Holiday Decorating Tips From the Professionals

Each year local designers transform the Bedford Village Inn into a holiday wonderland. See how it’s done and what you can apply to your own home
Photo by Artifact Images courtesy of the BVI

Christmas in New England is filled with nostalgia and tradition. Each year, the Bedford Village Inn captures the magic of the season with the help of New Hampshire decorators. Find out their ideas and inspirations for your home.

Find a Focal Point

Nancy Godbout, the owner of Jacques Flower Shop in Manchester, does the Keeping Room at the Bedford Village Inn every year. “In that room, the main focal point would be the fireplace, so we start there. Think about what your company will come in and see first, and make that say ‘bam!’” says Godbout. “Look for little focal points around the room. Look at some corner of your home, and bring in a little chair and put some wrapped packages, or vignettes in a bookshelf or table. Something that will add to the surprise and excitement of Christmas.”

In the West Room, Alyssa Van Guilder, owner of Apotheca Flowers and Tea Chest in Goffstown, finds her focal point with a seasonal story. “I pick a theme each year, like ‘The 12 Days of Christmas,’ Robert Frost’s poem ‘A Walk in the Woods,’ ‘The Night Before Christmas,’ some poem or story. That helps me have an invisible framework since you can go so many different directions. We’ll even have the poem or the books on hand, so that it might dawn on the diners in the room that there is a story being told. And it is fun for me to pick a theme and creatively find ways to incorporate that into the room.” Van Guilder also switches out the art that normally hangs in the West Room, and instead hangs frames with burlap in them with the lines of the poem or story she uses. 

The door at the Bedford Village Inn is decorated with traditional wreaths for a classic look. However, rather than one wreath, three are hung connected by a red ribbon. Photo by Artifact Images courtesy of the BVI

Favorite Tricks

These designers rely on some tried-and-true tricks to pull together their rooms. “Things that we use a lot of are old wood and metallic spray paint,” says Van Guilder. “One year we just used different frames in all shapes and sizes and gave them a matte gold finish with spray paint. This works so well to bring together a bunch of random objects that suddenly tie together and are related.” Since Apotheca is also a shop, Van Guilder says they also do a lot of found objects and repurposed things, and she encourages homeowners to look around at what they already have. “We’re always asking, what do we have in the shed? In the basement? We use fabric, glitter, anything that gives it new life. It is fun to be nostalgic and fresh and current at the same time.”

The West Room decorated by Alyssa Van Guilder of Apotheca Flowers and Tea Chest. Van Guilder likes to use old wood and metallic spray paint. She also recommends searching your home for objects you already own and giving them new life with  paint, glitter and other materials. For greens, she likes to use mountain laurel or magnolia greens as they last longer than evergreens. Photo by Artifact Images courtesy of the BVI

Godbout looks to windows as places for holiday décor. “In the Keeping Room there are windows on the inside walls and outside walls, so I will string some pretty ribbon or ornaments,” says Godbout. “At times I’ve hung small wreaths, or a vignette from the ribbons hanging from the window panes with a pretty ornament or big beautiful colored ball so that it can be seen from both sides. Those are always beautiful.”

As for the greenery, both designers use things other than just evergreen. “With the BVI, we go from Thanksgiving in to Christmas,” says Van Guilder. “Mountain laurel or magnolia leaves are better options for us then evergreen because they last longer.” Adds Godbout, “We add topiary trees instead of the traditional Christmas trees. And in the garlands I use dried food — artichokes and berries and oranges -— which echo the idea that the room is used for dining. In Colonial times they did dry their fruit and use natural elements every day to decorate with. It ties together the tradition of New England and the room. The end result is so satisfying.”


The Keeping Room at BVI decorated by Nancy Godbout of Jacques Flower Shop. Twinkle lights nestled in greenery is a tried-and-true method to create a cozy glow. Photo by Artifact Images courtesy of the BVI

The most important element for both designers is lighting, and that usually means twinkle lights nestled in greenery. “Lights can add such a comforting glow. Both day and night, we have days where not that much light shines so we use lights in several places around the room,” says Godbout. “We do a garland around where the ceiling meets the walls and I usually put twinkle lights in that. I try to add little sprays over the doorways and I try to extend the lights into those too. I might add lights on shelves into a little accent bowl or tuck them into a little vignette of greens on the shelf. When you look around your home, think about if it needs lights.”

Van Guilder agrees. “Light is huge. Fairy lights, twinkly lights help create the feeling of magic. It changes everything as soon as we plug the lights in. We can have a lot of really beautiful things happening but until we add light it’s not that dynamic.”  


Categories: Features, Guide to Holidays, Holiday decor and decorating