No matter what style of home you live in, holiday decorating can bring it to life. It doesn't really take that much: a garland here, a few candles there, touches of evergreens, a few spangly baubles. Whether you go for glam or for more homespun, dialed-down expressions, it's all about creating a little coziness -- something that makes it all magical for you, your family and guests.
Sounds like the jingling of bells or strains of "Silent Night" or "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas," plus aromas of pine, balsam or fir, or freshly baked cookies trigger that warm and wonderful sensation for many people.
However you light it up -- with thousands of LED sparklers, holiday cheer throughout every room of the house or with minimal punctuation -- there are plenty of places to go for direction. Some like to take cues from public spaces, such as hotels, restaurants and shops, or even city or town streets and squares -- with some scaling down for home applications.
Whether you're looking to add to your traditional decor repertoire or start fresh, there's more design advice than ever before, not only from shelter magazines but retailers with catalogs or online blogs. For those who stare at the front of their homes and don't know where to start, Pottery Barn invites: "Call us today and we can help. Free design services." Its website offers online how-to articles and videos. Wisteria has a storyboard holiday blog with suggestions, including four different ways to design a mantel. Neiman Marcus (and Pottery Barn) breaks down its decorations according to theme (like luxe lodge, classic, elegant or coastal), which makes it easier to identify the looks and colors you like.
CB2 dishes personal decorating advice from the hip design duo of Robert and Cortney Novogratz. "Every Christmas we hang a giant peace wreath on the front door to welcome our friends and family. While the design is rustic and understated, the message speaks volumes." (A lighted vine peace wreath from their collection was sold out well before Thanksgiving). And WE (West Elm) riffs on the song "Have Yourself (a Merry Little Christmas)" by inserting its own sentiment: "a holiday that's carefully crafted just for you."
Craft and curated are key buzzwords these days -- in the sense of creating a personalized look, one that at least appears to be one of a kind, something done by hand.
Flipping through a stack of holiday catalogs that could be a record weight this year, we found a number of interesting themes.
Outdoor decorating has ramped up. We've always seen the wreaths and garlands, lit and unlit. But this year, there are more options for treetops glistening. Restoration Hardware is selling what it calls starlit trees or winter wonderland trees in snow and bark or wrapped with birch. A cool alternative to green, these minimal twig-like forms, battery-lit with LEDs, are absolutely enchanting en masse. They can be used indoors or out. Grandin Road's outdoor lights include large shooting stars with light trails.
In addition, there are a surprising number of outdoor accoutrements -- kind of prop-y objects that you might see in retail displays, such as stacks of colorful presents. Grandin Road's range up to 20 1/2 inches square by 24 inches tall and these "artisan gift packages" are crafted from hand-painted, stressed wood with aged tin bows. At Neiman Marcus, there's a big sleigh that looks like molded iron, with is actually a synthetic mix. There are reindeer, and nearly life-sized figures, including a bronze-like Santa (58 1/2 inches) and a 3-foot-tall angel and nutcracker. The idea is to decorate the front stoop, veranda or steps as you might with pumpkins for Halloween, creating ambience before you step inside.
Artisan-made decorations in felt, needlepoint or fabrics that are appliqued, stenciled or beaded seem to be even more plentiful this year. They add warmth and a soft touch.
Perhaps drawing on that softness, you'll see plenty of critters -- owls and other fuzzy animals as ornaments or motifs on pillows. And reindeer are having a bigger moment than usual. The silhouette can be part of mantel or table decor; and antlered deer heads create a nice anchor for wreaths. The most over-the-top example is one 7-inch-tall reindeer studded with thousands of bronze, silver and gold Swarovski crystals; it's available at Frontgate for $4,695.
If you're taking the time and making the effort to decorate, you'd best be entertaining. One of the most fun ideas is West Elm's party in a box, offered in white with silver and gold or in bold colors. Included are statement decorations, champagne coupes, a cocktail shaker and even confetti.
Happy New Year signs may not be the only messages you see. The trend of vintage illuminated marquee letters has been translated for the season. Restoration Hardware jumped on it with PEACE, JOY and LOVE words that stand just over 13 inches tall (they start at $149). There also are green topiary style letters that spell out NOEL. At Pottery Barn, there's 3-foot scale wall art in iron with bronze finish that spells LOVE in the style of the first LOVE postage stamp in 1973. Also, your choice of real moss letters, available for $79 each. Just spritz to keep fresh.
Script also is popular on pillows, with sentiments such as "All is bright" (that looks like it has been written on a blackboard). Or "jingle," in Old English style message in red on jute, with a few bells attached for fun (both at Pottery Barn).
If your wall space is limited (or if you're looking for a more intriguing way to display decor), consider hanging something from the ceiling. The most dramatic suspension: a tree from Grandin Road (it also can be placed upside down in a stand). At CB2, a wreath converts to chandelier, with lights, ornaments and greenery laced through.
Of course, garlands on mantels, doorways and stairs in a range of decorated greens are a standard, but how about changing it up with glittery ball or felt garlands?
Dress-ups like festooning the backs of chairs have graduated from DIY fare to magnificent ready-made fabric wraps and adornments at Grandin Road. The idea of adding a bit of holiday spirit to chairs is especially appealing for kids. PB Kids has slip-on chair covers in the form of Santa hats, heads or letter holders for Mr. Claus. Wreaths of any kind also are an easy spruce-up, either on bare or slipcovered chairs.
Seasonal themes like poinsettias, winter berries, snowflakes, snowmen and trees are favorite motifs for pillows and bedding -- and changing them out for the holidays spreads the cheer throughout the house. Don't forget powder rooms and bathrooms; embroidered hand towels with traditional or whimsical motifs such as the offbeat elf or fanciful reindeers of Patience Brewster might even be teamed with a few decorations -- garlands or small ornaments hanging from a mirror.
Anything reflective adds welcome sheen to the decor. That's why metallic accents in gold, silver and copper are huge, as well as mercury glass (votive holders, bowls) and anything glittery, such as sequins and beads. One of the most mesmerizing objects of the season is what's described as a 1920s French glass cloche, available in several sizes (up to 30 inches tall) at Restoration Hardware. They're shown in the catalog and online filled with "starry string lights," teeny lights in amber on copper wire or diamond with silver wire, bundled up in a tangled web, looking as if thousands of miniature fireflies were captured within. Utterly beguiling.
Beyond the glittery, the bright and nontraditional hues are here to stay. Shuffling the deck with orange, hot pink, violet, turquoise and cobalt adds a jolt of fun, and the expansion of color palettes suits a variety of home styles. One of the more unusual wreaths is crafted with iridescent peacock feathers, glittery cedar twigs and ornaments in apple green and turquoise on a bed of leaves, cedar and myrtle. It's available at Gump's, which also sells a set of similarly hued, small, feathered trees dusted with glitter.
If you have DIY skills, a feathered wreath is the kind you might tackle yourself. Of course, Martha Stewart still is the reigning diva of stylish DIY holiday decorating. (Check out www.marthastewart.com and nose around for Christmas crafts for everything from paper snowflakes to star projects, pine cone crafts to gingerbread houses, even snow globes!) Another excellent source is Real Simple (www.realsimple.com), where you'll find, for example, details on fashioning a wreath out of kumquats, clementines and limes, colorful and sweetly aromatic. Some ideas are really simple -- filling apothecary jars, for example, with small colorful ornaments or red or green and white mints, foil-colored candies, cranberries or colored glass marbles.
When all is said and done and you're delighted with your efforts, you may want to boast about them on Pinterest or Instagram. Most of all, sit back and soak in every moment of this enchanting season.
-- Ballard Designs, 800-536-7551 www.ballarddesigns.com
-- CB2, 800-606-6252, www.cb2.com
-- Crate and Barrel, 800-967-6696, www.crateandbarrel.com
-- Garnet Hill, 800-870-3513, www.garnethill.com
-- Grandin Road, 866-668-5962, www.grandinroad.com
-- Frontgate, 888-263-9850, www.frontgate.com
-- Gump's, 800-284-8677, www.gumps.com
-- Olive & Cocoa, 800-538-5404, www.oliveandcocoa.com
-- Pottery Barn, 888-779-5176, www.potterybarn.com
-- Pottery Barn Kids, 800-993-4923, www.potterybarnkids.com
-- Restoration Hardware, 800-910-9836, www.restorationhardware.com
-- West Elm, 888-922-4119, www.westelm.com
-- Williams Sonoma, 877-812-6235, www.williamssonoma.com
-- Wisteria, 800-320-9757, www.wisteria.com
HOMESPUN FOR THE HOLIDAYS
Handcrafted objects have gained traction in home design in the last few years, so it's not at all surprising that they are showing up more and more in holiday decor. From elegant hand-beaded tree skirts to rustic patchwork to whimsically appliqued stockings, some are so beautiful that they can become family heirlooms. At the high end, there's the magnificent 64-inch rust-colored beaded tree skirt by Kim Seybert at Neiman Marcus ($545). Or richly embroidered and beaded Jay Strongwater stockings ($450; www.jaystrongwater.com).
As antiques can be a buffer in ubermodern spaces, well-chosen crafted pieces can shine, especially in minimal interiors where decorations are moredialed down. That's where a bit of color, glitter and something soft can be fun.
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