The holidays are about gatherings, whether its spontaneous drop-ins by friends for a glass of wine or a formal sit down dinner. Help your home exude warmth and a touch of magic this holiday season by using a few of these decorating tips: 

1. Bring in colors that reflect the season: winterberry red, deep gold, yummy plum, warm cream, lively persimmon and moss green. Include metallics — gold and silver — for festive sparkle. 

2. Bring in layering pieces for warmth and interest. Fold cashmere or faux fur throws over the arms of sofas and chairs so they are at the ready to curl up in. 

3. Layer beds with blankets on top of duvets in cashmere and wool. Update pillow shams with ones made from quilted cotton, faux fur, velvet, or wool. Use flannel sheets for added warmth and coziness. Use decorative pillows covered in burlap and wrapped with a wide velvet bow like the ones from D. Stevens at Bramble. 

4. Display bowls of scented bar soaps and hand towels in rich golds and greens in guest bathrooms. 

5. Replace window sheers with lined velvet drapes to block drafts and provide luxurious texture. 

6. Place scented candles in holiday scents like cinnamon and fig along a mantle and use a mirror behind them so that the flames reflect in the glass. Arrange votives or pillars in varying sizes on a silver tray on a table. Light them before guests arrive for holiday ambiance. Make sure that your scented candles don’t compete with the aromas from baking or cooking though! 

7. If you don’t care for scented candles, try beeswax candles wrapped in birch. Arrange them like a mini forest on a table. If you’re concerned about flames, use flameless candles that are battery operated. As with any candle: never leave them unattended. 

8. Wrap string light on bendable wire around plants, banisters, wreaths or garlands. Drape the garlands from mantles or bookcases or wrap them around banisters and pillars. Spread collections of whimsical or vintage holiday figures throughout the garland on a mantle. 

9. Make your own holiday garland using photos and holiday cards by hole-punching the card and then stringing it with twine. Swag the garland across windows, doorframes or a mantle. 

10. Fill large bowls with ornaments like the buskins from Virtu or pine cones and place them on a console table. 

11. Fill clear glass hurricanes halfway with peppermint candies or dreidels. Use sprigs of fir or cinnamon sticks in slender vases. Arrange floor vases with some branches, golden ginko or plum maple leaves, and winterberries. 

12. Set up toy train sets or other mechanical toys or display vintage children’s holiday books like Dylan Thomas’s A Child’s Christmas in Wales for little guests (and big ones too). 

13. Pick up small holiday accessories like the twin silver-painted lamps from Divine Consign in Oak Park as a nice reflective backdrop to candlelight. 

14. Follow Karen Morova’s advice from Careful Peach (also in Oak Park) for homemade napkin rings: use simple twine or string to tie around a rolled napkin. 

15. Attach snowflake ornaments with twine from a chandelier over a dining room table. 

16. Display little dishes of homemade fudge or peppermint candies: their sights and smells will make anyone feel welcome. 

17. Hang wreaths with twine or silk ribbons in the center of windows like these felt wreaths from local artisian Amy Struckmyer. 

18. Hang sleigh bells on front door handles. 

19. If you’re lucky enough to have a fireplace, have a fire roaring before guests arrive. If it’s nonworking, fill it with holly branches and winterberries or a basket of ornaments. 

20. Have fun decorating and happy holidays!

Lexi Nielsen is a professional interior decorator who lives in Oak Park. Her projects range from simple color consultations to gut rehabs.


My Holiday Home

This story is part of My Holiday Home, a special section packed with local ideas to help ready our homes for the holidays. Click here to view the entire My Holiday Home special section.

Join the discussion on social media!

Lexi Nielsen

Lexi is an interior decorator living in Oak Park. Her projects range from simple color consultations to gut rehabs. She fully appreciates that not everyone salivates at the thought of shopping for home...

One reply on “20 tips for creating a holiday ambiance in your home”