Festooning a home for the holidays conjures grand images of garlands, Christmas trees and lots of lights. These days, lights are mostly LEDs, rather than those cursed strings where one bulb inevitably flamed out, taking out an entire strand, leaving a black hole on a swath of branches. But the biggest change in the last 10 years has been the expansion of colors across an overwhelming range of decor, from ornaments to accessories that push the creative envelope out of the traditional red and green comfort zone.
There's something intriguing about less conventional palettes, some a little retro -- like pastels reminiscent of sugary miniature villages -- and others that follow suit with trending elements of home decor.
This year, for example, there's a lot of blush and rose gold, riffing off of the acceptance of millennial pink as a core color. There's a sizeable range of blues, right on cue with the dominance we've seen in furnishings markets globally.
For designer Tobi Fairley, whose newly renovated home in Little Rock, Arkansas, is featured in this month's Traditional Home, tradition and Southern-style hospitality is strong. But so is color, always a passion reflected in her interiors and furniture for CR Laine.
Touring her home is so much technicolor eye candy, from the shock of flaming red trees in pots, crimson berries and wreaths framing the front door, to a riveting pink bedecked flocked tree in a black-and-white foyer (to echo the pinks in the adjacent dining room), to shots of delicious vivid blues, purple and aqua in other rooms.
Blame it on her mom. "My mom always had fun with our Christmas trees," she says. "I remember in the '80s we had mauves and pinks. Another year we had blues mixed with rust tones. My mom was pretty confident. We didn't just have traditional ornaments. She definitely set the tone.
"I've always encouraged my clients not to 'undecorate' their homes -- by that, I mean, take away pieces and store them in the attic so they can get their Christmas decorations out. To me, (holiday decorating) should enhance what you have. I lean into a palette and design that works for me all year 'round. I want my home to still feel like it's my home."
"Red and green has been pumped into people's heads over time," says Eddie Ross, style director for The Mine, an e-tail site with curated high-end furnishings, and a columnist for House Beautiful. "It if works in your home, great. But it may be jarring against a lavender wall. I decorate to enhance the decor of my home, not make it clash. This day and age, there are so many choices in different colors."
That's no surprise to forecaster Michelle Lamb, director of The Trend Curve, a subscription-based publication for professionals that focuses on home furnishings trends. Lamb, who regularly covers a show called Christmas World in Frankfurt, Germany, calls red and green a holiday "workhorse," but she sees other colors demanding attention in decor and trims.
"There's a warming trend, informed by millennial pink, as well as brown and gold -- three big influencers on the palette," says Lamb. "But also, green is a top trend, and it's not unusual to see two or three shades together, with eucalyptus and sage being the loudest. And aqua values, pale to deep, have a large role.
And, of course, blue. "It is North America's favorite color," says Lamb. "Which one? Pick one. And it's the color for Hanukkah, plus a color story that has more to do with winter."
Blue is favored so much by designers today that it has practically become a neutral. Consider denim. It goes with everything -- dressed up or dressed down. A more formal setting with a stone fireplace mantel and paneled walls is so inviting with a trio of denim stockings hanging from brass-finished love-letter "XOX" holders. A reindeer head adds a light touch. All are part of a collection by stylists and fashion designers Emily Current and Meritt Elliott at Pottery Barn.
Eddie Ross chose more of a pale robin's egg blue for ornaments that he teamed with red on a white flocked tree. The pairing especially shows how striking color selection can be when it's repeated in the room -- in this case, a pair of French doors in the background. And in turquoise foo dogs, playfully placed with wrapped packages that pop in companion colors. Oh, and you might notice just a few blush ornaments as well -- to echo the shade of a nearby upholstered chair. "I like taking what's old and making it new and cool again," he says.
Similar brights punctuate a white taffeta tree skirt by Kim Seybert, available at Horchow. Seybert, who is known for exquisitely hand-beaded placemats and runners, scattered beads that glisten like newly fallen snow, and bordered the round skirt in raspberry, apple green, turquoise, magenta and pink beaded bands and red velvet ribbon.
That turquoise also surfaced in a new cloisonne dreidel design at Crate and Barrel, destined to become a real keepsake ornament. Just as in other areas of home design, there is an appreciation for such handcrafted goods, which often show off shiny accents.
In addition to retro, on-trend decor and handcrafted looks, 'tis the season for anything that sparkles: metallic finishes, glitter, mercury glass -- all of which seem to dance in lights, especially candlelight.
"It's amazing how modern glitter is right now," says Lamb. "It's certainly not new, but we have the whole sequin trend that has elevated glitter again, with different levels of reflection, from coarse to fine glitters."
And the same relaxation toward mixing metals that we've seen in other areas of the home, from kitchens to living rooms, is unfolding with seasonal decor.
"Around the holidays, I think of metallics like silver and gold as neutrals, because they mix in so well with your existing decorations," says designer Alexa Hampton. "Silver and gold look great together."
So do rose gold and silver. A stunning new garland (and wreath) at Horchow pairs silver and blush gold ornaments and berries along with silvery leaves and glittery balls. Metals teamed with solids also look fresh -- like creamy matte with shiny gold ornaments at Crate and Barrel, a combination that we've seen in vases and plates.
So many of these kinds of materials now are available in crafts stores like Jo-Ann Fabrics and Michaels, if you want to weave in some glamor into pine or Frasier fir boughs, there are plenty of choices.
And for those who welcome larger DIY projects, you might take inspiration from Laura Dowling. A former chief White House florist for six years, some of her wreaths are crafted with humble, natural materials -- like potatoes. The soft red, almost pink hue, teamed with flowers, violet ribbons and variegated leaves is striking. Or she borrows from Colonial Williamsburg materials such as fruits, with a bold diamond-shaped wreath assembled with limes and crab apples, especially dramatic on a red door. Her new book, "A White House Christmas" (Stichting Kunstboek, $45) includes step-by-step floral design tutorials.
Whether you are all about nostalgia and opt for traditional decorations that have been passed down for generations, or shake it up with bright hues and new materials, one thread should be consistent. Bring an edge -- a bit of luxe or modern style -- as you create magic. That's what makes the holidays special.
-- Ballard Designs, 800-536-7551, www.ballarddesigns.com
-- Crate and Barrel, 800-967-6696, www.crateandbarrel.com
-- CB2, 800-606-6252, www.cb2.com
-- Horchow, 877-944-9888, www.horchow.com
-- The Mine, 844-843-6463, www.themine.com
-- Tobi Fairley & Associates, 501-868-9882, www.tobifairley.com
-- West Elm, 888-922-4119, www.westelm.com
Ready for Midnight!
Gather up those party hats and noisemakers and get ready to pop the champagne. As you usher in the new year, celebrate in style, with pretty champagne buckets, glasses, party plates -- and decor.
Decorate with oversized sparkly paper streamers -- they come in silver, copper and gold -- hung as garlands, or horizontally or vertically. Or hang reflective ornaments, paper pinwheels or honeycombs with glittery tops. Some of those fancy dress-up decorations are available at Crate and Barrel.