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Holiday Decorating Tips

There’s no place like home for the holidays—but there’s really no place like a beautifully decorated home. Don’t know where to start? We asked three local designers for advice on sprucing up a house or apartment for the season.

Denise Willard says nature-oriented items like branches, berries, and faux feathers are replacing traditional tree toppers like stars and angels. When decorating this tree, she coupled a glass topper with faux icicle branches.

I don’t want to create the home-design version of a tacky Christmas sweater party. How do I keep it classy?

Denise Willard, principal and owner of Decor by Denise in Vienna: “Rather than selecting gold ornaments that are a super-shiny bright gold, use those that are from the old gold or copper families. They have a softer, more elegant appeal. For reds, opt for darker and deeper versions of the traditional bright red.”

Lisa Adams, principal of Adams Design in Georgetown: “Take a tall vase and fill it with Christmas tree balls—either blue and green, or gold and silver, or red and purple. If you limit the colors, it looks great.”

What are your best holiday-on-a-budget tips?

Sherry Ways, principal designer of Design Scheme Interiors in DC: “Use faux gifts. Wrapping empty boxes in colored paper and bows is a colorful and inexpensive way to make your decor look festive. Also, consider placing wrapping paper and bows over family photo frames that are already displayed on the wall. Choose wrapping paper that carefully coordinates with the colors and patterns of the room.”

Denise: “To save on tree decorations, forego purchasing ornaments. Instead, use your tree to display the holiday cards you receive. If you want a little more decoration, add a few large pinecones, which you may be able to find outside for free.”

I live in a studio—what can I do that doesn’t take up much space?

Lisa: “Put a little nail above your window and hang glass ornaments so they dangle down into the window. They’ll catch light during the day, and at night they’ll sparkle from indoor lights.”

Sherry: “Take advantage of your holiday food choices by arranging each dish colorfully. If you have a platter of cookies on your counter, decorate the plate with green and red candy such as peppermints. Pinecones and cranberries can also dress up food or dessert trays.”

Let’s say you can only recommend one decoration. What is it?

Denise: “A Christmas tree with simple, clear lights.”

Lisa: “Paper whites—those little bulbs that grow into beautiful white flowers. Most florists have them. They’re fun and pretty, and great for people of different religions. But once they grow up high they start bending and falling over, so it helps to put them in a tall vase.”

Sherry: “A simple, live evergreen wreath for the front door. The pine scent will welcome visitors and put all who enter in the holiday spirit.”