk floral stems. Virtually any style or color can be incorporated with greenery, and you can use this element with any setting.
Greenery will anchor your decor and tie it to your tree. Hang mini wreaths from ribbons on your kitchen cabinet doors, garland your surfaces or build a bowl arrangement of fresh greens and ornaments to make a statement.
Your greens will stay freshest if you soak them in a bath of cold water for 24 hours before use and mist them daily. Contained arrangements should receive fresh water regularly. If you need something with less fuss, you can find many realistic faux options. Pine, fir, spruce and cypress are the classics, but other natural elements like magnolia leaves, boxwood, huckleberry or eucalyptus are beautiful as well.
One of the primary considerations when curating an aesthetic is texture, and decorating for the holidays is no exception — including your Christmas tree. Texture is arguably as important as color. Mixing textiles and objects with assorted finishes will create balance and add visual interest.
Practically speaking, seek out a mix of greenery, wood, metal and various plush textiles to layer throughout your home. Layer ribbons with your greenery or select a mix of shiny metal, glass and wood ornaments. Add in some sparkly, glittered elements. Plush details like wooly knit throws and fur pillows are holiday-reminiscent, but can work through the winter or, in some cases, year round.
Those who take the “more is more” approach frequently ask what it takes to create elaborate trees. A general recipe for a beautifully curated tree is a collection of four to six ornament styles of various sizes and shapes (ranging from solid-color, oversized balls to small, more ornate keepsake ornaments), three to four styles of floral and greenery stems with various textures and one to two ribbon styles to finish the look.
- Dream up your color palette: It’s a good idea to choose a principal color and mix in a few secondary colors that will help tie the tree in with the rest of your everyday home décor.
- Start with large ornaments: Place several oversized ball ornaments deep into the tree branches in a zigzag pattern. This will add depth to the tree and create a fuller, more dimensional base.
- Place your picks. Next, “fluff” them to make them look nice and full by manipulating their wired pieces. Place them in the tree at a slight downward angle to help them stay in place. Once you reach the top quarter of the tree, gradually begin to place them pointing out and then up to add some volume and visual interest.
- Weave or tie your ribbon: Weaving ribbon may take practice, but when done well, it creates a beautiful effect. Starting from the top, begin weaving the ribbon throughout or down the tree. Most will find that using wired ribbon is imperative. Some prefer to arrange their ribbon in vertical “stripes” lining the tree, and some prefer to zigzag it down throughout the branches casually in a semi horizontal or diagonal line. Most find it easiest to cut their ribbon into roughly 6-foot lengths and add them in one at a time, fastening sections to the tree with floral wire. For an on-trend or more minimal look, select nonwired ribbon in crushed velvet or satin and tie long, sweeping, whimsical bows. Fasten them to the tree branches with floral wire.
- Finish with smaller “topper” ornaments and keepsakes: This is the most exciting part. Place your most beautiful and glitzy ornaments toward the ends of branches, where they can really shine.
No matter where you call home — a house, apartment, condo or dorm — your front door is the portal to your place of respite and welcomes you, your family and your guests. Place a festive wreath with a ribbon or grab a mini tree, wrap it with lights and put it in a pot. Flank your entry with a pair of large lanterns filled with spare or cheap ornaments. The entry to your home will set the tone, so don’t neglect to give it a touch of cheer.
It’s the season of light! Light captures the magic, or wonder and reverence, of the season. Scatter tealights, tapers or pillar candles throughout your home. Battery-operated “moving flame” candles are a wonderful option that is safe and looks authentic. Dim the lighting throughout your home and appreciate what just a little light will do to illuminate that darkness. Now you’ve captured the essence of the season.