Holiday decorating tips from the experts

Three local tastemakers present their best tips for decking the halls

Design, décor and dining are personal statements, and why should decking the halls for Christmas be any different?

We caught up with three home and lifestyle makers working in different aspects of design to share their inspirations for decorating and entertaining this holiday season. Though they each offer advice, what you’ll learn from all three is that you can put your own twist on tradition with color, style and your particular brand of embellishment to make your celebration memorable and personalized. Follow their lead as they present Christmas décor that is anything but “cookie-cutter Christmas.”

Christmas in New Hampshire conjures images of fresh evergreen wreaths on doors and garlands draped on porches and white
picket fences. Fragrant trees from the North Country fill tree stands, and Main Street stores bustle with shoppers as they have for decades. Decorating for Christmas begins directly after Thanksgiving, and families are eager to light their homes during the darkest, shortest days of the year. Creating Christmas in your home means building on tradition. Homeowners personalize their décor based on memories and heirloom collections but also like to add to their style with fresh color palettes, local foods and ornamentation that is quintessentially their own. This year, three of New Hampshire’s style-makers have agreed to open their homes and share their best tips, tricks and ideas to inspire your own holiday designs. Follow along as they display ways to decorate your home, create wonderful foods to share with guests and enlighten you with ideas on favorite places to find holiday embellishments. 

Megan Whitehouse

Whitehouse Interior Design, Manchester

Don't be afraid to use colors other than red and green. Megan Whitehouse likes to use "spicy" colors such as brown and persimmon.

Manchester interior decorator Megan Whitehouse has been designing and decorating homes in southern New Hampshire for nearly 30 years. Her design
elements are distinct and rooted in tradition, but her style is fresh, has a twist and always draws on a few favorite elements. She is known for designing built-in bookcases and makes use of decorative moldings, Persian carpets and beautiful wood furniture. You’ll also notice a penchant for spicy colors such as brown and
persimmon, which have become distinct notes in her design repertoire and are favored by her clients. A highlight of her cozy Colonial house is the mantelpiece that’s decked out for Christmas.

Whitehouse makes use of favorite items such as gilded pears, ornaments and wrapped packages. Items that don’t go on the tree are used to fill compotes or perch amongst freshly cut evergreen boughs. Taper candles add glow while gifts are wrapped in gilded papers and secured with ribbons. A clove topiary adds the scents of the season while ornaments in shades of copper and gold add shimmer and glow. 

“Christmas decorating should be fun and engaging and reflect your own personal love of color and design,” says Whitehouse.

Michelle Graham

Birch Paper & Home, Exeter

Owner and artisan of Birch Paper & Home, Michelle Graham of Exeter knows how to craft her own style out of anything. Her business makes use of castoff
vintage finds that are transformed into all kinds of distinct, decorative home accessories. Her talents turn book pages into wreaths and ornaments and old crates into
fanciful stenciled statement pieces. And, with a bit of bit of ingenuity, she transforms furniture into colorful, sought-after design elements highly desired by fellow decorators. Her simple-but-homemade approach to the holiday season extends to her entertaining finesse. Guests at her home will enjoy cocktails and tasty appetizers amid her clever Christmas décor.

Graham makes her own ornamentation in the same vein as her artwork, repurposing old paper and books to create her vintage decorations. She also hand-stencils and personalizes wooden crates that can be used for firewood, fresh greens or a collection of wrapped gifts. Her “Northern Pass Tree Farm" is just a fantasy locale, but she can create and personalize any crate with whatever design or saying you choose. She likes to welcome guests to her home with wreaths, and the entryways and doors are all dressed with holiday décor.  

“Making my own Christmas décor is part of my style — no flashy box-store décor for me,” says Graham.

Matthew Mead

Lifestyle and Design Expert, Concord

Author, photographer and lifestyle expert Matthew Mead participates in dozens of Christmas design stories each year for his clients’ magazines, catalogs and advertising agencies. His work consists of conceptualizing ideas and visuals, and then creating and styling all the props and design elements for inspiring photographs. Mead works with many vintage
elements and mixes new and old pieces in the design of images for home furnishings, art, food and entertaining, as well as many levels for DIY projects. He offers advice on how to style a dining table for Christmas, and how to create a festive centerpiece for your holiday celebration.

Mead relies on natural, organic fibers and woodland material to create his own brand of holiday décor. An oblong centerpiece in a copper tray is filled with apples, cut foliage, nuts and leaves, and crowned with opened red roses. Table settings are casual but interesting, using mixed-and-matched, hand-loomed linens and festive cordial glasses to show off a cranberry glow. Cookies, fresh fruits and cut evergreens mix easily with a collection of family holiday linens in red.

“I love all the design elements of Christmas decorating, but I also love to keep it simple and effortless,” says Mead.