8 Smart Tips to Steal From Professional Holiday Window Decorators
This might be the easiest decorating tip ever: Just add plants. “They bring instant life to a vignette,” says Wendy Manwarren Generes, a former visual display manager for Anthropologie. “Instead of re-potting them, wrap the pot the plant came in with fabric, hot gluing it to keep the edges neat.” Manwarren’s pick? Rosemary, because it is inexpensive, fragrant—and looks festive wrapped in a holiday plaid. Try one or more pots on your mantle, your hearth, a console table, or as a centerpiece.
Select a Signature Accent
In the same way that legendary retailers like Lord & Taylor have themed holiday window displays, you should find a theme you love and use it throughout the home. “I choose one great wired ribbon each holiday season,” says Roe Palermo, divisional VP of merchandise presentation for Lord & Taylor. “I use it to wrap all my holiday gifts and create bows for napkin holders.” You could also use ribbons to decorate your tree.
Palermo outlines the steps for a perfect bow:
- Step 1: For a 6-inch diameter bow, start with a yard of strong wired ribbon.
- Step 2: Place ribbon flat on a hard surface (like a table), and starting at one end, fold ribbon over on itself in a repeat accordion formation, 6 inches at a time. (For a smaller, fuller bow, make shorter folds.)
- Step 3: Tie the center of the folded ribbon with floral wire, cinching tightly. Cover the wire with a (separate) small length of ribbon and tape together underneath or secure with glue dots.
- Step 4: Fluff ribbon folds into loops, using your thumb to smooth and round each one.
Repurpose Household Trash
Professionals see beauty where most of us see a recycling bin. Manwarren Generes and her team once made a field of translucent flowers out of used plastic water bottles. Her how-to: Cut the bottoms off plastic water bottles and use scissors to cut poinsettia-shaped petals into the sides. Spray-paint them red or off-white and cluster them on a wreath frame or hang them in a window by looping clear filament nylon thread around your curtain rod.
Make Edible Arrangements
Never underestimate the visual impact of produce. Fill large bowls or straight-sized vases with fruit or nuts for centerpieces in the kitchen, living or dining room that do double duty. “Large bowls of fruit or nuts not only make beautiful centerpieces but your guests can enjoy them as well,” says Palermo. Pomegranates and citrus fruits are seasonal beauties with stamina — they can tolerate sitting at room temperature for a few days (to keep them longer, pop bowls in the fridge before bed).
Hit the Big Box Store
Plenty of people buy their wreaths at the nearest home improvement center—but few make their own using everyday supplies from aisle nine. Dip inexpensive wood-handled paintbrushes into non-oil-based craft paint and let dry, says Manwarren Generes, who used shades of green for her wreath. Affix to a metal wreath frame from the craft store, with bristles facing out, and top with your signature bow. Hang indoors or out (in a covered location) and wait for the neighbors’ compliments.
Surprise and Delight
Don’t try to decorate everything, cautions Palermo. Instead, “be strategic and create wow moments” at focal points from the front door to the powder room. Consider which spaces you spend the most time in, and where your eye lands when you walk into a room. “Aim for simple, small, but elegant reminders that evoke the holiday spirit throughout the home,” says Palermo, who likes to use fresh flowers in multiple rooms.
Craft Cardboard Pinecones
Corrugated cardboard gets a second life as pinecone ornaments when cut into triangles and other shapes and rolled and secured with a few dots of hot glue. For extra dimension and holiday shine, paint pinecone shapes with metallic gold craft paint. “You could use these as ornaments for the tree, garland for the mantel, or pretty tabletop objects,” suggests Manwarren Generes, who asks her local wine shop for their leftover corrugated cardboard packing materials.
Light the Scene
“I learned early in my career in visual how to properly light a set to create the mood I want,” says Palermo. “That skill comes in extremely handy when I’m entertaining around the holidays.” First she dims the overhead lights (they’re year-round mood killers). Then she uses long-lasting, battery-operated LED candles to create a cozy glow on side tables, bookcases, and other unexpected corners. And of course, there’s the twinkle that comes from the tree: “Let the candles and Christmas tree lights make magic!”