Six easy and elegant ways to decorate for the holidays

By Megan Mcdonough

It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, but between hosting holiday festivities, shopping for presents and working full time, it can feel like the most stressful.

“I’ve come to appreciate why people start decorating the day after Thanksgiving,” designer Iantha Carley of Silver Spring, Maryland, says. “It’s a lot of work to pull off for a very short period of time.”

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Carley recently completed a custom nine-foot pink pompom tree – with more than 600 individually sewn pompoms, rotating on a motorized stand – for a Washington charity event. But when it comes to decorating her own home for the holidays, Carley likes to keep it simple, classic and fun.

“Don’t wear yourself out trying to create the perfect Martha Stewart Christmas,” Carley says.

Here are six ideas from Carley on how to capture the holiday spirit at home, without spending a great deal of time or money.

Stick to a simple but festive colour palette

For a consistent and cohesive look, choose one or two festive accent colours (or two shades in the same colour family, such as red and pink), and find simple ways to tie them in with your existing decor. You can accomplish this with ribbons, winter flowers, scented candles, patterned pillows, cosy blankets and Christmas stockings. For red-and-green traditionalists, Carley suggests incorporating different hues in the same colour families, such as deep burgundy and chartreuse, rather than cherry red and hunter green, for an elevated, modern look.

Bring in all things warm and cosy

To turn your home into a cosy and inviting refuge, Carley suggests burning wood-scented candles and using warm, dim lighting. For a larger makeover, replace your lightweight linens with chunky textures, such as knits and velvets, and gather fleece throw blankets to keep guests warm. Consider rearranging your furniture to face your Christmas tree or fireplace to create a warm and welcoming gathering spot for winter entertaining.

Put your extra ornaments to good use

Over time, most people collect more ornaments than a single tree could possibly hold. Instead of cramming them all on your tree or packing them away indefinitely, Carley recommends placing spare, bright-coloured balls and bulbs in clear hurricane glasses and apothecary jars of different heights around the house. She also suggests stacking extra shiny and colourful ornaments in a bowl, cake stand or serving dish with boughs of evergreen, pine cones and white string lights for a simple centrepiece. Want an easy and decorative holiday window treatment? Attach a faux green garland to the top of your window pane and tie extra ornaments to it with ribbon in varying lengths.

Stock and style your beverage station

With parties aplenty this time of year, it’s a good idea to have your bar cart fully stocked with all the merrymaking essentials. For Carley, that means outfitting her bar with all the ingredients needed to make her husband’s signature Boulevardier cocktail. If you want to take your decor a step further, style your bar area with faux snow, sparkly straws and festive glassware. If there’s room to spare, set out bowls of seasonal cocktail garnishes or snacks, such as gumdrops or miniature candy canes.

Incorporate natural, fragrant greenery

The smell of the outdoors always sets a festive, wintry mood. Carley suggests adorning your holiday table with a variety of boxwood cuttings, evergreen sprigs and fresh-cut white hydrangeas to add texture, colour and fragrance. You can also attach fresh holly and magnolia leaves to napkin rings or place cards for a green and sophisticated touch. Don’t have time for a nature walk? Set the mood with a Frasier fir-scented candle.

In an alternate world, we’d craft our Advent calendars and hand-knit our tree skirts. But for those of us who don’t have the time, patience, interest or energy, store-bought decorations and faux greenery are perfectly acceptable. “We recently switched to an artificial tree, after having several issues with allergies, and I absolutely love it,” Carley says. “And now, the artificial trees have gotten so good that it’s really hard to tell that it’s not real.”

You can easily dress up your stairway banister or chandelier with a simple, store-bought garland and, if time allows, weave in ribbons. For a personal touch, hang it across a doorway, mantel or bookshelf and adorn it with holiday cards and photographs. You can upgrade store-bought wreaths with a new bow or fluff them up with natural greenery (e.g., eucalyptus and thistle), and fresh citrus (e.g., lemons, limes and oranges), with green floral wire.

In a hurry? Grab a poinsettia at your supermarket and swap its tin foil wrapping for an attractive pot or planter for an easy accent or hostess gift.


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