Any homeowner with even a rudimentary sense of style can trim a tree, deck the halls, and hang stockings by the chimney with care. But those looking to conjure up a more customized Christmas ambience in and around their homes have to be willing to think outside the gift box – especially if they plan to entertain friends and relatives this holiday season – say the experts.
“There is definitely a difference between decorating for the holidays and making a festive first impression,” says Felicia Ramos-Peters, founder of GetHolidayHappy.com. “Many will just put up a tree and some lawn ornaments and call it a day. But creating a festive atmosphere requires tapping into all five senses and stoking favorite memories – like the smell of cinnamon, the taste of grandma’s sugar cookies, the sight of Christmas lights, the touch of wrapping paper, and the sounds of Christmas carols as a child.”
Cynthia O’Connor O’Hara, author of “Cooking, Baking, and Making: 100 Recipes and DIY Ideas for All Seasons and Reasons” (Mango, 2017), believes creativity and hospitality are the keys to generating a memorable experience for holiday visitors.
“From the time they walk through your door until the time they leave, you can easily satisfy all their senses by creating a stylish atmosphere that’s decorated with hand-crafted items, filled with cozy scents, and tantalizing to their taste buds with the flavors of the season.”
Here are five delightful and economical ways to make your home dazzle this December:
1. Aim for organic adornments. “Collect armfuls of twigs, pinecones, dry grasses, and interesting weathered branches, which can be dressed with wide ribbons or strands of crystal or pearl beads and placed in a variety of containers like vintage crocks, wooden bowls or glassware,” says Sam Jernigan, interior designer with Auburn, Calif.-based Renaissance Design Consultations. “If desired, you can also create a more homespun look by using accents of burlap, hemp and other nubby natural fibers like cotton, linen or jute trims.”
2. Bring a Christmas tree theme to a prominent wall. If you don’t have room inside for a fir, spruce, pine or artificial, or if you want to spotlight a bare wall in a room where you’ll be making merry, “decorate that wall with holiday decor such as ornaments, cards received from family and friends, or lights – all in the shape of a big tree,” suggests Ana Cayeiro, interior designer with Robb & Stucky in Coral Gables, Fla.
3. Create an eye-catching tablescape. “Use spools of festive ribbon to make bows that coordinate beautifully with tableware, and add them around wine glasses, candlesticks and napkins,” recommends O’Hara. “Add sparkle to your decor by placing a crystal bowl filled with ornaments on your table. And produce a one-of-a-kind winter centerpiece made from evergreens that you cut from your holiday tree or gather from your own backyard.”
4. Add holiday pizzazz to your plants, too. “I love to decorate my plants and cacti with traditional tree decor, like lights and garlands. It creates mini trees throughout the rest of your home,” says Elsie Larson, a Canon U.S.A., Inc. crafting influencer who co-owns/writes the home decor blog A Beautiful Mess.
5. Sparkle up your bar with ornaments and edibles. “Place a holiday-themed fresh arrangement of citrus fruits on your bar,” notes Howard Wiggins, a Brentwood, Tenn.-based interior designer. “This gives guests a delicious snack and lets you add fresh juice to their drinks if they want more.” It also permeates the air with a clean citrusy smell.
Speaking of pleasing the olfactory organ, it pays to spread pleasant aromas around your interiors that make guests think of the Yuletide. Larson recommends mixing fir needles and citrus essential oils for a festive scent. O’Hara’s recipe calls for simmering a few cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, whole allspice berries, and orange rind strips in a saucepan of water for three to four hours.