Holiday Decorating Ideas

Deck your halls! Seasonal ideas for holiday decorations
Seasonal greens and plants are an easy and lovely way to decorate your home
Photos by Amy Dutton

Possibly no other time of year offers a ready-made reason to change up your home décor than the holidays. These late autumn and early winter months are probably more aptly described as the decorating season. Whether trimming a tree, hanging a wreath or setting a festive table for friends, this time of year is an opportunity to showcase your personal style as well as create a relaxing, comfortable personal space. Best of all, there are no real rules: you can use pieces you already own, gather plantings or other items from nature, or start from scratch. Here are some decorating suggestions from area designers:


“My philosophy is keep it simple,” says designer Amy Dutton, owner of Amy Dutton Home in Kittery, Maine. “Don’t muck up your home with busy-ness. You can’t enjoy everything if there’s too much going on.” Dutton recommends beginning with a blank palette: leave your decorations in storage until you determine a theme or idea you want to build upon. Then pull out only what you need. “You don’t have to use all of your decorations,” says Dutton. Leave extra decorations in storage, use them in another room of your house or even give them away.

Use color in unexpected ways

Choosing a theme for the primary area you want to decorate can be as simple as introducing unexpected color combinations. Renee Carman of Mandeville Canyon Designs in Exeter likes combining colors such as turquoise and orange or purple and gold in ornaments, table linens and more. “If you’re decorating on a budget, color goes a long way,” she says. “If you have a favorite decoration or collection of objects that are in one color you like, then you can use them as a starting point for introducing color elsewhere in your room.”

Show off collections

Have a favorite collection you want to share with friends and family? Whether it’s vintage Christmas ornaments, birds, glassware or more, sharing what you love is all the more meaningful at holiday time. “Group pieces together that are the same color,” suggests Carman. They can be placed on a mantel, a table, even hung on a chandelier, anyplace where they can be enjoyed (or generate conversation).

Go natural

Incorporating natural objects — evergreens, fruit, boughs, berries, even bark — is on trend and works well in both contemporary and traditional settings. “Rustic items like birch bark as an underlay on a place setting or pine cones on the table are nice additions,” says Dutton.

Go natural. Incorporate objects like fruits, nuts and bark.
photo courtesy of debbie kane

Area nurseries and garden centers are prime sources of inspiration for incorporating seasonal greens into holiday decorating. Think beyond the traditional red poinsettia plant, says Beth Simpson, co-owner of Rolling Green Nursery in Greenland.

Animals, berries, pine cones and greens are other natural elements you can use both inside and outdoors.
photo courtesy of debbie kane

Paperwhites and lemon cypress trees are nice indoor alternatives, as are small Fraser firs or Alberta spruce trees, which can also be planted in pots outdoors. Traditional greens like balsam and Fraser fir, spruce, cedar, white pine and Scotch pine are always popular, says Simpson. Boxwood, winterberry and red twig dogwood add color and texture. “Trimming greens from your own yard and creating your own container arrangement is also economical,” says Simpson. Another resource: Ask a local landscaper if they can put aside seasonal plant clippings for you.

photo courtesy of debbie kane

Ideas are everywhere

Looking for inspiration? Some of our designers’ favorite sources include Target (,,, the Boston Flower Market ( and area garden centers. You can also find unique ideas at these holiday events:

Nov. 7-9, Portsmouth

Tablescapes celebrates the art of setting a beautiful table with over-the-top place settings. During this weekend-long event, New England designers express their creativity through different themes.The weekend includes hands-on workshops by food, wine and design experts. Proceeds benefit Arts in Reach (AIR), a nonprofit organization that mentors teenage girls through creative pursuits.For details, call (603) 433-4278 or visit

Symphony NH Holiday House Tour, Dec. 6-7, 12 p.m.-4 p.m.
Nashua area houses are decked for the holidays. Proceeds benefit Symphony NH. Tickets and more information are available at or (603) 595-9156.

Exeter Area Holiday
House Tour, Dec. 7, 1 p.m.-4 p.m.
The first annual Exeter Area Holiday House Tour caps Exeter’s four-day holiday celebration, which includes a Festival of Trees, a visit by Santa Claus and a holiday parade. An area designer is paired with each home on the house tour to provide design guidance. Proceeds benefit Womenade of Greater Squamscott; more info at

A Cran-do Attitude

This humble red berry perfectly exemplifies the meaning of Yankee ingenuity.

By Matthew Mead

The simple cranberry: From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve, no other natural holiday staple packs quite the stylish punch for holiday entertaining and decorating.

Go “old school” with traditional hand-strung garlands to dress up staircases, mantels and chandeliers, or heap these ruby jewels atop a platter massed with red pears, pomegranates and fragrant greens to create an instant centerpiece.

Feeling celebratory? Mix a 20-ounce pitcher with half orange juice, half cranberry juice with fresh orange slices and whole cranberries. Add 12 ounces of vodka to really get the “party started.”

Provide  panache to champagne cocktails with a skewer of fresh cranberries threaded on a bamboo skewer and added to 12 o’clock nightcaps.

Priced right, easily available and oh, so festive, the common cranberry will keep you “holiday ready” with style.

Matthew Mead is a nationally known style guru. His work is featured in Better Homes and Gardens, Celebrate magazine and Creative Ideas magazine.