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Holiday Decorating Tips

>> To see our full holiday guide, click here.

Tis the season for holiday parties—which for some means trying to squeeze friends and family into a small kitchen or tight family room. If a renovation isn’t on your wish list (or in your budget) this year, area designers Nancy Colbert of McLean’s Design Partners, Iantha Carley of Silver Spring’s Iantha Interiors, and Tami Hatch and Pattie Gunter of the Great Falls’ Gunter-Hatch Design Group offer some easy tips for how to maximize your space. 


1. Take advantage of all areas of your house. Colbert says setting up food stations throughout your home keeps guests moving. A co-worker of Colbert’s even leads guests to his back porch at the end of the night, where he sets up water bottles they can take on their way out.

2. Use candles and lighting. The designers agree this is one of the most effective ways to change a party’s ambiance without having to worry about space or coordinating colors. Hatch and Gunter recommend using clear, low wattage candelabra bulbs, so you can see a hint of the filament, which evokes candle light. Hanging a lantern or chandelier over a kitchen island also makes a dramatic impact. 

3. Incorporate potted plants. Colbert recommends dressing greenery up with small lights. Carley likes using poinsettias, paperwhites, and garlands in decorative pots with some Spanish moss added as embellishment.

4. Vary the heights of floral arrangements and candles. Tall floral arrangements can make a dramatic impact without taking up much table space.


1. Go overboard with colors. You can look festive without being garish, say Hatch and Gunter, by keeping it simple. They suggest sticking to one or two accent colors—a subtle touch of the same color repeated makes a big impact. What’s more, too much color can make smaller rooms seem more cramped than they actually are. Colbert suggests neutral but festive colors like gold or silver for the holidays.
2. Get sentimental about ornaments. Throw out holiday decorations and accessories that have worn out—they just take up space.

3. Be afraid to rearrange your furniture.
Colbert says that for parties with fewer guests, you can move furniture and seating areas in a bit closer to one another to encourage conversation. Just be sure to keep from crowding halls and walkways so partygoers can get around easily.

4. Forget the outside of your house. Carley says setting the stage for entertaining begins with the outside or your home. You can do this effectively—and for free!—by going on a nature walk to pick up magnolia leaves, boxwood cuttings, twigs, or holly to put in planters or urns. The smell of fresh greenery sets a festive mood.

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