To nudge a year-round cream color scheme into the holiday spirit, add what comes naturally: tangy apple green, rich hazelnut brown, and plenty of winter boughs and berries.
How's this for refreshing? A home decorated for the holidays and Christmas red is nowhere in sight. But green? That's another story. Fruity greens with nutty browns -- on pillows, packages, even a bowl of tree ornaments -- create a festive holiday look that's as refreshing to behold as it is quick to pull together.
Letting fresh winter greenery, simply adorned, take pride of place on tabletops, windows, and the mantel speeds things up, too.
In the dining room, for example, a toile slipcover on the head chair, a fresh white-and-green centerpiece, natural-looking wreaths, and a pale green checked tablecloth look festive and fresh.
Arrange favorite collections of pitchers, pottery, frames, and baskets of ornaments to bring together various shades of green in a medley of matte, shimmery, and sparkling finishes. Bunches of green hypericum berries, fresh-cut evergreen branches, and green stockings with a silk cuff and ribbon trim carry the scheme to the fireplace.
Greens, browns, and a lush wreath contribute to a festive and bright holiday style. Think about using long-lasting, natural materials that say "winter," not just "Christmas."
This weathered iron gate was a flea-market discovery. Topped with a wreath adorned with seeded eucalyptus and green hypericum berries, it's a fittingly simple focal point for the living room. Instead of a gate, you could use an old window frame, a mirror, or a section of picket fence behind a wreath.
Instead of a traditional tree skirt, set the tree on an inexpensive but lush-looking square rug. Use ornaments with similar colors, shapes, or themes all over the tree to create an uncluttered look.
Gifts beneath the tree are wrapped in silver, cream, and apple-green papers and tied with a variety of green and brown iridescent and checked ribbons.
A handful of amaryllis blooms and fresh cedar greens may seem like an unusual pairing, but are lovely in an understated way.
Delicate paperwhites (narcissus) please because of their simplicity and fragrance. The dining table sports a silver footed bowl of them cleverly "mulched" with tiny green, cream, and silver globe ornaments.
Resources: Like what you see in this story? As of 2006, the items featured in this story were available from these manufacturers. Ribbon; wrapping paper, wreath ribbon 5-inch Luxe #152 in lime green - Midori, Inc.; 800-659-3049; www.midoriribbon.com. Globe and mini-globe ornaments Better Homes and Gardens® Collection ¿ Roman, Inc., Addison, Illinois; 630-705-4600; www.roman.com. Candles - Target Stores; 800-800-8800; www.target.com (product line varies). Wreaths, flowers - Sunflowers, Saratoga Springs, New York; 518-584-1522. Lime green pillow covers; cashmere pillow inserts, lime green pillow cover - Garnet Hill; 800-622-6216; www.garnethill.com (product line varies). Herringbone ruffle-edge pillow, decorative pitchers and vases; mantel candleholders - Schuyler Pond Home & Garden, Saratoga Springs, New York; 518-581-8422; www.schuylerpond.com Fabric: toile chair; tablecloth Lynley - Country Curtains 800-456-0321; www.countrycurtains.com. Chandelier shades - Ballard Designs; 800-367-2775; www.ballarddesigns.com (product line varies). Green sisal rug; coffee-table vase - Pier 1 Imports; 800-245-4595; www.pier1.com. Antique fence at fireplace mantel - Welcome Home/Valkommen Hem, Saratoga Springs, New York; 518-583-4444; www.welcomehem.com.
Keep your home looking pulled together yet feeling comfortable during the holidays and year-round with these tips.
A light, neutral color scheme: Choose a year-round neutral color palette. Whites, creams, and some grays keep a soothing and happy atmosphere, while texture adds visual interest.
Durable surfaces: A home is for living in; that means feet on the furniture, food in the living room, and pets all around. Use slipcovers on furniture and hard-wearing surfaces such as painted trim and hardwood floors throughout the rest of the house. That way, when something inevitably is soiled, you can just wash it.
Inexpensive fabrics: Good fabric can be found almost anywhere. If you love it, get it. This home features yards and yards of linen bought on clearance and then made into drapery panels. The fabric departments at discount stores are a favorite source of muslin, duck, and linen for quick and inexpensive covers.
Less is more: Clutter can add stress to the already busy holiday season. Holiday decor that centers on rearranging accessories you already have, plus a live tree and fresh-cut greens, means there's little to store from year to year.
Unfussy details: The holidays are the perfect time to dress simple household objects up. Think of inexpensive but high-impact touches such as tying a large bow around a vase. Ribbon, especially if it has an interesting texture, is one thing worth storing.
Color in small doses: If you like neutrals but crave a little more color, try a candle in a new hue. A raspberry or watermelon candle complements this green-and-white color scheme well. If you find you don't like a colored candle in your space, you can burn it and you're only out a few dollars.
Raid your local flower shop for the ingredients for your holiday decorating. Look for textures and shapes that catch your eye, especially if you're sticking to a one-color scheme, like the white flowers shown here.
Fresh-cut branches of cedar, white pine, and juniper are top picks for porch planters and mantel dressings. Just bunch them in a planter or set them on a surface for a loose and comfortable look. A once-a-week water spritzing is all greens need to remain fresh.
As for flowers, if they're loose and white, take them home and drop them in a simple vase or bowl, possibly with a sprig of greenery. Top choices include narcissus, shown here, and the other blossoms shown below.