Incorporating pine cones and fruit can take more summery flowers, such as pastel roses, into fall.
Photo by Courtesy Marilyn Trainor Storey
I have always loved decorating for the holidays, but dread going up and down the stairs with box after box of Christmas decorations and literally hours of unwrapping and sorting. By the time I have endured it, my creativity and holiday spirit are on the wane, and I am yet to even accomplish any real decorating. So call me lazy, but as a result I have developed two mantras for Christmas decorating: “Make It Real” and “Holiday Up What You Have.” They work hand in mitten to create truly memorable and gorgeous holiday decorations.
What is real? Bringing the outside in, and not just the Christmas tree, or even a few pine cones. Both mean great smells, textures and memories, but what about adding in the elements of flowers, leaves and greens, twigs, nests, bark, shells, feathers, horns, berries, sticks, fruits or nuts? Incorporate some or all of these elements, whatever real elements you have on hand, along with a few special pieces, with ornaments and candles to just about any surface in your home. Voila, you have a fabulous, personal, one-of-a-kind, show-stopping holiday vignette. You have “holidayed up” what you have.
You and your guests will enjoy the earthy elegance of your beautiful decorations, and you will be much more relaxed than if you had carted about all those boxes and felt downright Scroogey by the time you were finished.
Try these ideas to holiday it up with the real thing:
• Do you love the idea of a huge, beautiful, glorious-smelling tree, but do not want to haul it and deal with mountains of needles? Buy a much smaller real tree and put it on a table. You will get the effect and pleasure of a large real tree without all the effort. I put mine on the living room coffee table last year and enjoyed it so much that I plan to do it again this year.
• If you have sworn off fresh garland and wreaths because they are too messy, use preserved to bring the outside in without the mess of fresh. There are truly fabulous preserved florals and greens including roses, hydrangeas, lemon leaf, and boxwood.
• A single, beautiful fresh, dried, or preserved rose with a tiny Christmas ball in a the smallest of terra cotta pots makes a great holiday favor. A group of them can “holiday up” any area.
• Tuck a single fresh bloom and a strand or two of pine needle into a vintage silverplate vase, with tarnish and all (I love the patina) to add elegance anywhere, including but certainly not limited to the entry console, coffee table, powder room, each guest’s place setting, and even the kitchen sink. (I picked up several of these vases last week for under $5 each.)
• Place a variety of compotes and containers of different sizes and shapes in the center of your table. Fill some with nuts and some with special ornaments. Add candles and a bit of fabric or ribbon.
• Use paper white narcissus to decorate your mantle or holiday table. No, don’t worry about planting them, yet. Just use the bulbs. They are beautiful in their own right. Their earthiness is the perfect juxtaposition with glass balls. You can plant them after Christmas to enjoy in the New Year when you need a winter pick me up or let guests take the bulbs home as a favor.
• They knew how to decorate with fruit back in colonial days, and you can do it, too. If you are really in a pinch at the last minute, simply line up a row of pears and votives on a scattered bed of Magnolia leaves. Tuck a Magnolia leaf with a metallic penned name in each napkin as a place card.
Merry Christmas, and keep it real!
Marilyn Trainor Storey runs the design website MSDesignMaven.com.