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We Break It Down: How to Decorate For Christmas One Vignette At A Time

Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | From: My First “Refined Traditional” Holiday Look…Holiday Style

Happy December Ya’ll! On Friday, way back in November, we talked about the “new” ideas on the Christmas decorating scene. But you know what? Emily and past EHD team members have decorated some pretty beautiful holidays spaces over the years that are chock full with beautiful and useful tips. So to help you maximize your Christmas style, I am going to dissect some of our favorite vignettes to help you further get inspired and maybe attempt some similar looks. Now first and foremost…the tree.

The Traditional Tree

Emily Henderson Holiday Vignettes Traditional Tree
Left: Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp, From: My First “Refined Traditional” Holiday Look…Holiday Style | Right: Photo by Zeke Ruelas, From: At Home With Ginny For Christmas

There are lots of ways and color schemes to choose from when decorating a Christmas tree. But there is something truly wonderful and extremely nostalgic about a traditional red and green color combo.

Emily’s Portland tree (left): She went a bit more modern with a tree that isn’t as full (more sparse and Scandi) and with hits of black to ground the red and green. It looks “cool” but happy.

Ginny’s traditional tree (right): She went more cozy with a fuller tree and hits of gold instead of black. What is also fun about her tree is that she used both a basket for a stand AND a faux fur tree skirt to give it a maximum cozy look.

Now, in terms of ornaments, both of them evenly spaced out sizes, colors and textures to make sure the tree felt visually balanced. Man, I would love to come home to either of these Christmases.

The Modern Tree

Emily Henderson Holiday Vignettes Modern Tree
Photos by Sara Ligorria-Tramp, Left to Right: Brady’s Holiday Decor | How We Decked Our Halls for Christmas | Our Living Room Holiday Reveal

I’m sure it’s no surprise (if you know my general aesthetic) but this is the type of tree that speaks to me…the modern tree. Nothing too crazy here, just three different color schemes that don’t involve red but still knock your holiday socks off.

Brady’s monochromatic tree (far left): What makes it awesome is that the tree itself is perfectly imperfect. Not a sparse Scandi type, but a tree that has some excellently placed “bald” spots. Brady kept his color palette 100% neutral, letting the greenery of the space be the star and the ornaments adding the perfect amount of glitz.

Emily’s 2018 warm neutral tree (middle): This is my dream tree. I love how “pleasantly plump” it is and goes against the traditional, more slender conical shape. Then Em still kept it neutral with the ornaments but with happy warm tones like copper, gold and blush. She also kept it kid-friendly with little animal ornaments and personalized frames (all within that same color palette). It’s just such a good tree.

Emily’s 2017 neutral and navy tree (far right): This is the perfect tree and color palette for someone who wants a neutral-toned tree but still wants a bit of a traditional feel. I’m talking navy blue. This tree has a ton of playful kid-friendly ornaments and is made even more playful by the hits of dark blue. Modern but so darn cute.

The White Tree

Emily Henderson Holiday Vignettes White Tree
Left: Photo by Jayme Burrows, From: California Winter Wonderland Glam | Right: Photo by Tessa Neustadt, From: Decorating For The Holidays – Family Friendly Style

I wouldn’t say I’m a white tree kinda gal but when they are done right, they are pretty undeniably wonderful. They call for happy colors and a big dose of playfulness and that is exactly what Emily and team did for these two beauties in her old house.

Emily’s warm metallic ribbon tree (left): This tree is proof there is no one way to decorate a tree. If you like just ornaments, great. If you love garland, wrap that tree up. And if you love bows, then you go for it and adorn oversized bows onto your tree. Tell me that’s not fun and straight-up delightful?! But the reason why it works is because the rest of the ornaments are pretty simple in texture and strategic in color. There aren’t a ton of animals, frames, wood objects etc. Just a handful of slightly differently shaped, metallic balls.

Emily’s kid focused red and green tree (right): Tell me this tree doesn’t make the kid inside of you light up. The key here is to keep the reds and greens bright! This way they really pop off the white of the tree. Then from there, it’s just about fun. Adding in little Santas, candy canes, hot chocolate mugs and a red beaded garland help to give some visual breaks for your eye to rest. Because otherwise, it’s happiness overload.

***Side note Emily prefers the “warm light” color for her string lights. It just makes everything feel cozier. 🙂

The Garland

Emily Henderson Holiday Vignettes Archway Garland
Top Left Clockwise: Photo by Zeke Ruelas, From: At Home With Ginny For Christmas | Photos by Sara Ligorria-Tramp, From: Brady’s Holiday Decor | From: How We Decked Our Halls for Christmas | From: Our Living Room Holiday Reveal

Green garland is probably one of my favorite Christmas decor accents. It makes such a big and luxurious statement in a room. So aside from a classic mantel look, Emily and team mainly use them to frame a doorway or a window. I mean look at how amazing they all look. Also, don’t be afraid of faux garland either. The top two photos (from Ginny and Brady’s homes) are faux and look incredible. Then in the bottom two photos from Emily’s past two Christmas’, we have some real greenery. HOT GARLAND TIP: On Em’s stories on Friday, while at the flower market, she said that getting garland that has mixed greenery in it not only looks textural but also gives you leeway to pepper different types around your room/house instead of feeling like you have to stick to one kind. ANOTHER HOT GARLAND TIP: Mix some real greenery in with faux (like eucalyptus) to add more dimension and fullness.

Adding Cheer To Kids’ Bedrooms

Emily Henderson Holiday Vignettes Kids Rooms
Photos by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | Top From: Charlie’s Room, Decked For The Holidays | Bottom From: Elliot’s Metallic Holiday Bedroom

I grew up always having some kind of holiday decor in my room (and stocking on my door handle, of course). So I know first hand the positive effects on a kid’s mood. Now, I didn’t have Emily Henderson adding in that cheer (what a dream) but here are some great ways to bring Christmas from the living room into the bedroom courtesy of Emily Henderson herself.

Charlie’s classic Christmas room (top two): Most of us probably have more than one set of sheets so we aren’t taken hostage by the washer and dryer for a couple of hours. Why not have one of those kids’ sheets be holiday-themed? Totally easy and so fun for your little one to get to curl up in Christmas spirit each night. Then, it’s just sprinkling a handful of other decor around the room in a cohesive color palette and chances are your munchkin will be incredibly pumped.

Elliot’s blush Christmas room (bottom two): Blush holiday heaven I say! But aside from the overall general whimsical magic of this room, let’s look at what Em did so you can recreate. One is a bundle of trees with fake presents in different sizes and colors. All are metallic and work beautifully within the color palette. Plus SO fun to get to play “Christmas” more than just the one day. HOT TIP: Well it’s kinda a no brainer but for safety keep all ornaments shatter-free and/or plush. The emergency room in December is a hard pass if you ask…well anyone. The other super easy decor item to put up in your kid’s room is a garland that has a holiday saying. Small touches can make a huge difference to a kid…I promise.

Adding Cheer To Adults’ Bedrooms (and Bath)

Emily Henderson Holiday Vignettes Adults Rooms
Top Photos by Zeke Ruelas, From: Ginny’s Christmas Bedroom | Bottom Photos by Sara Ligorria-Tramp, From: How to Bring “Winter” In (Without Going Full Holiday…Yet

Now just because we aren’t kids anymore doesn’t mean we shouldn’t throw some holiday spirit into our rooms, right?! Sure we’re the ones decorating but let’s take Ginny’s room (top two) as proof that a simple wreath, some twinkle lights and maybe even some stockings can bring A TON of holiday spirit into your room. But we don’t have to stop at the bedroom because if Emily’s mountain house master bath is any indication, then a wintery bathroom is magical and now I think necessary?? A wreath and a little tree can, once again, go a long way. Give yourself this little but effective gift.

Mantel Styling

Emily Henderson Holiday Vignettes Mantels
Top Right Clockwise: Photo by Tessa Neustadt | Photo by Zeke Ruelas | Photos by Sara Ligorria-Tramp

There are a bunch of ways to style a mantel for Christmas as exhibited above. In the top row, they all have a little “scene” to bring in some fun personality. The top left has an adorable lumberjack scene, the top middle has reindeer and pinecone set up and the top right has that super cute but neutral snowman scene. Play around with what you have and see what happens. HOT TIP: We like to style in groupings. Notice the assortments of three’s and two’s.

Then for the bottom three photos, it’s obvious we are fans of the garland and candles look (we recommend faux candles to avoid any potential fires). We like to keep it simple and let the garland be the showstopper and then lightly sprinkle in a small amount of candles…and of course stockings. ANOTHER HOT TIP: If you have three or less stockings then hang them on one side. It looks cool and intentional.


Emily Henderson Holiday Vignettes Shelves
Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp, How We Decked Our Halls for Christmas | Photo by Jayme Burrows, From: California Winter Wonderland Glam | Photo by Zeke Ruelas, From: At Home With Ginny For Christmas

Styling out shelves can be tricky but it doesn’t have to be. Remember that you are probably going to need to take some things off to add in the holiday flair. That way it doesn’t look like you crammed a bunch of Christmas decor into every open crevice (HOT STORAGE TIP: stash anything away you remove in the boxes/containers you keep your Christmas decor, that way you can swap everything back when it’s time to take down the festive stuff). Remember to stick to your color palette, add in a hint of greenery and don’t be afraid to think outside the box. For instance. Emily used ornaments on her shelves last year (far left photo) and Ginny put little bottle brush trees in a glass display box (far right photo). So stinkin’ cute, right?

Non-Mantel Stocking Hanging

Emily Henderson Holiday Vignettes Alt Stocking Hanging
Left to Right: Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp, From: How We Decked Our Halls for Christmas | Photos by Tessa Neustadt | From: Decorating For The Holidays – Family Friendly Style | From: 12 Days of Instagram With Target

For those of you like myself (fireplace-less), you have to get creative with the stocking hanging situation. But fear not because the EHD team has come up with some fun ideas over the years. Essentially you either need to find a tall enough surface or make one. Sounds easy right? Well, that’s because it is. I really love the stockings on the credenza from Emily’s living room last year. So simple and gives a very similar aesthetic to the fireplace look. But if you don’t have a credenza then using some sort of railing or stair rail are other great alternatives (they are sturdy enough for heavy filled up stockings). Our last (but probably most creative) is the present tower. Just wrap up some boxes, make sure they are weighted and tall enough to hold the stockings up and then BOOM you have yourself a hanging surface.

Non-Set Dining Tables

Emily Henderson Holiday Vignettes Dining Tables
Left to Right: Photo by Zeke Ruelas | Photo by Jayme Burrows | Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp

Usually there is really only one (maybe two) big family dinners that happen after Thanksgiving…Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas Day dinner. Basically your dining table is most likely going to remain fairly casual for a majority of the season. But what if you want to decorate it so it looks festive all season long? That’s where we come in. Nothing quite says winter wonderland like little tree figurines. They are the perfect dining table decor piece. Always choose an assortment of sizes and even colors if that’s the look you want. Then from there, add in candles, or a small pelt (like in the middle photo) or a long table runner (like in the far right photo). Lastly, throwing in a few other little items like house figurines, ornaments or even winter animals will help to round out the whole look. Just remember to keep it simple.

Other Surfaces

Emily Henderson Holiday Vignettes Surfaces
Top Right Clockwise: Photo by Sara Liggoria-Tramp | Photo by Zeke Ruelas | Photo by Sara Liggoria-Tramp | Photo by Sara Liggoria-Tramp | Photo by David Tsay | Photo by Sara Liggoria-Tramp

Last but not least let’s talk about general surfaces like consoles, cabinets, credenzas etc. First, you want to think about the rest of your space and how “decorated” it is. Why? Well you want to avoid going ham on every surface. You want your eye to be able to dance around the space (hopefully to a jazzy Christmas playlist) and feel like it can rest in certain areas. BUT with all that said, a larger surface is a super fun place to play. Each of these photos gives a different look to be inspired by. But what they all have in common is that they live within a tight color palette, they all have varying scales of objects and most of those objects repeat. Just make sure that the overall look is visually balanced. Unless it’s on purpose (and you are a rule breaker) don’t put everything on one side. Group like a champ and spread the love.

December is here, joy is hopefully feeling more abundant by each passing minute and you feel even more confident in decorating what will undoubtedly be a beautiful holiday filled home. If you have any burning decorating questions, let us know in the comments and we will do our best to help. xx

Love you, mean it.

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4 years ago

Lots of great inspo! How do you hang garland over a doorway? Command hooks? Tiny nails?

4 years ago
Reply to  Amanda

Everything looks great! I also am curious how the garland is hung. I have tried command hooks with the putty and they don’t stick. The stickers have ripped paint off my walls, so would love to know the secret to hanging it. Thanks!

4 years ago

Beautiful spaces! I appreciate you titling this as Christmas specific. While I acknowledge the efforts of you (in previous posts), other bloggers, stores etc to be inclusive and say “holidays,” usually that just means Christmas. As someone who does not celebrate Christmas, I’m not offended by its ubiquity! I am however irked to click on a holiday link, hoping for perhaps a snowflake print or cozy throw, only to find 100% Christmas. Thanks again for the appropriate labeling and Merry Christmas!

Jennifer Laura
4 years ago

So CUTE!! Love all of the excessive use of garland! I’ve been following along for years and remember each of these spaces- they are all so cute, thanks for sharing!

4 years ago

I bought so many ornaments before themed trees were a thing, or at least before I knew they were a thing (30 years ago). I’ve continued to collect ornaments and probably stopped buying them about 10 years ago, because I have too many! I could probably sort them and create a themed tree, but I love an eclectic tree. We use a faux tree for convenience, but I’ve always preferred the more sparse noble fir or silver tip trees, even when a full tree was the trend decades ago. I love all the ideas here and the inspiration. I’ll definitely use some as I finish my decorating today. Thank you for a fun post!

4 years ago

faux garland recommendation?

4 years ago

You do such a great job of hiding all of the hanging hardware! I would love to see some behind-the-scenes pics on how you accomplish the decorating magic!

Are you using nails, command strips, or museum putty to hold things in place?

Any tips on how the garland were hung over the arch walk throughs?

4 years ago

Somehow I must have missed the memo about only using white lights at Christmas. I have “tacky” multi-color lights! Shame on me! Clearly I have no future as a stylist. 😉

Nancy Spalding
4 years ago
Reply to  LouAnn

maybe not, but for a family, the brightness and craziness of colored makes things look more real, less “styled”…

4 years ago
Reply to  Nancy Spalding

So true! We go pretty restrained and classic for most of our Christmas decor, but for the tree we go FULL. OUT. Multicolored lights, multicolored ornaments, ornaments everywhere, tinsel … unsurprisingly, while I typically do the bulk of the decorating, we have two young kids who love to decorate the tree each year 🙂

4 years ago
Reply to  Nancy Spalding

Yeah, over stylized Christmas seems kinda plastic and hollow. Cold and off putting…like Catherine O’Hara’s sculptures in “Betelgeuse.”

Christmas decorating is supposed to be on the overdone, ever so slightly tacky side!

4 years ago
Reply to  LouAnn

We live in an A frame home built in 1971 and I specifically chose colored c9 lights for our tree. It looks great and gives the whole room a warm glow. I also decorated a lobby today and chose colored lights for the mantel. When I was finished, a group watching me from the second floor applauded my efforts. A lot people actually love color at Christmastime – makes them feel rather nostalgic I think.

Tina Schrader
4 years ago

Love! These past few weeks have contained some of my favorite articles, including this one. Thank you!

4 years ago

I love all of these beautiful looks! I’m wondering if you ever have had a post about decorating for Hannukah. I’ve married into a Jewish family and I would love some inspiration for decorating without it looking too much like Christmas. Thank you!

4 years ago

Nicole from @makingitlovely posted the most genius tip for hanging garland. Cut it I half, swing one half around, the wire back together. This way the garland is falling the same direction on both sides of the door, window or whatever you are hanging it on. She saved it to her Christmas highlight if my explanation doesn’t make sense ?