Whether you are planning for the big holiday feast or for an intimate get-together, this is the season to pull out all the stops; it's time to decorate over the top, bake, cook and eat far too much, and fuss over your family and friends.
Make sure you carve out enough time to enjoy the special aura that surrounds the coming weeks. We are all busy, so it does take some planning, and if you have a shortcut or two, all the better. Here are some of my favorite ideas, all tried-and-true.
Pick a theme for your holiday decorations. If you are ambitious, you can adjust it from room to room, but by focusing on one idea, you can build it up easily. A popular choice that fits the festive mood comes from the colors and motifs connected with True North style. Red, green and white with accents of gold will permeate the decor, and, of course, plaid is the pattern that rules.
For the table, start with a white or plaid tablecloth or, if you prefer, simple table mats in red or green. You don’t require a matched set of dishes, but include bowls or plates that complement the mood. If your dishes are all white, then add a bowl decorated with red flowers or berries, or bread and butter plates or chargers in a solid hue – gold, red or green. Napkin rings and place-card holders can be theme-specific too. The centerpiece should be low and can stretch along the table for greater effect. Ribbon, berry sprigs and small ornaments work well. Fashion a central focal point around a fat candle surrounded with evergreen.
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Include the dining chairs in your plan; simply tying ribbons around the back of each chair adds a whole new layer of interest. Or hang a bow, or small stockings, or endearing ornaments from the backs. Lighting will give you the latitude to highlight the dazzle and atmosphere you have produced. Add some character to one or two lamps by changing to plaid or colored lampshades. Hang gold balls or small wooden toy ornaments from an overhead chandelier.
Invest in a series of glass vases, some square or rectangular, in varying heights. They are the most versatile containers around, and can be used throughout the year. The beauty of these clear containers is that you have more visible space to mix and match elements and color. For example, place clear glass pebbles and red cranberries in a square vase and fill with red or white roses cut short so that the buds rise no more than 3 inches from the top. The pebbles and berries will hold the flower stalks in position, and the effect is stunning. For side tables or the mantel piece, fill glass vases with ornaments or a combination of nuts, greenery and berries. If room permits, build a tall arrangement of bare branches and pine cones for a corner of the dining room or the front hall.
Collect tableware, linens and holiday decorations that can be recycled from year to year along with the happy memories that they are sure to bring.
Debbie Travis’ House to Home column is produced by Debbie Travis and Barbara Dingle. You can follow Debbie on Twitter at www.twitter.com/debbie_travis. Please e-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.