Elegance need not be complicated or difficult. Enliven your home with a seasonal theme, simply conceived and beautifully executed.
Start every Christmas present with a look at Christmases past. Bring together those things that had meaning for you before and decide first what you want to bring back this year. This cozy Christmas scene wasn't hard to create because it relies on the family's favorite things: Christmas stockings hung by the chimney with care, fresh evergreens wrapped with ribbon, and collectibles placed on the mantel. The hand-painted garland provides a Christmas touch all year.
An elegant holiday look doesn't have to scream Christmas. Think of what you would like to have on display all year. The greenhouse window in this dining room provides perching places for holiday topiaries and miniature evergreen trees. Look for places in your home where you can place pleasing items on display.
When you decide to create something new for holiday display, don't think pretty things need to be complicated. Two ideas here illustrate the point. Entwine a vining plant on a length of bamboo inserted into a bright bucket. Top the base with greens and berries and you have a pretty plant. The simple fruit display at the base of the plant is made of berries, dried oranges, and pinecones.
Take some of the pressure out of decorating your home for the holidays by decorating for the longer winter season rather than for just one specific occasion. You can accomplish this with a collection of decorative objects like these: gazing balls, forced blooming branches, evergreen, and shiny ornaments set in a platter. Stacked presents promise the gifts of the season without locking you into a decorating scheme that lasts only a short time.
A single special ornament -- whether it's a cherished family heirloom, one made by your child, or a lucky flea market find -- can be elevated to a striking focal point when you set it apart under a glass cloche. Place it by itself on a tabletop, or create a kind of pedestal for the ornament with a bed of moss, a couple of pinecones, and a few sprigs of juniper berries in a small crystal dish. The same display idea works just as well for highlighting a favorite Hanukkah dreidel.
You don't necessarily have to put away your everyday displays to decorate for the season. This library table is topped year-round with stacks of books, a dish of shells, and a potted plant or flower arrangement. The addition of a mercury glass ball set on a cachepot, a green tree ornament, tall candlesticks with green pillars, berries tucked around the shells, and pussy willow branches in a glass vase gives the display a more festive look.
Remember the front door when decorating for the winter season.
Elements from nature are a good choice for outdoor spaces. Wire an arrangement of seeded eucalyptus, berries, and bits of evergreen onto a ring of twigs to create a loose, woodsy wreath. Most of these materials will dry on the wreath and continue to look good for many days. Add fresh flowers or small tree ornaments to embellish the wreath for a party.
For an easy mantel decoration, use a series of matching containers, such as these small galvanized tin cups. Fill some with small evergreen branches or, for an updated twist, try green succulents. Place skinny little taper candles and twisted glass icicle ornaments in others. Small plums, figs, or pomegranates scattered in between the cups will add a touch of color to the arrangement. A dainty garland of chandelier crystals with glass icicles attached at the points adds a subtle sparkle below the mantel shelf, while larger chandelier drops dress up a lightly whitewashed twig wreath on the wall.
It might be too cold to sit and linger on the porch, but a bench offers a good spot for a winter still life. Nestle pine boughs around giant pinecones, silver tree ornaments, and larger mercury glass spheres on the seat. You and your guests will feel the season's spirit before you even open the front door.