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51 Simple Holiday Decorating Tips

Written and produced by Lucy Fitzgerald
  • The holidays are meant to be a time to enjoy precious moments spent with family and friends, but all too often we find ourselves rushing to decorate our homes perfectly. The good news is a few garlands of evergreens, a colorful wreath in the window, or an arrangement of simple votives flickering on the mantel can create an abundance of cheer. Here are some quick and easy ways to make your home festive. 

    Use What You’ve Got

    Create your own holiday palette using hues already incorporated into your décor. A blue-and-white tabletop of Spode marine plates was adapted to holiday entertaining by adding evergreen boughs and topiaries accented with blue glass balls. A cobalt-blue gnome sits in the center for an elfin touch.

    Photo: John Bessler

  • Festive Tableware

    Now is the time to use that set of red-and-white china that sits in the back of your cupboards all year! This set is from the Martha Stewart Collection.

    Photo: John Bessler

  • Utilize Summertime Tools

    Keep those summertime gardening tools around for fun décor in the winter. A brass watering can makes a festive container for wintry flowers in this entry.

    Photo: John Bessler

  • Switch Those Sticks

    Swap out plain white candlesticks for festive green, red, or blue for a holiday touch. Establish a color theme by matching them to the table runner or linens for extra style points.

    Photo: Werner Straube

  • Decorate with Candy

    Hang candy canes among tinsel and twinkling lights on the tree for a playful touch that harkens back to childhood. Tie colored ribbons or twine around them as hangers for a nostalgic look.

    Photo: John Bessler

  • Resilient Fabrics

    Use durable felt or synthetic fabrics to cut out angels, birds, and snowflakes to tuck into an outdoor wreath or tree.

    Photo: John Bessler

  • Spread Out the Sprigs

    A sprig of pine tucked almost anywhere is an easy way to spread the cheer throughout your home.

    Photo: John Bessler

  • The holidays are meant to be a time to enjoy precious moments spent with family and friends, but all too often we find ourselves rushing to decorate our homes perfectly. The good news is a few garlands of evergreens, a colorful wreath in the window, or an arrangement of simple votives flickering on the mantel can create an abundance of cheer. Here are some quick and easy ways to make your home festive. 

    Here, a glass vase brims with colorful glass balls for a glittering centerpiece.

  • A Hearthful of Poinsettias

    Fill your fireplace with a bounty of poinsettias for a festive look. Framed by a garland of evergreen, this display adds loads of color to a formal dining or living room.

    See details from this hearth on the following slide.

  • Pretty Pinecones

    Tucking in a pinecone here and there -- in addition to adding texture, these little gifts from nature are free and plentiful during the winter.

  • Fragrant Pomanders

    Pomanders—oranges studded with cloves—are a unique form of aromatherapy and are associated with the holidays. In medieval times, a pomander was carried in an ornate round case as a protection against infection in times of pestilence. Today, they are an easy-to-make, fragrant decoration with a rich history.

  • Merry Mailboxes

    Create an inviting holiday mailbox—a pretty swag of pine tied on with wire adds a seasonal flourish. Enhance it with red accents and pinecones.

    Photograph and tip courtesy of Mariani Landscape, Lake Bluff, Illinois

  • Seasonal Shimmer

    On this mantel, mercury glass has a stunning effect when illuminated by candlelight and a pair of sconces. The wreath hung above is sprinkled with a hint of silver as well, tying together the elegant presentation.

  • Jazz Up the Lighting

    Light fixtures are a great spot from which to drape a garland or hang a sprig of mistletoe.

  • Recycle and Reuse

    Older holiday decorations can be given new life outside with small sprays of evergreens, berries and beautiful ribbon. Use found objects like antlers, vintage skis, or snowshoes embellished with evergreens boughs and winterberries can also create festive scenes.

    Photograph and tip courtesy of Mariani Landscape, Lake Bluff, Illinois

  • Mantel Magic

    A traditional string of cranberries can be just the right touch for a classic mantel. Here, miniature pears and pomegranates add some sparkle when strung above a cozy fireplace. A thick orange bow anchors the color scheme.

  • Garlands, Garlands, Everywhere

    It’s difficult to overdo it on that classic winter decoration, the garland of evergreen. Add some visual interest by weaving in pinecones, strips of thick ribbon, or bright seasonal berries. Whether hung over doorways, draped between shelves, or wrapped around a dining table centerpiece, there’s space for this fragrant favorite anywhere.

  • Holiday Menu

    Print a favorite family recipe on small decorative cards for your guests to take home.

  • Think Outside the Ball

    This centerpiece is loaded not only with blue and green balls, but also with blown glass orbs and magnolia leaves to create a visually intriguing presentation. You can also add velvet ribbon, tinsel, or pinecones.

  • Little Boxes

    Piling small wrapped boxes on a serving tray adds a little magic to your celebration. For entertaining a younger crowd, place small wrapped chocolates around the house for a festive scavenger hunt. The children will love it, and the adults might be grateful for the distraction!

  • Develop a Theme

    A unique container filled with ornaments can tie a room’s theme together. Here, blue and green decorations spill out of a quaint seashell box to highlight the home’s coastal look.

  • Festoon the Bedroom

    Decorating your bedroom for the holidays will make your home feel cozier. A glass vase filled with evergreen boughs and golden pear ornaments are just right in this neutral bedroom.

  • Embrace Your Wild Side

    Incorporate wintry wildlife into your indoor décor. Reindeer, polar bears, and cardinals add loads of charm to traditional holiday decorations.

  • Simple Elegance

    In this outdoor living room, a few cone-shaped seashell statues and glittering votives grace the coffee table, adding holiday style.

  • Add a Personal Touch

    An assemblage of cherished mementoes, like nutcrackers, past holiday portraits, or antique dreidels will make a unique display.

  • Miniature Wreaths

    Mini wreaths are perfect for a small window or wall in your home. Here, a circular window is the perfect place to hang a crown of bright red berries.

  • Utilize Your Tree

    Try using your Christmas tree as a dramatic backdrop for a candelabra or other striking accent.

  • DIY Decorations

    It’s amazing what a little glue can do! Small treasures like seashells, beads, glitter, and buttons add sparkle and charm to a glass ball. White sand hints at memories of the seashore on this ornament.

  • Keep a Soft Palette

    Silver and white ornaments in clear glass containers add an ethereal touch to holiday décor.

  • Enliven a Sitting Area

    Fresh greenery always adds a welcome air to a room, so why not surround a sitting area with wreaths and garlands for a warm and fragrant effect?

  • Soft Candlelight

    In the days before electricity, a candle in the window was a sign of hospitality and greeting. In port cities, it was a way for families to welcome home the sailors from their adventures at sea. Pair candles with reflective surfaces, like this oversized mirror.

  • Easy Table Display

    Add a touch of white to the tips of the branches for a wintry look.

  • Deck Out That Bench

    Put a bench to work in the off-season: Give it holiday spirit with an arrangement of holiday greenery, pinecones, gazing balls, and ornaments. Look around your garden for small spaces to stage a winter display. A basket of pinecones with cut boxwood will not only dress up an empty bench, but will also help you complete your gardening chores for the season.

    Photograph and tip courtesy of Mariani Landscape, Lake Bluff, Illinois

  • Bowlful of Cranberries

    Cranberries in a silver bowl, paired with fresh flowers, add color and cheer.

  • Santa Claus

    In the midst of your holiday decorating, don’t forget the season’s most recognizable figure: Santa Claus himself.

  • Glittering Accents

    Surfaces that catch the light—like mercury glass, silver, and mirrors—are a gorgeous way to add some sparkle to a room and make the most of natural light. On this mantel, pearlescent candles mingle with silver details and fresh paperwhites for a clean look.

  • Cookies For Santa

    Leaving out a plate of ornate cookies is a charming (and delicious) detail. Tiny silver beads make these cookies look almost too pretty to eat.

  • Dramatic Dining Room

    Draping colorful ribbons from a chandelier is a Victorian touch that makes a dining room festive.

  • Wintry Blooms

    Vibrant amaryllis is a classic winter blossom that is traditionally associated with the holidays. This beautiful flower symbolizes pride, determination, and radiance.

  • Staircase Lanterns

    Light up your steps—indoors or out—with simple paper lanterns.

  • Enrich the Small Spaces

    A small wreath hangs outside the window of this charming window seat for a festive flourish.

  • Pretty Powder Room

    The powder room is the perfect place for holiday décor because of its small dimensions. A wreath or bouquet of greenery is enough to fill the space with cheer—and fragrance.

  • Colorful Jars

    Big jars or other clear containers filled with colorful ornaments is an easy way to create large-scale decorations for the top of a bookcase or cabinet.

  • Decorative Details

    Tuck a few small mementoes into the tree.

  • What a Hoot!

    An owl perched on a festooned chandelier keeps watch over the dining room.

  • Dress Up Your Décor

    Top off a bust with a sparkling garland or a wreath of greens for a lighthearted effect.

  • Candy Cornucopia

    Break out those whimsical ornamental containers and fill them with caramels, mints, chocolates, and nuts for a scrumptious display.

  • Utilize Tea Trays

    A silver tea tray displays fresh tulips while providing a surface for wine glasses or small plates.

  • Beautify Your Bouquet

    For a touch of glam, incorporate glass ornaments into flower arrangements, like these soft gold balls mixed in with citrusy green blooms.

  • 2013 Gift Guide for Holiday Entertaining

    Still looking for ideas? Check out this guide full of both hostess gifts and items to enhance your own holiday entertaining.