How Designers Decorate for the Holidays

Deck the halls like the pros with these six expert-approved tips.

‘Tis the season to fill your house with holiday cheer! If you’re hoping to put a designer touch on your decor this year, look no further: we’ve got six tips, from quick and easy updates to dramatic design elements, that will fill your space with holiday magic.

1

Keep It Traditional

christmas-tree-mantel
Photo by strike0/Getty Images

The holiday season is full of nostalgia, so run with it. “Growing up, we’d decorate our home with traditional red and green Christmas decor, and I loved the magical feeling it evoked,” says Abbe Fenimore of Studio Ten 25. “My childhood definitely shaped my holiday decorating style, as I decorate my home traditionally now as an adult, just with more of a subtle color palette.” Fenimore drapes garlands on the mantel, railings, and the front porch to bring nature in. “I start with artificial garland that’s pre-lit, which I embellish with faux antlers, sprigs of silver dollar eucalyptus, fresh cedar sprigs, red berries and satin ribbon, giving it more of a rustic look,” she says. She also takes that holiday spirit throughout her home, swapping out pillows and throws to bring in richer colors (including that iconic red and green, of course) and cozy textures like velvet and faux fur. “My most cherished holiday item is a nativity set from my grandparents, which I can’t wait to bring out every holiday!” Fenimore reveals. “And as for the tree, it features a happy mix of ornaments from childhood and those I’ve collected from my travels.”

2

Turn Christmas on Its Head—Literally

“It wouldn’t be the holidays without a decorative statement,” say Mat Sanders and Brandon Quattrone of Consort Design. Of course there’s a tree, but this design duo kicks it up a notch. “Our favorite way to display a tree is to fully decorate it, and then hang it upside down! It saves space on the floor, and is definitely the talk of the dinner party.” If you’re going to hop on this topsy-turvy trend, proceed with caution and make sure the tree is well-secured. “Upside-down trees have a habit of falling from ceilings!” the duo reveals.

3

Flaunt Holiday Cards

From newlyweds to adorable babies and puppies, it’s special to get a peek into your loved ones’ lives through their holiday cards. “As our family grows, we get more and more beautiful holiday cards each year,” says Melissa Warner Rothblum of Massucco Warner Miller. “I have a cascading nickel ‘tree’ to display them, with a clip for each card. We enjoy seeing all the smiling faces of our friends and family all holiday season long and keep it front and center in our home.”



4

Go for a Glow

“Our go-to for holiday decorating is adding lots of candles,” say Shannon Wollack and Brittany Zwickl of STUDIO LIFE.STYLE. “We love incorporating great winter scents [think pine, cedar, citrus, and pepper]. Especially if you live in a warmer climate, this helps get you into the holiday spirit.” And you can’t forget twinkling strands of lights! “Use them indoors and out. Add lights to a banister or fireplace mantel for a great soft glow,” they add. Just be sure to choose lights that are all one color—ideally a white tone. “It looks so magical lit up at night!”

5

Indulge Your Sweet Tooth

“The holiday season is the time for lots of entertaining so I always love having glass apothecary jars filled with goodies on display on my dining room buffet,” says Julie Massucco Kleiner of Massucco Warner Miller. “Anything goes, from smoked almonds to peppermint dark chocolate bits. It’s an easy way to have snacks on hand and ready to go for visitors—expected or not!” Make your own treats to display, or stock up on your holiday favorites. “It looks festive in the dining room all season long, and then when guests arrive I move it into wherever we’re sitting for easy access. It’s always a crowd-pleaser!”

6

Get Cozy

Small changes are all it takes to transform your everyday space into a warm and inviting one for the holidays. “I like to create a cozy and understated atmosphere that is centered around hosting guests for the holidays,” says Caitlin Murray of Black Lacquer Design. “Rather than pulling in traditional holiday decorations, I focus on small changes here and there that make the space feel just a little bit cozier and that much more conducive to holiday entertaining. You can stock a bar cart with filled decanters and glasses, or, in the absence of a bar cart, create a small bar on a tabletop space. You can also neatly roll up blankets into baskets that are easily accessible to guests, stock your home with luxe candles in seasonal, and fill a vase with cedar or laurel greens.”