It’s the most wonderful time of the year! And not just because Andy Williams (on heavy rotation) tells me so. I love decorating all year, but when it comes to the coziness of winter, with all of the sparkly items on display and houses with lights that twinkle against the night sky, I’m like a kid in a candy store.
I get so excited because the items that I have are handpicked for the beauty, sentimental meaning and whimsy that they bring, when I pull them out of the box. However, I understand not everyone gets the same warm fuzzies when a red and green Sterilite storage box of ornaments is opened. You might be wondering, “What do I even do with all this stuff?” I’ve put together 13 of my favorite holiday decorating tips that are sure to make the inside and outside of your home sparkle.
Colors and Themes: Do you have a favorite color scheme that you prefer? You don’t have to stick to the traditional red and green for your décor. Anything goes as long as it’s festive. There are even trees that come in hot pink, bright blue and black! The important thing to remember is that if you are going to invest in items, choose colors you don’t mind seeing year after year. For example, if you love the color teal or turquoise, you might consider using that color coupled with complementary silver and gold throughout the house or just a specific room. Or if you like a more traditional look, select a metal, (silver, gold, bronze) and find items in different finishes and textures to create a monochromatic look that simply calls for pops of color. If you have multiple trees in your house (like I do), you might have a different theme per room. For example, I have a room that is totally dedicated to sweets – if it doesn’t look like “Candyland,” it doesn’t enter the room. It’s my favorite room in the house because the lights bounce off all of the candy ornaments and I really feel the spirit of the season as I curl up with a blanket and good book.
Wreaths: Even my glue gun gets excited when I’m about to make one. Wreaths can be fresh or artificial and be made of anything and everything. Have a favorite sports team? You can make one using ribbons and ornaments in your team’s colors. Want a more elegant look? Place a wreath made of artificial glittery fruit in the center of your dinner table. Buy an adjustable wreath stand and hang a lighted wreath on the top of your mantle. Have a really cool angel or Santa figurine you want to display? Place the item on top of books to elevate it and place a pre-lit wreath around the books so they are hidden. The possibilities are endless!
Trees: Definitely the focal point of any room. Trees come in all colors, shapes and sizes, both real and artificial. If I had a 20-foot tree, I think I’d have enough ornaments to cover it. You could say I aim to create a mini Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland every year. The fact that you can take a big spruce or a Charlie Brown-like tree, and make it beautiful, makes me feel like an artist with its branches as my canvas (swoon). You don’t have to have a large space to have a tree; there are tabletop versions, narrow ones to fit in corners and even ones that can be suspended upside down to let your ornaments cascade for a modern twist.
Ornaments: So many to choose from, so little time. I personally don’t have duplicates of any ornaments. Each one is unique and means something to me. I have a hodgepodge of religious items, Hallmark pro athlete ornaments, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and everything in between. Perhaps you have a theme, and that’s great too. For example, I always buy an ornament from a place where I’ve traveled. I enjoy reminiscing as I look at a Puerto Rican hand-painted ball and a replica of the Alamo next to my T-shirt-shaped ornament of Times Square. Having a hard time finding ornaments you like? You can make them – anything can be made into an ornament. It’s easy to find clear glass or plastic spheres from your local craft store that you can fill with personalized items. Do you save old Christmas cards from family and friends? Cut out the images, glue them to a thick cardstock, punch a hole at the top, add a ribbon and a little glitter, and voila! A sentimental item you’ll enjoy taking out year after year. Don’t think of ornaments as just things to hang. Consider piling ornaments in a decorative apothecary jar on top of your mantle or placing them in a bowl as a centerpiece on the dining room table. If you have kids or pets that might disrupt your display in a high-traffic area, shatterproof ornaments are available in a variety of colors and shapes!
Stockings: These extended socks can be used for more than just stuffing small gifts. If you don’t have a mantle to hang them on, use a few clothespins strung on a rope or hang them from wreath stands which are adjustable for a cluster of them at various heights. Get creative! When I was growing up, my Mom had a giant red velvet stocking that hung on the back of our front door. She pinned all of our incoming Christmas cards to the stocking so that by Christmas Day, it was completely covered! Stockings are available in many shapes and styles, from ice skates to skinny old-fashioned socks, to the traditional boot shape, they can be found as plain or as sequined as you like!
Garland: Use them above doorways, around bannisters and along the length of a table. You can find artificial ones made of poinsettias, plastic bulbs, glittery branches or fresh ones with touches of holly. You can use them both indoors and outdoors as a base to hang other items. For example, you can hang garland above your kitchen sink and attach cookie cutters for a creative touch of holiday cheer. Suspend ornaments on ribbons at different lengths. At my house, we hang the 12 Days of Christmas ornaments from the garland that’s wrapped around the bannister of our stairs. Instead of using a big stocking like my Mom did, why not paper clip the greeting cards you receive to some garland?
Place Settings: Whether you are hosting a family feast or just a personal nightly cup of cocoa, tableware shouldn’t be forgotten. You don’t necessarily have to have dishes with Santa on them, but using bowls and dishes in coordinating colors makes for a cozy dining experience. Add a tablecloth and napkins in solid colors if your plates are decorative; reverse it if your dishes are solid (a plaid tablecloth perhaps)? If guests are over, have nice stemware ready for wine or eggnog. Bring out trays for goodies and chocolate, or use a decorative platter as a display piece by securing it on a plate stand.
Bedding and Linens: You can forego the kiddie snowman comforter (unless you are like Linus and can’t break away) and opt for a solid jewel-toned one. Add decorative pillows with sequins or wintry scenes to add holiday flair. If you want to have flannel snowman sheets underneath, that’s cool, no one will see them and I won’t tell. Don’t forget the towels! From the guest towels in the bathroom to the hand towels in the kitchen, you can find ones with wreaths or candles embroidered on them or go for a classic monogrammed look. Your guests will be impressed that you thought of even the smallest touches.
Glitter and Crystal: Need I say more? I’m pretty sure I’ll never outgrow the love I have for all things sparkly. Christmas is just an opportunity to take it to the max. From reindeer to candles and everything in between, I’ve come out of the craft store covered in glitter just by being in their presence. Isn’t it wonderful? Whether you have a chandelier or a collection of snowflakes, crystal items can really add a sophisticated look to your holiday décor. Place icy white silver ornaments in a crystal vase or tie a royal blue bow around crystal candelabras to accessorize a winter theme that can be enjoyed all winter long.
Go Floral: If you live in an area that doesn’t see flowers until May, this may sound foreign, but adding flowers to your display actually makes for a nice opposites-attract look. If you have a green and silver garland and add some white poinsettias, or red amaryllis with a few pinecones, you get the appearance of blooming life during a season where things are everything but. You can find bedding, linens, towels and more that feature holiday flowers and birds, which can carry the nature-indoors design from one room to another.
Scents: Ah, the smell of freshly baked cookies, peppermint or hot chocolate in the air. Scents have a way of taking us back to our childhood or a happy memory. You might like the smell of fresh pine or associate the holidays with cinnamon-scented pine cones. You can find multi-wick candles, plug-in oils, potpourri and room spray in many of the season’s most recognizable scents.
Lights: Whether outdoors, strung along your bushes, or wound around your staircase, lights add a soft glow and create a comfortable atmosphere. In the living room at my house, there are lights on the tree, the mantle, the bannister and on top of the nativity manger. Needless to say, there’s no need to flip the big overhead light on with all of the twinkles of light around. The first thing everyone says when they visit is “It’s so cozy in here!” That’s the best compliment. You can place individual electric candlesticks on windowsills or battery-operated lighted branches in a vase. Consider a holiday-themed nightlight in the bathroom or adding solar items to light a path to your front door. ‘Tis the season for lighting anywhere you want it to be!
Outdoor Decorations: While it’s important to make your home warm and inviting for you and your guests to enjoy, the outside can be a great place to show your holiday taste. Do you like white icicle lights dripping from the peaks of your roof, or do you prefer a giant Grinch inflatable on your front lawn? Whether you decide to go all National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation on your trees and bushes, or just want a simple wreath on your door, think about the type of story you want to tell with your display. Growing up, I saw both extremes. I had neighbors that lived next door to each other that competed for who had the most outrageous displays (I’ll be driving by this year to check out their latest creations), and my Dad, who wouldn’t go on the roof with a strand of lights if I paid him. If you aren’t up for doing it yourself, there are Christmas lighting services available that have professionals who will do it for you (ahem, Dad). You can also forego lights outside and instead place a couple of entryway trees on the porch, a few potted artificial poinsettias (real ones die in the cold) around bushes and add swags of garland above your door and mailbox.
As you can see, there are many ways to make the inside and outside of your home cozy, inviting and a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. Many of these items you may already own and some you might have to invest in, but they are definitely items you’ll enjoy for years to come. Now, opening that box full of colorful ornaments isn’t as intimidating is it?