Here, I’ll go first. My name is Regan, and I am the owner of four quilted, Santa Claus shaped placemats. I used them for longer than I’d like to admit. My past crimes against Christmas include: decorating my tree with gold plastic cherub head ornaments, using matching cherub tree lights, and layering white and gold wired ribbon to make massive bows that I stuck all over the tree. There’s just something about the holidays that make even the most design savvy among us completely disregard our typical sense of style and it made me wonder, “How does one remain true to oneself while decking their halls”? I’ve come up with seven simple steps you can take to keep from losing your mind (and your design cred).
1. Take a Look Around
Take stock of your surroundings. What’s your style? Is your home traditional? Farmhouse? Modern? Do you like “stuff” or are you more of a minimalist? This is the first step in determining which direction you take because your holiday decor should be an extension of your normal aesthetic. Sometimes we’re so overcome with the spirit of the season, we forget that our Christmas should look like a slightly more festive version of our every day life. So, if your home is modern, keep it clean and graphic with pops of color. If farmhouse is your style, keep it fresh by avoiding the obvious: trade buffalo plaid for textured neutrals, and tin for wicker. If you’re a traditionalist at heart, think boxwood wreaths and rich velvet ribbon.
2. Pick a Color, But Not Just Any Color
Maybe it’s the color of your favorite throw or accent cushion, maybe it’s a color you’ve always wanted to try but were too nervous to meaningfully (and monetarily) commit. Either way, if you’re looking to add color to your Christmas, your existing space should be the biggest indicator when deciding which one to choose.
If you prefer a more natural look color wise, some fresh greenery may be just the right amount of color for your space. If you’d like to use the same blue as your sofa, you can add depth by using lighter and darker versions of the same color and pairing it with a neutral. Drooling over the Pantone Color of the Year? Add it to your tree or wreath in the form of ribbon or hang a few similarly colored ornaments. By the end of the season, you’ll have a feel for whether you want to live with Ultra Violet 18-3838 on a more permanent basis, or if it’s more of a once a year for a month type of color.
3. Getting to Know You (Getting to Know All About You)
I have an ornament on my tree that my kids call the “creepy moon”. I got it in Amsterdam and it reminds me of a time when our family went to an outdoor showing of the movie The Invention of Hugo Cabret. It was a pretty magical night and every time I see that ornament, it makes me think of what a lovely evening we had. When you see an ornament that reminds you of a wonderful person or experience you’ve had, buy it! Buy ornaments from the places you travel, buy them to celebrate special occasions in your life. Those ornaments are the keepers of our stories. They give your tree and your space a richer, deeper meaning. Don’t worry about these ornaments working perfectly in terms of color or style, with these ones it’s all about feeling. And if it’s truly a little “out there”, your over all look will do the heavy lifting and this little outlier will become a fantastic conversation piece. So, the moon stays! Does it look creepy, and perhaps even slightly menacing? If I’m being honest- yes, but no creepier than the one-eyed sandpaper gingerbread man my kids insist on hanging right at the front of the tree.
You know what fits perfectly in your empty decoration bins? I was going to say all the tchotchkes that usually fill your home, but I guess the body of your sworn enemy works as well. What ever you do, don’t try to accommodate all your holiday decorations alongside your every day stuff. There will be the odd bowl or vase that can transition through the season, but if it’s just taking up space toss it in an empty bin and enjoy the special pieces you only see once a year.
5. Spread the Cheer
I really find it so lovely when there are bits and pieces of Christmas spread throughout the home, but there’s no need to get crazy. Be sure to consider the scale and amount of available space in whatever room you’re decorating; the main floor powder room will likely be just fine with an understated, festive hand towel and a simple sprig of pine or eucalyptus.
If, like us, you do the majority of your Netflix-ing in your basement, consider splurging on another tree. A few years ago, I hit the jackpot at Michaels and picked up a flocked, slim profile tree for $69.00 during one of their 50% off sales. Sometimes I don’t even decorate it, I just pop it in the corner and plug it in.
6. Fresh Greens
I can not overstate how wonderful it is to have fresh greens as a part of your holiday decor. Any Christmas market worth its salt will have at least one vendor selling fresh greens in ready made planters or wreaths. Many will also sell bags of greens that you can use to fill your own planters. If you get the cold sweats at the thought of filling your own planter, ask for help! Vendors are happy to give suggestions on how to plant them and where best to position the different boughs. Last year, I bought two fresh Candleberry wreaths, which I hung in the windows of my kitchen nook. The wreaths lasted from the end of November until the middle of January and made me feel like I was swanning around the kitchen of Martha Stewart’s Turkey Hill mansion.
7. A Perfect Tree is Highly Overrated
Um, is it? Trust me, as a designer it is VERY HARD for me to admit this is true. When I yell “Back of the tree!” at my sweet children, I truly mean it in the most loving of ways. It’s just that some ornaments are meant for, well, the back of the tree. Filler balls, that frame ornament that doesn’t have a picture, the one-eyed sandpaper gingerbread man; you might as well admit it, I know you do it too. But even someone whose very job is to make things beautiful can admit that the most exquisitely decorated tree can seem a little empty when there’s no significance attached to it. Think of it as you would a hotel lobby tree: It packs a punch with its gorgeously laden branches, but it’s also likely a little generic and devoid of the charm that only a CD with a glued-on photo of your child dressed as an angel can provide. Have I convinced you? Because I’ve just about convinced myself.
Now go forth and decorate! And please feel free to share your crimes against Christmas. I’ll just be sitting here next to my quilted Santa placemats, waiting.