Some of us have quite the knack for holiday decorating. It's fluid, almost effortless, instinctive or precisely planned -- and, most of all, it's done early. All the better to kick back by the fire and enjoy, a glass of nutmeg-laced eggnog or wine in hand.
The rest of us need a little jump-start -- especially if we want to change things up a bit. There are plenty of ideas out there -- in magazines, catalogs, retail websites, blogs, home design shows. The downside is with the volume of information and sources, it's difficult to hone in.
But just as it is with all of home design, it's how you put things together that creates a cohesive look and personalizes spaces. The same is true with holiday decor. Follow your instincts. Just a few touches of color and sparkle can elevate the everyday to festive.
Some retailers have made it all a bit easier by grouping ornaments, garlands and even Santas and angels into themes that cover lifestyle or decor trends.
You may wonder how these holiday styles get launched. Michelle Lamb, editor of The Trend Curve, a publication that forecasts home furnishings trends internationally for designers and architects, actually covers Christmasworld, a trade show in Frankfurt, Germany, where trends are shaped much as they are for home furnishings.
What she saw echoed some current design directions, such as layering, which she says makes surfaces look unique. Also texture and dimension, which were expressed in finishes such as gesso, not only in gold but also in white. She looks for glitter to come on even stronger next year, with large-scale gemstones in napkin rings and ornaments.
And get ready for pink in all shades. It already has surfaced in brights, which line up with retro trends. Midtone pinks are making inroads, and pastels are starting to emerge. And surely you've seen a broader range of greens from lime to more olive, mossy and blue greens.
Handcrafted ornaments are being embraced, destined to be treasured, much like the crafts children make. Texture is playing a larger role, for solid design reasons. What stands out in a well-designed all-white interior? Contrasting surfaces, like shiny and matte, some dimension, and layering, which lends depth and creates contrast. Tactile surfaces are welcome, just like cuddly cashmere throws.
Some may never stray from traditional red and green, but it's pretty difficult to not be seduced by some of the cool colors out there. You probably can find ornaments and accents to go with most interiors palettes, from jewel tones to almost neon brights. If you stick with a single hue, repeat it with pillows (seasonal or not), throws and other accessories.
Metallic and other glittery accents are especially glamorous at this time of year. Gold, silver, copper and bronze accents add shine. Mercury glass looks have become staples during the holiday because of their reflective qualities. And anything that glitters or is beaded is especially enchanting with candlelight.
Besides votives, a variety of candlesticks in different shapes and materials can be effectively grouped on mantels, side tables and sideboards.
And live greens and plants lend a special quality, with boughs of balsam, pine or fir, with the added benefit of fresh scent. Paper whites, amaryllis, tulips, orchids and even hydrangeas are alternatives to traditional poinsettias, but even these can be found in colors other than red.
"I like to use a lot of natural green -- magnolia and pine, maybe some holly berries," says New York designer Bunny Williams, who did a holiday collection for Ballard. "(Real) or faux green apples look great tucked into the greenery." And she says even an everyday blue-and-white dinnerware looks beautiful on a table dressed with sparkling gold deer, shimmering hurricanes and tons of mercury glass votives.
Styling your home for the holidays may span the spare to flush, which can suit a huge range of tastes. Take a stairway, for example. A simple bow at the newel post might suffice. Or, one idea from marthastewart.com is to create a garland of current Christmas cards and hang them from the bannister. Then, too, this can be the perfect showcase for some new colorful ornaments, fastened by pretty ribbons. (Try papersource.com for a rainbow of satin and organza ribbons, available for the retailer's fashionable wrapping papers, and beautiful enough for display.)
Wreaths are perhaps the go-to decor for doors and windows, but other attractive options include sprays of greens, enhanced by ornaments and fruit. It's really the perfect DIY: purchasing a plain spray, perhaps dotted with pine cones (most super markets will sell them) and add your own colored orbs, faux or fresh fruit and coordinating ribbon, tied in a loose bow.
Mantelscapes are another obvious place to create ambience, whether or not you have stockings hanging from them. On the Crate and Barrel website, there's a tutorial on how to style a holiday mantel, which dishes three basic tips: Arrange items from high to low (the focal point can be a wreath, a mirror or wall art); group similar items together; mix materials and textures -- try different combinations of burnished metals, glazed ceramics, colored and clear glass and weathered woods. Plus, there are three different illustrated takes that cover classic, modern and casual.
While you may favor a minimal look, that can take on very different interpretations. A rustic setting may feature rough-hewn plank floors or even walls, lots of natural elements like twigs or pine cones.
On the other hand, generally lean interiors with furnishings in straight lines may welcome a bauble or three, as well as a few curves in a modern context. Sparkling ornaments add luster; try pooling a shimmery garland around bowls of ornaments and candles on a console table. Textural notes can help soften crisp edges, like tactile leaves of felt forming a snowy-white wreath or framing a tabletop tree. A bright spot on any color background, it even stands out against white because of its layered fabric and can star in either a contemporary or traditional setting.
If you have a favorite large bowl, whether it's in white porcelain, ruby glass, majolica or Blue Willow, put it to use with a special holiday accent. Spiff it up with snowy-white, gold or silvery pine cones. Or fill it with lemons or clementines. Do the same with smaller bowls, filling them with colorful candies or nuts, paying attention to shape. Aerin Lauder, whose home is featured in the November/December issue of Elle Decor, accessorizes with gold-leaf and gold crystal bowls from her Aerin collection. And she arranges deep red peonies and berry branches in vases, for rich color.
"Most of all," she told the magazine, "it's about tradition and the spirit of the season. I love to create a sense that it is a special time of year."
Just how lavish or low-key you make it is up to you. But there's no doubt that even a small effort to dress will matter, not only to you but your holiday guests.
Orlando Soria, a guest blogger for Crate and Barrel, showed off some of his own holiday decor, punctuated by turquoise on a vintage silver tree, with plenty of packages wrapped in the same scheme.
"Christmas is a great time to re-envision our homes and get excited about decor, says Soria, an interior designer who founded Hommemaker, primarily a site for men who like to make stuff, but really for anyone who enjoys home design.
Think of holiday decorating as a gift for your home, one that gives back, making it inviting for all.
-- Ballard Designs, 800-536-7551, www.ballarddesigns.com
-- Crate and Barrel, 800-967-6696, www.crateandbarrel.com
-- Horchow, 877-944-9888, www.horchow.com
-- Neiman Marcus, 888-888-4757, www.neimanmarcus.com
-- Serena & Lily, 866-597-2742, www.serenaandlily.com
-- Wisteria, 800-320-9757, www.wisteria.com
The most colorful, patterned and embellished ornaments may beg for solo status, getting free from all the others relegated to the tree. Spotlight a few by hanging them from a chandelier. Or suspend them over a doorway. Glass or translucent spheres seem to glow when the light shines through, say in a window. Or place a collection in a bowl, on a side table or sideboard. Look for wire containers -- vintage or even new ones, such as one shaped like a tree, -- to show off those holiday orbs.
ADD DEPTH TO YOUR HOLIDAY PALETTE
Traditional holiday color schemes and materials have expanded to include many more options than ever before -- like shots of turquoise or regal purple teamed with rich gold. Plus, there's embroidery, beading, texture on textiles, such as Christmas stockings and tree skirts, that offer everything from confetti-like tufts to preppy stripes to retro color combinations and coastal symbols like starfish and coral, which can cozy up urban interiors, too.
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