It seems like there’s two kinds of folks out there when it comes to holiday decorating. One camp is the ‘I’m a minimalist and not going over board’ group and the other is the ‘love to decorate every square inch of my house’ crowd.

I’d like to propose a compromise between to the two schools of thought and give easy tips that work regardless of your style.

~Elizabeth Curtiss, Happy Mom Life Lab Founder

Most people have picked up over a few years or been handed down a variety of holiday decor items. This means you’ve got a collection of things that likely don’t coordinate well in a variety of styles and colors.

Combine the mish mash situation with the fact that the holidays tend to have a ‘more is more’ feel to them, and it’s easy to end up with a look that’s disjointed and overly done in feeling.

Similar design principles apply when decorating for the holiday as with interior design every day.

Tip #1: Carry the look, feel and colors of your tree throughout your room.

Yes minimalists I’m talking to you here! I know you want to do the tree and call it quits, but trust me that a touch or two in addition will make your room look cozier and more buttoned up.

Even if you don’t want a lot of decoration, do add small touches of holiday through your main public spaces like living room/family room, dining area and kitchen. It can be as simple as a pretty ornament on your table or a candle in a coordinating color.

This year, I decided to opt for a Winter Wonderland look that emphasized elements of nature in my living room.

I used long stems from Target’s Magnolia Hearth and Hand collection to highlight an advent calendar (also by Joanna Gaines’ Target Line), a pair of antique gate panels and an antique mirror.

I also added coordinating garlands over our sliding door and the window over our couch. I specifically skipped lighted varieties and opted not to add the battery run twinkle lights you see often because I wanted the twinkle of the tree to take center stage.

For tree sources and info see my Top 5 Christmas Tree Tips post.

I brought this silvery nature theme around the room by removing most of my usual decor from the sofa table and adding antique mercury glass vases, metallic bottle brushes (from the Target Dollar Bins/not online so head to your local store), new silver ornaments, antique silver candlesticks and a vintage cut glass bowl from Tiffany & Co.

I also added a thrift store silver plate tray, a snow globe and a faux mercury glass finial to our coffee table (which is an old trunk).

I continued the nature theme with the leaf dish (also a vintage Tiffany & Co piece) which I fill with candy when company comes over.

Also when company comes over I stash a chilled bottle of champagne on my side table just to give an easy option for folks if the bar area is crowded.

The subtle deer embroidered pillow was a great find at Target and works nicely with my every day pink and cream pillows and thrown blanket (both from Nordstrom).

I did cover the red tassel trim on the pillow with some grey ribbon I had to keep the colors mellow.

Tip #2: Vary height of displays and add texture.

It’s important to not have ‘ducks in a row’ look to your holiday table scapes and shelf arrangments. Generally speaking, tall in the middle works best although and odd numbers are much better looking than even.

Texture is important too and can be as subtle as the table covering and added natural greenery shown below.

Sometimes your things are naturally different so you don’t need to create visual different but in other cases, like my sofa table display, try using books as risers so that height difference can be adjusted as you like.

Other impromptu and cheap risers can be wrapped gift boxes and upside down votive candles.

Tip #3: Don’t over do it!

Neutral space is important when you’re decorating. Editing is your friend!

Try fully decorating and then taking at least 1 item away. I find it easy to get carried away when decorating for the holidays and feel like I need to use all of my collected items, yet keeping things cohesive and focusing on a few key elements has proven a best practice.

The side of our living room shown below doesn’t have any extra holiday touches and it allows your eye to rest, plus it creates impact for the areas that are decorated.

The adjacent side of the living room (above right photo) is also low key although not completely free of holiday decor. I placed a coordinating wreath to the garlands displayed elsewhere, and instead of having a huge 12′ long garland framing the front windows I opted for two smaller branches and a low key pillow from Target on my Ghost Chair. Sidenote: a decorative pillow or two is a terrific, low cost way to add a current trend to your collection of holiday decor.

Tip #4: Use trays to create a cohesive look.

My thrifted ottoman is covered with inexpensive 3 Ikea sheepskins and the vintage silver tray adds a nice touch with fresh greens, a tree statue (from Hobby Lobby a few years ago), a candle and a mercury glass goblet.

Target’s faux antler candleholder (from 2 years ago) is a good way to make the formal mirror from my grandmother feel a bit more down to earth.

The tray was a wedding gift from my dear friend Lisa and it creates a great finished look with the candles and fresh greens.

Another tray adds interest on our coffee table with the snowglobe and finial (both bought a few years ago).

Tip #5: Glass bowls are a great way to showcase pretty ornaments and other decorative touches.

Gilded seed pods (above) carry the nature theme into my dining room and the leaf bowl (below) adds nice brightness with the silver ornaments in it.

Tip #6: Mirrors and candles are key elements to add light to your home.

Mirrors can be used to reflect light or a pretty scene, and can be free standing like my antique mirror below or can be leaned and layered on tables. Mirror also make pretty trays and can be stunning as part of your table settings when they reflect your centerpiece or candle light.

Candle light of course is an expensive and beautiful way to add holiday glow to your home.

These days there are many great looking flameless options for areas like low coffee tables so err on the side of safety with little ones around or wait to light them until they’re tucked into bed.

Sidetip: Mix real greenery in with faux items unless you wait to decorate to the last minute. All real greens dry up quickly with heat from our fireplaces and central heating. See our part 1 and part 2 posts about natural decor for more tips.

Tip # 7: Add some whimsy and humor plus use heirloom items to create special meaning beyond off the shelf decor.

Many of the items I’ve already shown have fun memories of people and places I’ve visited. I worked for nearly 5 years at Tiffany & Co. so I think of co-workers when ever I use them. And by using thrifted and flea market finds I bring back memories of hunting for treasures with friends.

Little light touches like the bird below lighten up the often formal feel of Christmas so remember to add little touches of fun whether it’s a bird reminding you about the joy of the holiday or a hidden elf on a shelf making mischeif, have fun with your decorating!

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All Photography by Marla Smith, and images are owned and copyrighted by Happy Mom Life Lab.

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