Michelle Jackson has studied art and interior design since 1983. She has attended design school and worked as an artist/visual artist.
Over the last ten years, my family has lived in six houses. Every year, it takes me three weeks to complete my Christmas decorating. None of the rooms in my house are left untouched. I am usually still finding stray ornaments well into March. However, no one ever forgets a visit to my house during the Christmas season. No matter the weather, the house is cheery and bright. Hopefully this article will inspire you to do something new in your home for the holidays.
Where to Decorate
Decorating your home for the holidays should not interrupt your daily routine. Place decorations in the negative space in your rooms (see the zones outlined in red in the picture above). The Christmas tree should be placed so that it is enjoyable but not in the way of your daily life. Looking at the diagram, we see an average living room with several entrance and exit points. You still have to get from the front door to the kitchen, and you still have to be able to get down your hall. The green arrows show the traffic pattern—this should not be disrupted by decorations. Take a minute and draw out your room. Include large furniture, exits, and areas with a lot of foot traffic.
Ideally, the tree should be placed in front of the living room window. Considering the furniture placement, however, the best place for the tree is in the corner next to the fireplace. Pondering these two options, you may find that you are willing to move the couch to accommodate the tree. Just remember that when you start moving the furniture, you are disrupting how your family lives in the space.
Notice the zones outlined in red. These zones are your areas to decorate. They are areas where you currently do not have furniture or other items. These spaces may include a buffet, sofa table, or sideboard that you can claim for holiday decor. Use common sense; avoid putting large decorations in the way. You would be shocked at how many people put the tree near the front door causing ornaments to get broken. Consider the Christmas tree the focal point of your decorating. Now that you are thinking about your space, let’s get some ideas!
Theme and Color Scheme
Many of us walk by Christmas trees at the mall and drool over the well executed color schemes and themes. Christmas is not just red and green anymore. Ornaments in the color scheme of your home are an options that we didn't have fifteen years ago. Even on a modest tree budget there is no reason to do the same tree you have always done. The holidays are time of joy. A great atmosphere can contribute to the value of your holiday.
Color schemed should consist of three colors; One primary color, one secondary color, and a third accent color. Stick to one metallic such as gold or silver unless you are doing a metallic theme.Look at what you have, is there something you love in your holiday decorations? Build off that item and create your scheme.
Color Scheme Ideas
- Red, White, and Spring Green
- Red, White, and Teal
- Evergreen Green, Red, and Black
- Purple, Gold, and Red
- Yellow, Magenta, and Teal
- Sky Blue, White, and Navy Blue
If you have neutral pallet in your home such as Tans or grays you can use just about any color scheme. Go bright and create a fun look with color. You can get crazy and use all colors however, it has less of a pulled together look.
Declaring a theme for your holiday allows you to be creative in different ways. The theme also helps you stick with a specific style. It’s easy to go off the rails with Christmas and have a Charlie Brown, tinsel filled, fiesta. However, if you want a pulled together look you have to be able to edit items from the decor. The great thing about decorating your entire house is that if something doesn't go with your theme you can use it in other rooms like bedrooms or bathrooms.
Two years ago our tree theme was "let it snow" which we interpreted as; light blue, white, and red with lots of snowmen and snowflakes. Try to stick to three colors, and one metallic per theme. This cuts down on visual noise. Choosing a theme for us comes from one inspirational object. The "let it snow" theme came from a new snowman we bought. Don't forget to get gift wrap that coordinates with your theme. Here are a few themes to get you thinking.
- Paris, black, pink, silver, you can change out the second color to almost anything. Put Eiffel towers, fleur-de-lis, champagne glasses, lots of ribbon, ornate picture frames,
- Northwest woods, red, green, and tan with rust copper or silver . featuring: plaid, deer, moose, bear, lodge, rustic junk
- Nutcracker suite, this is a great theme for those of you who like to use pastels, pink, white and add other pastel such as blue with gold or silver. Featuring: nutcrackers, ballet shoes, tulle, candy ornaments
- Country, Red, Green, tan with rust, copper or silver. Features burlap, wood ornaments, metal stars, bells
- Old toy shop, colors bright red, green and blue. Toys, Toy soldiers, antique toys, dolls
- Candy shop, any three colors and either a silver or gold. Candy, candy ornaments and more candy
- Winter white, white and silver or gold. Featuring anything white with more white highlighted with white.
- Victorian, pink, white, and burgundy. Featuring Victorian paper ornaments, elaborately decorated delicate ornaments)
- Steampunk, Yes we did a steampunk themed Christmas. I actually put a train in the middle of the tree. I made clock ornaments, and used various metallic ornaments on the tree.
There are many other themes and obviously you can create your own. Something to keep in mind is that your theme shouldn’t color clash with your decor. One more thing to consider is are you going to want to do variations of the theme every year? You don’t want to have to store Christmas decorations you are not going to use ever again.
The Christmas Tree
Going back to the diagram the two green stars represent the best places to put the tree in this room. Have you identifies the two best places to put your tree yet? Now that you know where you are putting your tree, consider what type of tree you need. Measure your tree space before you go get a tree. A tree that is too small will seem out of place and tree that is too big will feel like it is eating your room. You should have a foot of space around your tree without it touching anything else. By the diagram if we went with the tree in front of the window it could be tall and skinny or if the tree goes in the corner it would need to be wider and tall. Choose your tree wisely.
Now you have a tree, you know where you are putting it, let’s do a quick refresher on the order decorations are placed on the tree.
The Steps to Decorating Your Tree
- Flock the tree. Not everyone does this although it does add to certain themes.
- Lights (unless you have a pre-lit tree) start at the bottom weaving lights in and out of the branches all the way to the trunk, this takes more lights but the effect is amazing.
- Place large objects strategically in the tree. In the let it snow tree, we used our giant snowmen in the tree by wiring them into the branches. Any big object can go on your tree, maybe you have a cool reindeer or Santa you put on your tree.
- Garland, ribbon, or beads. There are so many patterns you can use when hanging these items. When using ribbon I tend to start at the top of the tree and go straight down. With beads I drape it and ribbon or tulle I stuff it in and out of the tree for depth.
- Ornaments, there are two ways to do ornaments. Do one color at a time to avoid putting two like ornaments close together or group like ornaments in threes for a greater impact.
- Tree topper
- tinsel (I'm not a fan of tinsel but if you love it, do it.)
Kids and Pets
In a perfect world you and your family decorate the house together while singing Christmas carols. In our home we put on the movie “ELF”. Young children love to help. Make sure you have non-breakable ornaments that they can hang, this eliminates the stress of heirloom ornaments ending up shattered on the floor. Let the kids help you pick out incidentals like candy canes for the tree. One Christmas we actually strung popcorn, made paper chains, and let the kids paint plaster ornaments. One of our traditions is to make snowflakes out of paper and hang them from our ceiling. Kids love Christmas, when you have kids this holiday should be about them. Don't try to create the perfect holiday. What makes a holiday special is memories with your kids.
The holidays are exciting. Pets tend to get into trouble when they feel a lot of excitement in the air. I am always careful not to leave packages on the ground where my Dogs can get them. We have a tradition of giving Whitman’s chocolates and believe me it would never survive under the tree. Our solution is to either put the tree on a table or pack the top of our hutch with gifts. As a child, I remember our cat climbing into the tree and batting the ornaments at us as we walked by. Cats are a special issue. It might be a good idea to anchor your tree to a hook in the roof if you have cats as they tend to knock the tree over. Also, ball ornaments are like …. Christmas for cats. Shatterproof ornaments keep cats from making a huge mess and possibly hurting themselves.
Switching Things Around
A lot of my holiday decorating comes from switching out everyday elements of my decor with Christmas items. The antique wash stand in my bathroom is a good example. Normally the pitcher in the washstand has feathers in it. At Christmas I simply switch out the feathers for white poinsettias. This is a quick change that makes the entire wash stand look festive. Many of the candlesticks on my sideboard are used in my holiday decor as well. Have you even put an object on top of a candle pillar? The height gives the object immediate importance. Items placed on a candle stick can be secured with double stick tape.
Being festive doesn’t have to cost money. Pine cones or ornaments in a bowl are an easy decorating option. The great thing about second hand Christmas decorations is that they are timeless. In my mind, the older the decorations the better. Santa is always Santa. Use items you already have to decorate the tree. Some things I have used on the tree are large nutcrackers (tie a string around their waist), large snowman that are supposed to go on tables, and paper cut outs.
Maybe you feel your holiday decorations are old or tired. Consider spray painting a ceramic Santa with mirror paint or gold paint. Pick up large ceramic animals at thrift stores and spray paint them in the colors you chose for your theme. Anything you can paint is open game for a Christmas transformation. Even holiday villages could be painted all one color for a unique decorating element.
Your fireplace is the focal point of your room. If you use your fireplace then you want to be careful not to hang anything from it that will be close to the fire. This sounds very common sense however we had a large mantel high above the fire place opening and one year we ended up with melted Hersey's kisses in stockings. If your TV is above your mantel then your decorations will be minimal such as lighted pine garland. If you don’t have garland a simple candlescape or ribbon with ornaments can make a mantel elegant.
Mantels are a great place to display a holiday collection. Your items should be displayed in one of two designs to create an esthetic presentation. Order your items by height placing the taller items to the far left and right of the mantel and decreasing the height as you get to the middle of the mantel. Another option for mantel displays is to place taller items in the center and ascend the other items by height to the right and left of the center. You can play with these concepts and decide which one you like the best.
People will probably find it strange that I decorate my bathrooms for Christmas. Guests during the holidays will need to use your bathroom. In the past we have tied shower curtains with ribbon, a bow, and a giant ornament in the center. This was pretty subtle. I always decorate mirrors for Christmas using ribbon, ornaments and pine boughs. Putting pine boughs decorated with ornaments in a bathroom changes the feel of the space making it festive. Here again the colors should coordinated with the room. Cup hooks screwed into the wall at the corners of your mirror make decorating easy. If you have a display of little soaps, throw a few ornaments in there. Take advantage of the decorating spaces you have. Maybe in your bathroom you can only fit a small vase with holiday flowers. Whatever you do will be noticed by your holiday guests.
Years ago I fell in love with a picture of a kids room where plain pine wreaths were hung window center above two twin beds. Ever since then I have decorated my bedrooms for Christmas. Christmas pillows and tress are a great addition to your bedroom at Christmastime. Putting a small tree in bedrooms gives kids a chance to decorate their own tree. In an adult room the tree is a place for antique glass ornaments that you don’t want kids playing with, or the dog terrorizing. Hand Christmas lights in the window as a night light. Bring your Christmas Style into your bedrooms, you wont regret it.
A vignette is a small display that ads to the overall feel of a space. Although I now have alcoves in my home, I use to create vignettes using objects that contained the display. Whenever I find old suit cases, I buy them. The trunks stacked in my dining area usually hold photo albums. At Christmas I open the top trunk and create a winter scenes. One year I used a yard angel to anchor the trunk and created a winter wonderland. Another year I placed toys and brightly colored Christmas decorations in the suitcase to create a fun vignette. Creating little vignettes is a fun way to show off ornaments you are not using on the tree. Any large container can be used to create this type of decoration. Corners of rooms or dead space in a room is perfect for placing a vignette. Some people use their china or curio cabinets to set up Christmas villages or display treasured collections.
Your Front Porch
The first impression of your home is your front porch/front door. My go to front porch decor item is a chair, bench, or rocking chair. I actually call them porch chairs. These are chairs that are not safe to sit in but, work great for placing a small pine tree or wreath. Your porch chair can be painted a bright color or distressed. To decorate your porch chair place a basket or metal bin on it. Put a tree two foot or smaller tree in the bin, decorate the entire chair and tree with Christmas lights and throw a Christmas sign in front of it. Voila instant Christmas cheer!
Hang pine or ornament boughs around your front door. You can change the look of the bough from one year to the next by adding ribbon. Place a wreath on you door and make sure to put Christmas lights inside any front windows. Even if you live in an apartment you can hang a wreath on your door with a wreath hanger.
Christmas decorating is one of the joys of the holiday season. We hope you are excited to get started on your holiday decor. From our family to yours Merry Christmas!
Marsha H from My Retro Kitchen in NY on September 16, 2011:
I love decorating for Christmas, it's the un-decorating afterwards that I despise.
Nice hub. +up vote
adeaugustus on August 06, 2011:
You made me to remember my mom, she is never contempted with what ever decoration she does before christmas, the pressure only goes down after christmas, decoration before christmas is always a serious issue to her, and to me i think it's more of fun, because we got to change things positing, buy new things and turn on the christmas light. Thanks for sharing this, you've just made my day. Voted useful.