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Decorating For The Holidays – Family Friendly Style

It’s like my inner party girl called a meeting with my inner toddler and they styled out my house together. I never thought in my life I’d veer towards ‘Dr. Seuss’, nor did I think that green and red would be my color palette. But, I love it so much. Every year I do something different (that’s my job/excuse, right?) and this year I went ‘Whimsical Traditional’. Life really does become about seeing things through your kids eyes and with two small kids I was less interested in sophistication, and more into creating an environment that felt really playful and fun for them this holiday season.


Our kids are going to think that Christmas lasts for 6 weeks and that’s just fine by me. They helped me decorate and as you can imagine were extremely excited about the art direction of the living room. Everyday they are excited about the art direction – I have trained them so well.


So here are some tips to having a family-oriented holiday, that still looks like you know what you are doing and doesn’t feel too juvenile.

We used traditional reds and greens BUT added blue in the mix, too. Any colors will work, just make sure to combine them with some solids so it’s not chaotic. Since we have a ton of white in our house it was super easy for us to mix in a lot of really bright, primary colors. I’m having a pretty intense love affair with red right now so I knew that it was going to dominate to color palette.


I was attracted to the decor that looks like toys – the nostalgic camper, the animals – anything that they read as a toy instead of a grown-up more sophisticated decor piece was what I shoved in my cart while I was shopping.


So yes, tap into your inner kid and have fun with it.

Santa, Frosty and Rudolph become familiar friends to your kids this month. The more the merrier and style them together, everywhere.


Those snowmen are so cute, so kid-friendly and the kids see them as toys that they can play with – and we let them. Did I ever think in my life I would get excited to buy a pillow with Santa’s jolly face on it? NOPE. But I am, and I love it and so do the kids.


By going this more playful route it made it easy to not have to worry about the decor breaking or getting ruined. If you don’t want your kids to break it then don’t put anything within reach that they can break OR that can break them. Hang glass ornaments on the top half of the tree and put fabric, wood or plastic ornaments within reach on the lower half. Go for the softer decor on coffee tables and now is your chance to use a cute toy as a styling accessory.


I only bought one box of glass ornaments that were super pretty, but I didn’t even mean to. Honestly with kids just buy plastic balls – they aren’t quite as pretty but once you step 2 feet back from it, you can’t even tell.

The kids play with all of the ornaments so they end up on the ground which is obviously something I don’t care about. Also that toy train is so cute and even blows steam when it is on. I love how it’s manageable in size and the buttons are so easy for the kids to push. I bought a rickety one at the flea market a couple of years ago that didn’t work, was dangerous, huge and just ended up taking up so much space. If you are in the market for a train I highly recommend this one (although buy backup batteries to prevent a meltdown as our kids played with it so much that we already had to change it out).




Next – when it comes to being low maintenance and kid-friendly, don’t be ashamed to skip real greenery. If we make it into the new house before Christmas (WHICH WE WILL I SWEAR) we are going to buy a real tree. But I’m not ashamed to go for a fake tree as well. And while a real wreath smells so great, that wreath is GREAT and man it was easy to just hang and light. Big impact for low shame.

Readymade wreaths, small trees, and garland will make your life easier, create less mess and your kids will love them just as much. Plus you can pack them away and use them year after year.


Layer holiday inspired textiles anywhere possible. If you are a holiday pillow person, now is your red carpet moment. But I know that many of you are more ‘winter textile’ people or hell, maybe you don’t feel the need to trade out pillows year round like some of us. I think it’s seriously a nice way to make your space feel festive and inviting. I’m here to tell you that its not cheesy or weird.

They are soft and kid friendly, create instant coziness and really bring a sense of the season to any room.


To make it magical for them even at night, fill the house with kid-friendly twinkle. Nix the real candles for battery operated twinkle lights that you can put anywhere and everywhere. My kids are obsessed with them and it gives it an entirely different feel once the sun goes down.


I switched out some of my more serious pieces of pottery to help give the shelving the holiday decor they deserved. Once it started it wasn’t easy to stop, but you don’t have to do as much as I did. Even just adding a couple pops of color over there would have worked, although I do like the level of holiday I forced that piece of furniture to wear.


We did it. And if I have it my way we’ll do it again in two weeks at our new house ( but the real question – should I style it a different way then???).

If you want to see this all in action go ahead and watch this video that Brian made about me making a kid-at-heart holiday:


I’m pretty into it. Every day it makes me happy and we spend most mornings and nights down there, with the fire on, playing with the kids, destroying that living room and not caring.

Also we did a quick shot up in Elliot’s room because that wallpaper and daybed deserved some holiday as well. I love the quiet vibe up there, certainly (I know that might be more of some of your style).


In my humble opinion, it’s really the most wonderful time of the year and it truly doesn’t matter WHAT it looks like. You could do something super traditional, untraditional or do the exact same thing every year (which sounds super comforting to kids). But it is possible to create a holiday home that makes both you and your kids equally very, very happy and no matter what as long as you are happy that’s all that matters, right?

And in case one video wasn’t enough, we pulled this one together to show you how to add a little a little kid friendly holiday whimsy to your fireplace.

Last but not least we have pulled together this roundup to “get the look” in case any of you are ready for a little more family friendly christmas decor in your life. If we missed anything, or if there is anything specific that you want a source for just leave your comment below. Is anyone else still decorating for the holiday?

1. Santa Pillow | 2. Large Wreath | 3. Red Plaid Pillow | 4. Bottle Brush Medium Tree | 5. Bottle Brush Large Tree | 6. Red Stripe Pillow | 7. Blind Mouse Ornament | 8. Top Hat Snowman | 9. Red Star Tree Topper | 10. Pom Garland | 11. Plaid Reindeer Ornament | 12. Falala Pillow | 13.  Skating Bear Pillow | 14. Green Knit Stocking | 15. Red Knit Stocking | 16. Plaid Nutcracker | 17. Polar Bear | 18. Camping Birds Set | 19. Winter Mountain Snowman | 20. Mug Ornament | 21. Origami Snowflake Pillow | 22. Blue Plaid Pillow | 23. Fable Nutcracker Ornament | 24. Textured White Pillow | 25. Santa Head Pillow | 26. Noel Pillow | 27. Reindeer Pillow | 28. Snowman Skier Ornament | 29. Train Set | 30. Merry Pillow | 31. Red Truck | 32. Ball Head Ornament | 33. Decorative Ball Ornament | 34. Santa Gnome Ornament | 35. Plaid Picture Frame Ornament  | 36. Monogram Red & White Ornament | 37. Green Hat Snowman | 38. 40ct Red Ornament Set | 39. Red Truck Ornament Set | 40. Camper | 41. Nativity Set | 42.Wreath  | 43. Singing Santa


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73 thoughts on “Decorating For The Holidays – Family Friendly Style

  1. I Loveeee this holiday décor! It’s so sweet. It’s a very realistic look, like I could actually use these pieces at home with my toddler and not live in fear of him breaking everything 🙂
    Designer-made beautiful but sometimes not so realistic (for my home) rooms are great for inspiration, but it’s nice to see spaces like this as well that I can picture fitting into my home as well. Merry Christmas!

  2. Dude. It’s less than two weeks before Christmas and most of this stuff is either sold out in the stores and online or if it is available online, won’t get here until a week before Christmas at the earliest. This post would have been super helpful a month ago. Super cute stuff though!

    1. I agree! Same with the gift lists, it would have been nice to see all this stuff a month ago! Christmas decor goes up the day after Thanksgiving (or often Halloween these days) so it would have been nice to see this all sooner.

  3. i know you’re a stylist for target, but i’m really uninspired when it’s just a post about all of their holiday stuff in your house. i can see this on their website. i want to see other companies represented as well (preferably small businesses) and overall, just more stylish and unique holiday items. i also wish you could show more sophisticated holiday decor options for those of us who do not have kids. i’m a long time EHD fan but am really struggling to believe that you actually like some of that stuff! sorry, just my 2 cents…

    1. You might be interested in our new product – Curtain Claws!

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    2. I was kind of thinking the same thing. It just looks like one of everything from Target with no cohesive thought. Plus who changes out their decorations every year? I add a bit of new stuff to what i already have each year but can’t afford to completely change it up.

    3. I’m kind of the opposite. I prefer seeing Target stuff to flea market or high-end boutique items I’ll never buy or find.

      I also like the lateness of this post. I haven’t even done my house yet for xmas. To me, it’s not special if it lasts 5-6 weeks of the year.

    4. I agree. I have been following EHD for a while and this is just not consistent. I love a good Target find, but a lot of these are poor quality. I really value Emily’s eye for design and her creativity, but these posts are throw-aways for me. Not loving it.

      1. Well Lilly, that makes me sad and feel terrible, but I appreciate the feedback. I really enjoyed decorating for the holidays with my kids in a really kid-friendly, family oriented way. But looks like the result isn’t for everyone (nor does it have to be – it is our holiday experience, after all). You guys know that I create content for a living, and that means trying out new things to show different styles, but in no way suggesting that anyone needs to switch out anything ever in their life to be happy. Hundreds of thousands of people read this blog and many of them are moms like me with young toddlers that make the usual holiday decor challenging so this was my ode to you (and its not the only way to be family friendly, either), so while many of you can’t relate to this, perhaps many of you can. All in all, it honestly doesn’t matter because its what I said in the video: the only thing that matters is making those kids smile, no matter what style or where you buy/borrow/inherit it. And this room and style is making those kids smile and laugh every day since.

    5. I love Target’s products and much of their holiday line, but I have to agree with the comments here. There seemed to be very little thought placed on incorporating the branded items with your own personal style. Where is the mix of vintage and maker pieces that we usually see alongside the Target products? I read this blog for design inspiration, not just shopping guides. I don’t mean to be negative – I just don’t feel like this post reflects what I’ve come to expect from EHD.
      Also, I may have missed it, but shouldn’t there be some sort of disclaimer on this post? It may not be directly sponsored by Target, but if you’re on their payroll and styling a post exclusively with their products it seems you should say something about working for them for people who may not know of your relationship.

    6. I disagree with the notion that everything Emily does has to be sophisticated or unique. I think these Christmas decorations are adorable and entirely appropriate for little kids. Though I would like to see the Christmas posts a little earlier in December.

  4. Gorgeous post! I absolutely love your black entry bench with the merry pillow on it. I’ve been looking for a 40″ bench like this. Any ideas on where I can purchase a similar one?

      1. Mine gets delivered Friday and I can’t wait, it will be in my entry with brass hooks above it (from Ferm Living). Thanks again for all of the inspiration!

        I’m not seeing a source for the wooden J O Y letters in your nursery, do you mind sharing?

  5. We did our real tree in the same colors this year – red, green, and blue! It was a first as we were putting it up yesterday – funny to come on today and see your house in the same palette! We have several other small fake trees (a white, a gold and another green one) that get decorated slightly differently each year, but the unifying theme throughout the house is woodland creatures. Fingers crossed for you to be in the new house before the holidays!

  6. I like this post, even if it contains only target products that are not so easy to buy in Germany…. But Emily, what happend to your gorgeous fiddle leaf? And how did you trick Charly into re-enacting Christmas Morning?

    1. OMG how can you tell that its sick??!! it has aphids and its just not doing well. Its dropping sap all over my furniture, actually. It’s a total disaster. We want to keep it alive long enough to move to our new backyard … and ha, Charlie was honestly so excited about christmas. He is 3 after all 🙂

  7. Does anyone know where that teal rocker is from? I’ve been a long time follower but I don’t remember it ever being listed in any home posts for a source.

    Merry Christmas!

    The PJs and toy train are all too sweet!

  8. This is all so cute, I love it! I actually have a boy and a girl just about the same ages as your kids and I have to agree this is a perfect, kid friendly Christmas set up. Such a beautiful job! I’ve been looking for a red wooden garland like the one you have on your tree. Is that from Target as well?

  9. I don’t celebrate Christmas. But I’m super into the white blanket with the giant tassels to the left of the fireplace. Talk to me about that please!

      1. It’s from CITTA in Australia (not available here) and its awesome. I should have put in the rest of the sources but I’ve just blogged about them so much so I just put in the holiday decor. Sorry!

        1. Thank you! And I imagine many of your readers are not from “here” so enjoy seeing items from other countries – including me as I’m in Canada.

  10. I asked this on your Halloween post aswell; What do you do with all these decorations once the holidays are over? Surely you dont store 100x Christmas cushions all year long?

    1. I swap my sofa cushions out with the seasons but live in a tiny flat so don’t have space for lots of storage. The solution is just to buy new covers (not the padding inside) in the same size as my existing ones. As the season changes the are then washed, ironed and put in the cupboard for 9 months! I also sometimes swap the sofa ones with my bed ones to change the look up a bit.

      1. Thanks for that Bea. The cushions was just an example though, i mean, the amount of “stuff” added to that room, the decorations, the tree, the garlands etc… (& i know its a bit different because this is a sponsored post…) but surely Emily (&others?) doesnt store all of that all year long?
        What do other people do? Do people buy new each year and then throw them away? Or donate?>

        1. I would think that other people store them and probably don’t buy 9 holiday pillows like I did 😉 I have no idea what I’m going to do with this. I have the last two years in my garage and I’m going to move them all to the new house and go through it and see if I can collate them together in a way that makes sense or donate them to a charity.

        2. I don’t buy all new stuff every year. Each year, I buy a few new things (and TRY to give away a few, but rarely do). I have way more Christmas stuff than I need, but it’s the one thing I love collecting. I just moved into a new place, so I’ve had to decide what I can use and what I can’t. If my designs for one year are a success, I take a photo or draw a sketch to remember what I did for the next year.
          My cousin has a policy that everything on her tree has to be handmade, and all the family gifts are handmade as well, but I am not that ambitious!

    1. I swap my sofa cushions out with the seasons but live in a tiny flat so don’t have space for lots of storage. The solution is just to buy new covers (not the padding inside) in the same size as my existing ones. As the season changes the are then washed, ironed and put in the cupboard for 9 months! I also sometimes swap the sofa ones with my bed ones to change the look up a bit.

  11. I used to have a pretty sophisticated tree but that went bye bye when we adopted our first grandkid. Put came all the animal ornaments, the fabric stars, the fluffy llamas (who doesn’t love a Christmas llama?) and tassels. They love it and so do we.

    Christmas is more fun when I’m not the ONLY kid in the house.

  12. I could never understand the concept of non-breakable stuff because you have kids. Our Christmas decor comes from my childhood, so late-80’s mercury/glass ornaments all the way. With two kids aged 4 and 6, and tons of cousins and nephews, the only globe broken this year was broken by me while decorating the tree. When kids approach the tree, we tell them to be careful because the ornaments break, and we show them how to touch them gently. We’ve never had an accident.

    Also, they can play with the breakable stuff: I have a pottery nativity set from Provence that I love and add to each year: my kids have been playing with it for years. “Just be careful”. If a piece breaks, I’ll replace it. Never had to do it, you should see how lovingly they play with it !

    So, I’ll never buy decor just because I have kids (I buy toys for that matter !). I use the one I’ve had for years, and don’t want to replace it every year, it’s way to sentimental for that. Also, I feel like kids who only have non-breakable stuff actually break more things because they are not taught to pay attention. Playing with fragile items is a lesson in itself (provided it’s not overly dangerous, like the glass globe, in which case the lesson is “touch with you eyes, not your hands”, a great lesson in self control).

    Anyway, I’m really into Elliot’s room ! The rest is a bit too whimsical for me, but I really like how you pulled it off !

  13. So lovely! You always make it work no matter which colors or style you use. The thing is, your space is cool and grown-up enough that all the kid stuff can’t make it juvenile. Something to keep in mind for most of us mortals, is that an average-or-less-than home will not accommodate fun, trendy, crazy, wild etc. in the same way that a place with sophisticated bones and furniture will.

    But I do appreciate your non-judgemental attitude about holiday décor. Happy holidays, and don’t kill yourself getting 2 Christmases this year! Although I can’t wait if you do make it happen (and live).

    Truly, your Christmas posts are so gorgeous, and I had to go re-look at Orlando’s Christmas post from last year, because that was so good, too. Ooh! Didn’t check to see if he has one up for this year yet.

  14. This doesn’t seem like EHD style. (What’s with the crazy ribbon on the wreath?) Love Target, and love your collaboration with them, but this seems like a departure. Regardless, love that you put everything out there.

    1. I’m honestly shocked at the feedback, but always appreciate it. Yes, I work for Target but I pitch them design/post ideas based on what I want to do and what product I love and this year I really wanted to do this christmas – reds, greens, kid/family oriented, etc. And I think it still really looks like us. Maybe its the red. Maybe people are just shocked that I went red and green? Dunno. But be prepared because the red is here to stay 🙂 Seriously appreciate the feedback – I always learn something from it. Also I’m sure that having two small kids I’m being a bit miopic and maybe not appealing enough to more of you. I’ll adjust and move on 🙂

      1. Yes to everything you wrote. “Talking” to you as if this is just a job (and one that I am no part of) is terribly unfair. Please know that I am sorry.

        You have wonderful priorities and live a life so full of honesty, excitement and creative energy, it is inspiring. I am sure the kids loved this. I apologize for participating in the negative comments. You go, mama.

        Sincerely, Abbey

    2. LOL! I didn’t even notice the ribbon at first! Considering that you switch around the books on your shelves to make sure the colors jibe (which is too OCD for me), the fact that you’d let that ribbon go…ha ha ha!! But maybe that’s good! You’re having so much with your family that you don’t even notice (unimportant?) stuff like that 😀

  15. Emily, I feel so bad about all the negative feedback you’ve received, it must have been a ton of work to pull all of this together. I just assumed you went with red and green as your style has been becoming more traditional recently. I think it all looks beautiful.

    1. And she’s in the process of moving and running a business and renovating a home on a tight deadline and making Christmas special for her kiddos and so many other things we probably have no idea about. Red, green, blue, orange, zebra striped, or pink camo Christmas. Whatever. Kudos to you, Emily Henderson, and to your family and team, for keeping these posts coming and for not appearing to lose it. 🙂 Have a wonderful Christmas full of love in your new home! May you get a well earned chance to take a deep breath and rest.

      1. Thank you, Michelle. That comment made my eyes all glassy. It’s always hard to hear negative feedback, but even harder when my kids are part of the post – even in an authentic normal ‘decorating the tree’ way. So thank you for your strengthening comment. It was needed. Happy holidays. xx

        1. I don’t intend to drag this on, but I guess this is a good time to share that 1) I’ve been following you since Design Star (I was so worried they wouldn’t choose you bc your style wasn’t something you could find on HGTV at the time. It was so refreshing!) 2) I check your blog almost daily and have never commented before (probably won’t again) 3) The Emily Henderson that you share with all of us appears to be someone who is constantly -CONSTANTLY- striving to grow and be her very best in all parts of her life. I admire that immensely. Sometimes, it’s easier to
          give up or not care or keep things as they are out of comfort. That’s not you and that’s a wonderful way to live. 🙂 No need for you to reply. You’ve got bigger things to do than to reply to this. 🙂 Just thought this was the perfect opportunity to share this. I look forward to follow as you continue to grow, through mistakes and successes. Thank you for placing your heart and talents out there for all of us!

  16. Hello! Love the “Merry” sign on the white shelf and the three white Christmas trees, where are they from? Thank you!

  17. I’ve been checking in periodically to see your Christmas styling post and I think this is adorable. The red and green is unexpected and the way you’ve styled it makes it look quite fresh and inviting. I don’t have kids, but I do have a husband who is a big kid at heart and who always wants <> at all times. I saw a lot of things in this post that makes me more confident in incorporating some of these family-oriented pieces in an adult-only home. I’m majorly crushing over that white tree! Thanks for your hard work and you’ll get no flack from me for posting a little later in the season (content creation is time-consuming)! Happy Holidays to you all!

    1. Thank you! I can play all sophisticated but like your husband i’m a kid at heart. Well, like a 16 year old at heart anyway. xx

  18. Good grief! These comments. I thought your Christmas decor felt young and playful but still displayed your style. Your children are only young for a finite amount of time. Continue to do what makes you happy and brings them joy too. Even though you will likely do something different next year, I would like to suggest that you keep their favorites to recycle every year at least in personal spaces. This is the time to create memories and special moments with them that you will all cling to forever. Even my young adult children enjoy the youthful traditional ornaments and decor. I find a place for them somewhere, even if I go with non-traditional theme.

    1. Thank you 🙂 and yes, we already have a couple things that are going no where even if we do a different style next year. They have their favorites (and me, too). xx

  19. Aww, love that first video with you and the kids. My 3 year old is also loving the advent calendar and tree decorations this year. He has brought back my joy in the holidays.

  20. Dear Emily – what you do is super hard, providing content for a design blog is no easy feat. So I commend you lady! I love what you do, and you are right, only because I follow you does not mean that I have to love everything that you put into your blog. I follow many blogs and many designers, inspiration comes from many different sources, and that is how I have developed my own style. What I particularly love about you is your playfulness and the commitment to staying true to your mission that “perfection is boring; Let’s get weird.” that to me has been so helpful in my design choices! I love this post and its playfulness! Thank you! Happy Holidays!

  21. I have a very similar stone fireplace with no mantle. How did you hang the big wreath on the stone? I am trying to avoid drilling into the grout. I love the idea of doing a huge wreath!

  22. I’m sure it’s in a former post, but is there a source (or name) for the bells (buoys?) hanging to the left of the fireplace?

    I feel like i need something hanging, but sculptural on one of my empty walls and having trouble finding the right way to search!

  23. I love the decor and I especially love when you incorporate Target for holiday decor (a lot of us don’t want to spend the big bucks on stuff only up for a month!)

    And anyone who has been to Target since Halloween knows how much curation went into this–they have a billion items and I can always count on you to find the diamonds in the rough!

    I have a 1 year old learning to walk, so I deeply appreciate how much you are mindful of folks with small kids and always have suggestions for how to make styling work for families. I don’t want to have an empty house for years just because I’m afraid of my kid ruining stuff.

    I also appreciate when you show stuff that’s not practical for kiddos (and fully admit/embrace that it would not work in your own real life! We like to see the pretty stuff too) Basically, you rock at the balance and I love every single thing you post!

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