Looking for some new ways to transform your home into a festive wonderland this season? North Shore design pros share their Yuletide decorating wisdom.
words by Brian Underwood
The holidays are all about honoring traditions while looking ahead with excitement toward the new. After all, another year is just a few short weeks away. Decorating for the holidays should be the same. Cherished family ornaments and lovingly crafted handmade decorations passed down for generations can live alongside bold, surprising colors and beautiful, modern arrangements featuring unexpected plants and fruits. But thinking beyond Santa statuettes and fir wreaths takes a bit of finesse. So to help guide you along the way, we’ve enlisted local interior decorators and florists to share their most creative and interesting ideas.
They were unanimous in this one important piece of advice: Look for inspiration everywhere. Done well, prefab decorations can be kitschy fun, but to infuse your home with a holiday flavor all its own, check out architectural salvage yards, antiques shops, estate sales, and secondhand stores. “It’s a really great way to unearth one-of-a-kind décor,” insists Jean Verbridge, principal at the Beverly- based interior design, decorating, and landscape design firm Siemasko + Verbridge. “Use vintage keys as ornaments on your Christmas tree or old hotel key tags as wine glass markers or gift tags.” For Winchester’s Kristen Rivoli of Kristen Rivoli Interior Design, that meant mixing dollar store disco balls with limes and large frosted glass ornaments to create an eye-catching, textured centerpiece for the Concord Museum’s Holiday House Tour. “I always encourage people to do what they love,” says Rivoli, who stresses that homeown- ers shouldn’t be wedded to traditional decorative elements and color combinations. “I love sparkly things, so that’s what I did. Your home should be filled with things that you adore.”
Table arrangements, in particular, are an opportunity to express your personality and make a big impact. And it isn’t all about flowers. “Forage around your backyard or some local woods for evergreens you can mix with seasonal fruits like pomegranates, apples, pears, and cranberries,” suggests Linda Holt of Boxford’s Linda Holt Interiors. Not only will you wow dinner guests, it’s a way to ensure you get more bang for your bouquet. “These organic elements are longer lasting so you can mix them with a limited amount of fresh flowers, and when your blooms fade you can easily replace them with new ones.”
If you’d prefer to stick to flowers, poinsettias aren’t your only option. “Try red roses,” offers Verbridge. “They carry the same color but will add a touch of elegance to your overall design scheme.” Get resourceful with your choice of vessel, too: Hollowed out birch logs add rustic charm, silver teapots evoke old-world sophistication, and mason jars lend a touch of down-home playfulness. “Think about what you already have lying around the house and be creative,” Verbridge adds.
Holt’s go-to? Glass cylinders. “You can fill them with practically anything from glass ornaments to seasonal greens,” she says. Rivoli is also a fan. She filled hers with eggplant, garlic, and kale. “The key is to play with scale and texture,” she says.
“Even items that seem completely out of left field can work if they complement your overall color scheme.”
Holt is also quick to point out that one large—and expensive—centerpiece isn’t the only way to make an impressive arrangement. She recommends placing bud vases in front of each table setting and filling each with one or two stems. “Go to the grocery store and pick up a single bunch of flowers and you’ll have more than enough for each small vase plus a few extra to create another small arrangement for another room in your home,” Holt notes.
To add extra interest to your holiday table, skip the serving trays and use a long decorative mirror for your food display, suggests Verbridge, who used a custom- made piece by Yankee Doodler of Marble- head. “Your table will look less cluttered and the reflection makes a big, bold statement.” To further personalize the table settings, Verbridge wrote the names of her guests on decorative ribbon and tied them to glass bulb ornaments of varying shapes and sizes.
When it comes to the star of the show—the Christmas tree—there are plenty of ways to make it shine with sparks of individuality. Let’s take it from the top: Verbridge used a straw fedora to crown her Fraser fir from Beverly Tree Farm, but anything with special meaning will do the trick. And instead of a traditional tree skirt and stand, a decorative outdoor zinc planter serves as the base. Rivoli’s artificial tree from Mahoney’s Garden Center in Winchester is gold with touches of purple and green—a quirky color combination that works because it’s “a consistent thread throughout the entire home,” she says. “If it weren’t, the effect would be garish and jarring.”
Holt agrees. “Choose a color palette and use it throughout the home,” she recommends. “Flowers, table linens, even invitations should all coordinate.” If time and budget are a consideration, Holt adds that limiting your décor to one or two hub spots is key. “I usually tell clients to focus on the front entrance and dining room table,” she adds. “Both are spots where guests will gather and be able to appreciate your efforts most.”
A fireplace mantel is another perfect place to showcase your decorating prowess. Mercury glass trees in silver and gold and oversize ornaments on a bed of seasonal boughs bring Rivoli’s to life. For her mantel, Verbridge went for a smattering of candles, both votives and tapers, and focused her creativity on the gift wrap- ping. Old burlap sacks and butcher paper are fun, low-cost ways to shield Christ- mas loot from prying eyes. “It’s about getting creative and giving everything a personal touch,” Verbridge says. “That’s the way to make a holiday to remember.”