Decorate for the Holidays and Beyond

It’s easy to feel stressed out about decorating for the holidays, but there’s good news: the latest trend is to keep things uncomplicated. Best of all, the right elements can last well beyond December.

If you dread decorating for the holiday season, you may feel relieved that the latest holiday decor trend is simple. Literally.

“People aren’t doing a whole ton of decoration now,” says Natalie Gillespie, a senior designer with A-Z Interiors, 33 N. Williams St., in Crystal Lake. “They’re keeping it simple now.”

With some well thought-out planning, it’s easier than ever to extend your holiday decor well past the Christmas season, saving yourself work on a house that’s stylishly set throughout January and February.

“Don’t over-decorate,” Gillespie says. “You don’t need 50 things on your mantle. Later, if you want to get rid of garland but keep your candlesticks, it’s not changing a lot. You can still have some things up after Christmas that don’t say Christmas.” 

(Trend + Relic photo)

Colors, Textures and Styles

This holiday season is proving that Midwesterners still love classic styles and colors, but they’re beginning to experiment by mixing in some fresh elements, says Karri Custardo, co-owner of Trend + Relic, a home goods store located at 1501 Indiana Ave. in St. Charles.

“We’re finding our customers are going toward classic when decorating in general,” Custardo says. “It’s streamlined: the blacks, whites and grays are still in. Then they’ll throw in some pops of vintage. That’s really what’s happening for us for Christmas, as well. We’re seeing winter whites, textures, blankets and pillows to add that warmth. But then they’ll come up to the counter with a bowl of vintage ornaments. Whether they’re going to use them on their tree or use them as bowl fillers, it’s a neat mix of new and vintage.”

Furthering that something-old/something-new trend, Custardo sees more people combining vintage brass candlesticks with new, beautiful electric lightbulbs.

“It adds that warmth, and you’re mixing the old with the new,” Custardo says. “Right now, people love the bulb with the timer. It’s a little candle-looking light, like a faux fire, that produces really beautiful ambient lighting. I can’t keep them in stock right now.”

Pillows are always a popular accent, and they’re an easy accessory to bring in the season’s colors.
“Winter-looking pillows – with fur or white cable knit or crochet – are selling,” Custardo says. “People love the really comfy, big pillows.”

Neutrals are still the way to go this season, but color is making a comeback in the winter palette.
“The past couple of years, we have not had a lot of color in the shop in terms of what people were buying; people were gravitating more toward neutrals,” Custardo says. “This year, we’re seeing more color coming into Christmas. Traditional Christmas colors are coming back in decor.”
Gillespie sees a similar trend toward reds and greens in Crystal Lake.

“People are keeping it neutral: tan, black, some green,” she says. “A lot of people aren’t doing a whole lot of red. If they do, it’s a deeper red, not a bright red anymore. It’s more jewel tones now, like a forest green.”

Of course, no matter what colors you bring into your home this season, designers emphasize that you should always incorporate your own personal taste.

“I like using pink a lot in Christmas – pale pink with golds, like champagne colors,” says Custardo. “I always think that’s really beautiful. I don’t think a lot of people necessarily use pink in their holiday decorating, but I personally like it, and I think it’s less expected.”

(Countryside Flower Shop, Nursery & Garden Center photo)

Decorate with Intention

If you’re pressed for time to decorate for the holiday season – and even if you’re not – be intentional about where you focus your efforts.

“I always say whether it’s your kitchen or family room, those are the places where you’re entertaining the most,” Gillespie says. “Those places in my home get decorated the most.”

A great room or living room is a good place to center your attention, but don’t feel the need to clutter your home with Christmas knickknacks, Gillespie says. And try not to go overboard with luxurious decorations.

“You want to make it inviting; you don’t want people to be afraid to sit down because it’s too fancy,” Gillespie says. “It’s got to be comfortable. Have a comfy rug. If not red and green, throw in velvet or faux fur pillows in neutral colors. Throw in a nice wreath over the mantle, some garland over the sound bar – something simple like that is good.”

If you have the gumption to tackle a bit more, consider decorating each room with a different theme or color.

“Lots of people are doing multiple trees in their homes,” Gillespie says. “They kind of collect trees throughout the year and use different ornaments throughout each room.”

Gillespie hosts four Christmas parties at home each year, and every room has a different tree style and a different function for entertaining.

Her front room, which served as the toy room when her children were small, transforms into the game room for family gatherings. It houses a real Christmas tree decorated in neutrals and grays.

“During parties, sometimes that becomes our most popular room because people are playing together,” she says. “It’s just simple games, like Trouble, Sorry or Perfection.”

The TV in another room always has a Christmas movie playing for those who need to relax, and the Christmas tree there changes from year to year.

Her living room houses the “red” Christmas tree, which is set off by a dark wood table.
“If you set up your rooms with a different agenda, it’s kind of fun because people go around and mingle and do different things,” Gillespie says.

(Countryside Flower Shop, Nursery & Garden Center photo)

Beyond the Holidays

Some people take down their holiday decorations the day after Christmas, but most people try to extend the fruits of their labor.

“I think there’s some crazy rule that you’re supposed to take down your decorations 12 days after Christmas,” says Custardo. “That’s Jan. 5 or 6, depending on if you counted Christmas in there.”

Custardo is spot on. According to Christian tradition, the Christmas season ends on the 12th day of Christmas, or Epiphany, which honors the day the three Magi visited baby Jesus. The day is also known as Three Kings’ Day.

“Now, having said that, I love my Christmas tree,” Custardo says. “I have this really beautiful, pre-lit, huge, flocked gorgeous tree, and I tend to keep mine up through most of January because I love the ambiance.

“I love lights, so once the Christmas tree comes down, everything seems so drab after that,” she continues. “So, why not use fairy lights or twinkle lights in the house? You still get that warm, cozy feeling without having a Christmas tree up way too late.”

How else can you “reuse” your home’s holiday decor through the winter without looking like you were too lazy to take down your Christmas decorations? It all goes back to decorating with intention.

“Go with winter whites, because that will carry great into January and February,” Custardo says. “Greenery will also carry through. You can use pine cones; you can even paint them white and throw glitter on them. Overall, you want texture, like a fur pillow with a beautiful, chunky, winter white blanket. Think about things that will work really great for Christmas but still work well into winter.”

Starting with a neutral winter theme – winter whites, wood, furs, etc. – makes it easy to layer in items that are specific to Christmas, she adds. Once January comes, simply take away the holiday-specific items.
Decorating your dining room table with something simple and functional makes that space easier to transition out of Christmas, as well, says Gillespie.

“Do something that you can keep there and not have to move,” she says.

You can’t go wrong with a long dough bowl for a longer table, Custardo says. If you do want more height to your decor, build it up with candlesticks and greenery on either side.

“This transitions to winter beautifully,” she says.

(Countryside Flower Shop, Nursery & Garden Center photo)

Bring in Greenery

Natural greenery like wreaths, garland and Christmas trees is a beautiful way to bring color into the home during the holiday season.

However, those natural elements only last about three weeks indoors, says Michael Fedoran, greenhouse manager at Countryside Flower Shop, Nursery and Garden Center, 5301 E. Terra Cotta Ave., in Crystal Lake.

If you’re decorating late this year, that might not be a problem. But if you’re trying to make your decorations last throughout January and February, consider using artificial sprays – large, flat bouquets of greenery that are wired together and often sport decorative elements like berries.

“The green color is always fine for the entire season,” Fedoran says. “Then, you can add red berries for the holiday and switch over to a white or silver element, which is a more overall winter element.”
Custardo also likes the idea of using floral sprays and picks, to the extent that they can replace traditional garland.

“You don’t have to buy both,” Custardo says. “You can use large greenery picks and hide the pick to make it look like garland. And when Christmas is over, you can scoop those up and take them into a vase. Add in some beautiful berry picks, and it goes straight from the mantel into a vase.”

The nice thing about using artificial greenery is that it can become your base for decor year after year.

“I would find some classic greenery that you can change out as things become trendier,” Custardo says. “Let’s say color is big next year. If you’ve got the classic greenery, you can change out those berries. The next year you can do green or red. It’s easy to change the whole look with traditional greenery and only adjust little pieces.”

If you truly enjoy natural greenery, you can use poinsettias well beyond the holiday to dress up your home for the remaining winter months.

“All of our poinsettias do last until mid to late February,” Fedoran says. “We have red, of course, which to me denotes a holiday. But they do come in different colors: hot pink, whites, an orangey color – not necessarily holiday-oriented.”

An easy way to slightly change the look of your poinsettia is to change the foil wrap that covers its pot. Foils can be changed out for solid colors or winter patterns after the holidays.

Certain house plants can be decorated for the holidays as well.Norfolk Island pine trees, for example, are a great holiday-type house plant that keeps year-round.

“It looks like a little Charlie Brown pine tree that you can dress up with ornaments for the holiday season and then take those off for the rest of the season,” Fedoran says.

The pines come in different sizes, from 6-inch pots with foot-tall trees to 12-inch pots with 3-foot tall trees.

“They grow fairly slowly, so you can keep it as a house plant, then put it on the patio in summer,” Fedoran says.

How’s that for extending your holiday decor?

(A-Z Interiors photo)

Style Trend: Mountain Modern

If you’re looking for a design trend to take you through the holiday season and beyond, a style called mountain modern is a newer trend that’s easy to replicate at home.

“If you look at what trends are, as far as what people are photographing and interior design groups are modeling, it’s natural, almost a mountain modern design,” says Natalie Gillespie of A-Z Interiors in Crystal Lake. “It’s simple, clean, not a whole lot of glitter everywhere, more of a soft palette.”

Mountain modern decor is defined by taking “those hard, modern pieces that have straight lines and cold materials and mixing them with something from nature, like a wood dining table, or using a white sofa with straight lines but mixing in a green throw that makes it soft,” says Gillespie.

This style often mixes white walls and dark-colored accents. Together, this effect achieves the same aesthetic as blending wood and stone or iron and leather. Plus, the contrasting paint colors work well all year long.

“Light paints shine in spring and summer; darker paints shine in fall and winter,” Gillespie says. “If you have a combination of those two, you’re set.”

Similarly, as long as your core furniture is neutral with friendly, simple colors, the proper accessorizes keep things fresh for the season.

A light-colored sofa with a dark green throw blanket is great for winter, she says. Swapping it with a cream or neutral throw brings it right into spring.

Gillespie and A-Z Interiors recently helped decorate a home for a client in Crystal Lake that embraced the mountain modern trend.

“In this house, we did iron beams in her great room and a cool light fixture,” Gillespie says. “Then, we added a leather sofa with cowhide chairs.”

The kitchen table was accented by straight-lined metal chairs that were softened with leather straps.

The 7-inch-wide, natural, hand-scraped wood floors complemented the stone and iron found throughout the home.