There’s something about the holidays that makes every occasion a celebration, and even small gatherings feel like a party. It can be a time when students return home from college and out-of-town family comes together again, maybe for the only time all year. With guests dropping by—or staying for the holidays—it’s time to spruce up your home with some festive cheer. Envelope your guests, and your home, in the warmth of the season with these design tips.
For a fresh take on a yearly ritual, establish a theme to inspire and inform your design choices. Aside from the perennial red and green, cool blues, variations of white and cream, and silver or gold are great choices for an elegant but festive ambiance. If you’ve chosen a colour theme, keep it consistent throughout the house: your décor can also translate to wrapping paper and table settings, so choose tones that won’t overwhelm the rest of your ornaments. Keeping things simple by focusing on organic textures is another easy way to transform your home. Incorporate woodland elements like acorns and leaves into your adorned mantle, or use winter citrus like limes and mandarines to add pops of colour to your tablescape—these little additions keep things unfussy but festive.
The tradition of bringing greenery into the home dates far back to European pagans, who brought branches inside during the winter not only to keep their homes fresh with the scent of evergreens, but also to remind them of the coming spring. The tradition carries on today with the decorating of Christmas trees, but also through ornamental boughs of pine and pots of poinsettia. Make a natural first impression and start with a wreath on your front door, then continue the theme throughout your home. Bundles of winter perennials set in vases—like long-lasting and sweet-faced paperwhites—or garlands strung across archways, mantelpieces, and along bannisters add warmth and life to your home. And don’t forget the mistletoe.
There’s no better time to introduce something a little sparkly into your home than the holidays. Incorporate glittered snowflake decorations into a wreath, or fill a crystal vase with silver globe ornaments for a subtle bit of shine. Spray-painting branches with metallic silver or gold is a great way of adding a bit of enchantment to your organic décor—arrange them in a vase for a minimalist statement. Mercury glass votives or hanging lanterns are luxe and multifaceted; display organic elements like piles of fruit or pinecones in a mercury glass bowl or serving platter. Go the extra mile and add a pile of green pears, dusted with edible non-toxic gold dust from a baking store, to the centrepiece of your dining table for easy décor abundance.
In the darkest season of the year, an essential holiday design elements is lighting: warmth, comfort, and simple elegance are easily achieved through the right level of brilliance. Layer candles throughout your home, mixing tapered candles with votives and pillar candles—the different heights will maintain a soft glow throughout. Avoid using harsh lighting and instead let your lit up Christmas tree, menorah, or a simple strand of twinkle lights do the work of illuminating your living space. Even better: keep a fire going in your hearth. Your guests won’t want to leave.
Nothing says hygge—the Danish word for the feeling of extraordinary comfort and coziness—like chunky-knit throw blankets and merino wool pillow covers. Swap out your usual textiles for something with a little added warmth and wintery appeal, like velvet or plaid. A cashmere throw in a frost blue or cream colour will encourage guests to make themselves at home, and a fluffy faux sheepskin rug will make every aspect of your home feel warm and inviting. Don’t stop at the living room—linen tablecloths or runners soften the dining experience, too.
Whether or not you consider yourself an accomplished holiday baker, your home can still possess that welcoming “just-baked-cookies” scent. Select holiday-appropriate candles with a scent like spiced apple, or something warming like sandalwood, and light them before guests arrive. Natural, woodsy-scented incense with notes of cedar or pine help to emphasize the fragrance of the garlands throughout your home; just remember to keep incense or candles away from dining areas as they can detract from the food. If you find you’re sensitive to scents, it’s easy to create a more subtle scent-scape by mulling spices like cinnamon, cloves, and citrus peels on the stovetop. It doesn’t take much to transform your home into a holiday wonderland for all the senses.
As the suitcases of faraway family members are being packed, open up your home to all the warmth the season has to offer. When it comes down to it, it’s the people that fill your home that make it feel merry—but focused and elegant seasonal décor helps, too.
Ready to feel the warmth of the season? Find your perfect home for the holidays with these cozy listings from Sotheby’s International Realty.
This article was originally published on December 20, 2018 and has been updated on November 25, 2019.