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9 Modern Holiday Decorating Ideas To Elevate Your Home This Season

Amanda Lauren | Contributor

I write about real estate, décor and design.

All of the style. None of the kitsch.

The holiday season is officially here and pretty soon yards will be filled with dizzying lights and giant Santas. Interiors will be decorated with kitschy pillows, Elves On A Shelf, and trees with ornaments from so many eras that decorating can also be a history lesson. But what if none of this reflects your personal sense of style or taste?

There's no need to be a Scrooge, but this doesn’t mean your home needs to look like Santa’s Workshop. It’s possible to decorate in an elevated way that also compliments your home’s style. Here are nine tips from interior designers and entertainment experts on how to tastefully decorate your home this season.

Don’t Keep Up With The Joneses

Holiday decorating can feel like a competition no matter where you live. But your house doesn't need to shine the brightest for the season to be meaningful.

“As you decorate for the holidays, always keep in mind that the primary goal is for you and your family to love where you live. You shouldn’t feel pressure to have the most spectacular light display or the tallest, sparkliest tree—unless you want to, and I’ll be the first to say, that’s totally okay,” says interior designer and owner of Kathy Kuo Home, Kathy Kuo.

Kuo suggests paring your holiday decor down to pieces that are the most meaningful, “Your Grandmother’s heirloom glass ornaments or homemade paper snowflakes from your kiddos—the things that are heart-opening. From there, add in the well-placed sprigs of greenery or your favorite warm twinkle lights, You’ll find that it’s easy to get to a very meaningful and tasteful result.”

Two Trees Is Double The Fun

Christmas trees can feel like works of art. But as anyone with children knows, art can get messy. So, Kuo's house features two trees, a “pretty” and a “fun” tree. “The ‘fun’ tree is the one my kids and I fully participate in decorating together as we have since they were born. It features all of our hand-made souvenir ornaments from vacations or memories we have shared through the years,” she says. “And then the ‘pretty’ tree is the one where my design passion shows through and that I spend time planning a color palette and theme for.”

Accessorize Your Greenery

Designer and entertainment expert Joanna Buchanan recommends clipping sparkling critters into traditional greenery like trees and garlands. These accessories can be an alternative to ornaments or used in concert with them.

“[This gives] an unexpected flash of color and whimsy and it is that attention to detail that can really elevate your holiday decor. I prefer not to use obvious icons—and prefer something little more eclectic... like a sparkling bee,” she says.

Skip The Red And Green This Year

While red and green are associated with Christmas and blue and metallics are associated with Hanukah, there’s no real need to stick to these standard palettes according to Liz Toombs, CID president and owner of PDR Interiors in Kentucky. “To create a tasteful look for the holidays, stick to more traditional colors like ivory, emerald green, red, eggplant, navy, or black. For a playful, fun ambiance, choose bright colors like pink, lime green, bright purple, or cobalt blue,” she says.

Toombs suggests going with colors that complement the furniture and decor you already have in the space. “Your colors should not fight with the standard decor of your room. The colors should be harmonious, but not a match. They need to work together in a way that supports the vibe for your holiday gathering.”

Alternatively, Kuo likes to incorporate neutral tones. “Layered neutral tones combined with shiny accents or even pops of color work beautifully for creating a festive atmosphere. Winter whites and warm creams are always a great foundation and can be accented with a soft blush or even an icy blue,” she says. “And don’t be afraid to go beyond the traditional evergreens—mix in olive and juniper branches with eucalyptus twigs and even dusty miller for a little subtle silvery tone and visual interest.”

Use Dishware As A Guide

There's more pressure than ever to create beautiful tablescapes these days. After all, there’s a reason why so many brands make holiday-themed dishes and table linens. But you don’t need to buy them to create a festive table. “If you want to create an elegant aesthetic, incorporate china and crystal or cut-glass cups paired with cloth napkins and silverware. I also recommend layering,” says Toombs.

The designer says to start with your tablecloth and add a placemat, charger, or both. “Then add your plate(s), and top with a napkin in an eye-catching napkin holder. These layers will create a visual delight for guests without taking up a lot of surface area on the table.”

Leave Santa At The Kids' Table

Santa is a classic Christmas icon, but he can be a little bit kitschy for grownups. Opt for, as Buchanan says, a chic mix. “Mixing animal patterns in neutral with dazzling critter napkin rings and faceted glass place card holders... the palette is tight, but the impact is huge.”

Don’t Use Poinsettias

A vase full of poinsettias isn't a very creative choice. So consider going with white flowers instead. “Paperwhites are my favorite decoration for the holidays, They smell amazing, and the stalks take a bee clip very well,” says Buchanan.

Not into paperwhites? Calla lilies, hydrangeas, or even white roses can also look beautiful.

Go Cozy

One of the reasons why we enjoy the holidays so much is because our homes suddenly become cozier. So, if you're not sure what to do or don’t want to go over the top with decorating, Kuo advises simply mixing in additional cozy elements. “Finding time to pause during the holidays is the ultimate luxury, and what better way to relax than with cashmere throw blankets and faux-fur decorative pillows. Light a luxe scented candle to touch all senses and enjoy the perfect touch of winter wonderment.”

Avoid Striving For Perfection

While there can be a lot of pressure to make everything look perfect for your annual holiday party or baby’s first Christmas, Toombs doesn’t think perfection should be the goal here. “Don’t worry about making every last detail perfect. It’s okay if all the decorative items in the garland aren’t symmetrical, or if one swag is a little off-center. Soak in the joy of Christmastime, and don’t fall into the trap of over-stressing on the details.”

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