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How Sara Created Her First Traditional But Youthful Christmas (With All Target)

Guess who’s back? Like the badly wrapped, yet extremely sentimental gift under a tree, it’s me. And as promised in my Halloween post, I’m here to share my freshly decked halls (…we can all agree that phrase isn’t inappropriate, but for some reason it really, really sounds like it is, right?).

I know, I know. It’s not even DECEMBER yet. So why am I here? First, I was ready. We’re spending a ton of time in our house (all day, every day), and so we decided we might as well get the MAXIMUM amount of enjoyment out of our decor this year. Secondly, because a lot of other people are also feeling this way, and we wanted to make sure we could share all these good Target links with you before it all sells out. 

As a few of you dedicated readers might recall, the last time I tried to decorate my old living space for the holidays it…uhhh…burned down. IT WASN’T MY FAULT. The fire had nothing to do with a Christmas tree set a blaze by one rogue light. The fire started in the apartment below ours, but it crept up and incinerated one full half of our living room. All the decor it didn’t turn to ash was melted. It’s now a hilarious memory, and we even took our holiday card photo that year next to our mostly melted tree among the rubble and ash. But the event left us pretty bare of holiday decor. And last year, around the holidays, we were still deep in renovations and had zero energy to decorate. 

So when we were thinking of safe set locations for this year’s Target holiday shoot, I threw my “house hat” in the ring. I could kill two birds with one stone – Provide a safe shoot location, and have my home PROFESSIONALLY styled by professional stylists Emily Bowser and Erik Kenneth Staalberg (a literal dream team). We ended up swapping out a few of our furniture pieces for Target pieces to give y’all shoppable “get the look” vignettes, and we went full out MAXIMAL on the decor (we’ve pulled it back just a little for our actual everyday holiday living). But it was so fun to style, shoot, and now live in. Yes, I am drinking hot chocolate, listening to the “Christmas Cocktail Jazz” playlist, while burning 4 different varieties of holiday candles as I write this. If you celebrate Christmas, I highly recommend it. 

Now I’m going to throw it to Emily (Henderson) to walk you through some easy tips so you too can make your Christmas dreams come true. Take it away, Em!

Make “Red and Green” Feel Edgy With Hits Of Darker, Moodier Colors

Sara wanted the traditional red and green and of course, I support any and all Christmas color palettes but I was curious how she was going to do it to feel fresh and youthful. When I walked into her living room I was so impressed that it did feel SO fun and not “grown-up” traditional. They did it by mostly adding in a heavy dose of black, navy, and darker reds. The black houses on the mantel have a modern feel, there are dark blues in the pillows and ornaments and they brought in more of a cranberry red in the pillows. WELL DONE.

Don’t Be Afraid Of “Christmas Kitsch”

Everywhere you look, there are traditional elements but mixed in is a lot of unexpected “Christmas kitsch” that took me a while to put my finger on. I was like, ‘why does this feel so fun’ and then saw it – kitschy elements everywhere. The Santa Clause garland over the sofa is so playful (but in the black works so well here). There are little deer on the cabinet on a bank of snow. Vintage-style metal cars with trees on top are peppered around and even the bike advent calendar.

I’m really hoping/requiring that Mac or Sara fully embrace the “elf on the shelf” tradition and hide it every morning in weird places and threaten each other with Santa being able to see if they are good or not. IT’S SO WEIRD BUT of course, we do our lazy parent version of it.

Add The Holiday “Glow” With Candles, Lights, And Light Up Trees

If you only do two things to set the mood it should be this – greenery and good lighting in the form of sparkly lights and candles (real or flameless). And bonus points if you get holiday scented candles – pine, cinnamon, cranberry. When I walked in it smelled SO GOOD because a lot of the candles in the fireplace were indeed scented and mixed together. This is especially awesome when you don’t have real greenery. They truly made the room smell SO good.

It’s also such a great non-functional fireplace hack – load it up with red, green, and white scented candles and make sure to vary the candle heights (use candle holders too!). It makes the room GLOW.

You’ll also see that those houses (stocking holders) have lights in them (and are only $30 for the set of 4!), which is another super easy way to bring in ambiance, and little pops of glow that at night make the room sing.

The trees on the dining table are so awesome (I have them in blush) because they are battery operated and glow up evenly – we haven’t changed our batteries in a couple of years. BIG fan. And if I can give one tip for the lazy decorator it’s ‘pre-lit’ trees, garlands, and wreaths. I know not all of them come with lights, but I always end up adding string lights so if you can get them lit, just do (like the trees on the black cabinet).

Such good holiday glow and cheer everywhere. I love those muted red velvet pillows with tassels. Can you believe they are only $20?? So super affordable and add a ton of style (they come in blue, too).

The No-Fail Dependability Of Wreaths (And How to Customize)

Wreaths add such high-impact “holiday” considering they are hung with just one nail (or command strip). Putting one over the mirror on the mantle (how good is that “mantle mirror“?? – GENIUS) transforms the mantel with just a simple shape and color.

They customized both of the above readymade faux wreaths with ribbons, which made them feel more custom and special. GOOD MOVE, team. The shape is so simple, so adding a twist to it is certainly a fun way to shake it up.

A New Way To Display All Those Cards

This year I’m desperate for cards – more than any other year. I’m tempted to make my address public because getting something personal in the mail, that makes me feel connected to the world seems like what we need right now. They came up with a genius way to display them with a super sweet garland and clothespins. I also love the creative garland “design” with the double layer, that you can obviously add more and more to. Please send me cards. I’ll do this and then keep them forever…

Little Affordable Festive Touches

Even if you don’t have a big space, you can still add in little “moments” like Sara, Bowser and Erik did in these shelves. I have those light-up tree faux candles, too and put them in my bathroom (by the way). And another wreath hack that they did was bind two sprigs together to hang above that horizontal space above the bookshelf. So good and easy.

Give The “Little Village” A New Spin, On Your Mantel

I love how they styled the mantel like a village scene – trees, houses, and even vintage style cars. It’s an updated “little village” (by the way, how shocked are we all that I haven’t gone crazy creating a miniature Christmas world yet? Don’t worry, will do now that the kids are older). The stocking holders that are a house make it easy to do this then add a few bigger and a few smaller.

You Don’t Have To Take Your Tree Too Seriously

I love how they just went for it, void of any pretentiousness. Some candy canes, some animal figurines, Mac’s nutcracker collection (how cute is that?). It’s just fun and unexpected, but easy to do. You don’t NEED a garland or even a star (!!!) if you have enough happening in the room, and it lets their eclectic ornaments (some of which they had collected post-fire) shine.

I am so happy for these two who can celebrate this year, fully decked out. A huge thanks to Target for partnering with us on this (yes everything is from Target besides the sofa and dining table furniture). Yes, even the rug which I couldn’t believe (it’s also just an affordable price for an area rug).

Congrats Sara and Mac on their first holiday in this home. I hope you all got some great ideas here – my EHD team – Bowser, Erik, and Sara really knocked it out of the park (and thanks to Mac for letting us invade your house for days. xx

And if you were worried that we wouldn’t give you ALLLLLL the links, worry not:

1. Christmas Ornament Set Emerald & Gold | 2. Unlit Metal Gold Christmas Tree Topper | 3. 7ft Pre-lit Douglas Fir Artificial Christmas Tree (similar) | 4. Christmas Lightbulb Ornament Filter | 5. Truck Christmas Tree Ornament | 6. Holiday Peppermint Candy Canes | 7. Red Jingle Bell Christmas Ornament | 8. Dressed Sheep Mouse Ornament Green | 9. Dressed Sheep Mouse Ornament White | 10. Dressed Sheep Mouse Ornament Gray | 11. Dressed Sheep Mouse Ornament | 12. Red With Stripe Gift Wrap | 13. Tinsel Star Christmas Tree Ornament | 14. Felted Mice Ornament | 15. Diagonal Stripe Metallic Gift Wrap | 16. Solid Gold Gift Wrap | 17. Fabric Ribbon | 18. Red and White Twine | 19. Black Wired Ribbon | 20. Red Glittery Wired Christmas Craft Ribbon

1. Esters Wood Armchair | 2. Red Velvet Lumbar Pillow | 3. Santa Sleigh & Reindeer Garland | 4. Woven Area Rug | 5. Round Forged Brass Drink Table | 6. Turned Metal Accent Table | 7. Coffee Table | 8. Natural Acacia Dip Bowl | 9. Green Glass Vase | 10. Holiday Pom-Pom Square Throw Pillow | 11. Oblong Flannel Plaid Throw Pillow | 12. Chunky Cable Knit Throw Blanket | 13. Chess Board Game | 14. LIT Medium Mercury Glass Christmas Tree | 15. Brass Round Tray | 16. Tapered Candle Holder Set | 17. Ho Ho Ho Christmas Mug | 18. Santa’s Helper Christmas Mug | 19. Round Quilted Velvet Throw Pillow | 20. Blue Velvet Throw Pillow with Tassels

1. 22″ Christmas Frosted Berry Wreath Red | 2. 4pk Black House Christmas Stocking Holder | 3. 5′ Unlit Decorative Greenery Garland | 4. Over the Mantel Mirror | 5. Ceramic Traditional House| 6. Ceramic Church | 7. Large Bottle Brush Tree | 8. Small Bottle Brush Tree | 9. Stripe Knit Christmas Stocking Green & White | 10. 6′ Unlit Artificial Christmas Garland Red Berry | 11. Small Station Wagon Decorative Figurine | 12. Large Metal Truck with Christmas Tree | 13. Metal Barn Decorative Figurine | 14. Metal House Decorative Figurine | 15. Metal Church Decorative Figurine Black | 16. Flocked Bottle Brush Set Decorative Figurine (2 pack) | 17. Bottle Brush Christmas Tree Set Decorative Figurine (2 pack)| 18. Flocked Bottle Brush Christmas Tree Set Decorative Figurine (4 pack) | 19. Brass Pillar Candle Holder Gold | 20. Tall Ceramic House | 21. Ceramic Stout House | 22. Small Metal Truck Decorative Figurine Red | 23. 8″ Christmas Candy Theme Nutcracker Set| 24. Aseana Small Tapered Bin | 25. | 26. 6″ x 3″ Ribbed Pillar Cinnamon Joy Candle | 27. 3pk Unscented Pillar Candle Set| 28. Ribbed Pillar Balsam Forest Candle | 29. Unscented Pillar Candle White | 30. 7″ x 4″ Ribbed Pillar Cinnamon Joy Candle | 31. 3-Wick Ribbed Pillar Balsam Forest Candle | 32. 6.2″ x 5.5″ Metal Bookend Pyramid | 33. 12in Unlit Tinsel Christmas Tree | 34. 15in Unlit Tinsel Christmas Tree | 35. 18in Unlit Tinsel Christmas Tree

1. 22in Unlit Artificial Pine Christmas Wreath | 2. Vintage Rubens Gentleman Framed Board | 3. 22in Pre-lit LED Eucalyptus Mixed Greenery Wreath | 4. The Elf on the Shelf | 5. Bicycle Advent Calendar | 6. Wood Accent Lamp | 7. Square Alarm Clock

1. Linen Kitchen Textile Tablecloth Natural | 2. Cotton Yarndye Plaid Kitchen Towel | 3. LIT Large Mercury Glass Christmas Tree & LIT Medium Mercury Glass Christmas Tree & Small LIT Mercury Glass Christmas Tree | 4. 12″ x 8.5″ Iron Taper Candle Holder | 5. 3ct Faux Fur Deer Set | 6. Holiday Woven Plaid Square Throw Pillow | 7. Velvet Throw Pillow with Tassels | 8. 3″ Decorative Bells | 9. Snow Blanket with White Glitter | 10. Windham Tall Cabinet with Drawer | 11. Marble & Acacia Cake Stand | 12. 80oz Porcelain Beaded Footed Serving Bowl | 13. 16″ x 20″ Sepia Tone Sketch Of Woman Framed Wall Art | 14. Large LIT Gold Glittered Decorative Tree & Small LIT Gold Glittered Decorative Tree | 15. 13.4″ x 8.4″ x 4.1″ Marble Serving Stand | 16. Porcelain Teapot | 17. Inner Tree Striped Stoneware Mini Mug Red/Sour Cream | 18. 2.5L Porcelain Pitcher | 19. Small Rolls Royce with Christmas Tree on Top | 20. 12pc Glass Old-School Assorted Tumblers | 21. Beaded Garland Red & Natural | 22. Papyrus Twigs & Berry Tree Card Pack | 23. Minted 10ct Toasty Thermos Boxed Cards | 24. Green Inspired Kitten Boxed Cards | 25. Papyrus Prelude Cropped Gold Ornament Card Pack | 26. Green Inspired Plaid Snowman Boxed Cards 16ct | 27. Minted 10ct Greenery Wreath Boxed Cards

1. Metal, Wood & Leather Bar Cart | 2. Large LIT Gold Glittered Decorative Tree Figurine Green | 3. Wine Bottle Glass Christmas Tree Ornament White | 4. Wine Glass Christmas Tree Ornament Red | 5. Glass Martini & Olive Cocktail Christmas Tree Ornament | 6. Striped Linen Pompom Christmas Tree Skirt Red & Brown | 7. Holiday Peppermint Single Candy Cane | 8. Champagne Bottle Christmas Tree Ornament | 9. Wine Bottle Glass Christmas Tree Ornament Red | 10. Wine Bottle Glass Christmas Tree Ornament White | 11. Glass Manhattan Cocktail Christmas Tree Ornament | 12. 3L Stainless Steel Ice Bucket with Tongs Gold | 13. Cotton Yarndye Plaid Kitchen Towel | 14. 2.5oz Stainless Steel Double Jigger Gold | 15. | 16. | 17. 12pc Glass Assorted Beveled Tumblers | 18. 21oz Stainless Steel Cocktail Shaker Gold | 19. 5pc Bar Tool Set With Stand Gold | 20. 24″ Christmas Bell Wreath Gold – Threshold | 21. Black Wired Ribbon

1. Artificial Pine & Red Berry Stem | 2. Picture Frame Christmas Stocking Holder | 3. Medium Metal Truck with Christmas Tree | 4. LED Tree Candle | 5. Mini Cable Knit Christmas Stocking | 6. Ceramic Snowman Decorative Figurine Set | 7. Flocked Bottle Brush Christmas Tree Set | 8. Limestone Bookend | 9. Bicycle Advent Calendar | 10. Faux Leather French Seam Ottoman | 11. Boucle Faux Mohair Throw Blanket | 12. Berries Throw Pillow | 13. Chunky Cable Knit Lumbar Throw Pillow

Sara’s outfit: Sweater | Velvet Skinny Jeans | Clogs | Headband | Earrings
Emily’s outfit: Dress | Sandal Pumps

*Photos by Sara Ligorria-Tramp
**Styled by Emily Bowser and Erik Kenneth Staalberg

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3 years ago

So fun. Congratulations I’ve been thinking of Christmas so much the last few weeks. Thanks for all the ideas

Kim B
3 years ago

Oh this is just SO fabulous. I especially especially love the fireplace — those green stockings just SING to me with that cranberry wreath over the mirror.

So many fun moments here. It’s incredible to look at every little thing that went into it, down to stoneware in the hutch and those fabulous chairs and coffee table. I want it all!!

Thanks for putting this together and bringing some Christmas cheer into my Saturday morning.

Kim B
3 years ago
Reply to  Kim B

P.s. I live abroad so am not able to go home for Christmas every year – last year was one of those years.

My parents are getting older, and not so agile to get up in the attic and get down all my Mom’s Christmas decorations if no one is there.

So last year I “went” to Target online and picked some table linens and a few other fun pieces to send them so they be greeted with Christmas cheer in the living and dining room in the days surrounding Christmas. Looks like I will need to do that again this year as — as for most of us — travel is definitely out this year.

Sending love and warm thoughts to those who can’t or aren’t gathering with family this year because of the pandemic. It’s not easy, but hopefully if we are disciplined this year, we can be together next year.

3 years ago
Reply to  Kim B

Kim, that’s so sweet. x

3 years ago

Blending vintage items in decoration is what I like the most.

3 years ago

I’ve found that I can only tolerate so much Christmas decoration. Don’t get me wrong: I love the holiday, and this miserable year I dragged out my holiday decor earlier than usual, to cheer myself up and to change up the static home environment. But I just can’t take too much of it all over the place. I start to feel claustrophobic, drowning in holiday crap. I don’t decorate every room. And I try to consolidate Christmas in a few spots — like displaying 7 pretty glass trees all together in one spot, rather than scattered about the room. I don’t want every surface drenched in Christmas.

I know this was a style shoot and that Sara plans to scale back on the holiday decor for her “real life.” But I kind of want to see the “After” picture: After the style shoot was over, what decorations did you keep in the space and what did you remove?

3 years ago
Reply to  LouAnn

Yes! I too would like to see the decor she keeps with her own furniture. Please do another post with just the keepers.

3 years ago

Those sheep ornaments are coming home! Yup. I got “influenced”. And I’m leaning towards actual stocking hangers. Alas, the black are no longer available…

3 years ago

(Yes, I know, shouting out when you do a post, it’s becoming a thing, haha!)

I wanna wallow in your Christmas decorations!
So playful and fun!
That’s actually how I decorate my tree (when I used to do it), candy canes and all!

I have some very kitsch gear, like a largish china Santa that holds a candle inside, some ancient wax reindeer from my parents’ first Christmas together, various animals wearing hats and scarves (remember, Christmas in Australia is in the heat of mid-summer!), and… some actual pine cones my mother smuggled into the country from the USA on a trip back there to visit rellies (relatives)… sooo naughty! Australia has big fines for bringing in plant material!

Basically, love an OTT decoration-fest and trust me, next year, when can do this, I’m a-gonna DO it! BIG TIME! 😂

You’re already growing your fringe (bangs) out?!?
So nice to see Mac in his decorated home, too (plus a kitty).

Yaaay! Lifted my spirits. Thank you. xx

3 years ago

This was a nice example of maximalist decoration for the holiday. Not too stuffy or too much. When I was in my 20s I used to decorate everything and break out special mugs and dishes for Christmas. I put lights in the windows (visible from the street) and decorations all over. But I only had a 20 inch Christmas tree that I put on my octagon end table. I decorated it once and at the end of the season it went fully decorated into a garbage bag then into storage. Every year the tree came out ready to plug in. But as the years wore on it got to be too much work to decorate like that. There was a clutterbug in my life who kept filling my place up with clutter. Decorations either got lost in the clutter or there was no place for them. Now oh so many years later I hang up white lights around my windows visible inside only per HOA rules 🙁 and get a BIG poinsettia and call that my tree. I hang up paper snowflakes from the dining room chandelier. That’s it. My place is too small with too little storage to be… Read more »

Maria Roberts
3 years ago

BUut… why is the cat lounging like a human on Mac’s leg? What a classy kitty!

3 years ago

Sorry, but the black houses remind me of the ones that burnt down…. 🙁 Otherwise, it is a nicely decorated room.

3 years ago

I love Christmas decorations but I’m Jewish and I’m just wondering if you could do a post about more general holiday decor. Not necessarily something for other religions but just how to bring this seasonal feeling to a home without the use of trees/stockings as a focal point. This might not fit with how anyone on your team is decorating but I think readers would enjoy it.

3 years ago

This is a really basic question for someone who is also setting up a Christmas tree for the VERY first time! What kind/color ornament hooks do you recommend using for ornaments that come sans a hook? Silver/gold/green?
P.S thanks for all the ideas – your place looks fantastic!

3 years ago
Reply to  Esha

Esha, I use black coz they disappear and silver because you kind of don’t notice the m quite as much.

3 years ago
Reply to  Esha

Esha, I’ve used paperclips that I straightened out (leaving both ends hooked so that one end can hook into the ornament and one hook over the tree). They are perfect for keeping ornaments secure on the tree, because you can squeeze the end that’s hooked onto the tree nice and tight so they don’t fall off, and just get plain silver ones to blend in with your decor!

Karen T.
3 years ago

It looks amazing!

3 years ago

Hi EHD team! Great post! I would love to know the source for Sara’s hairband, have been looking for a velvet braided one for sometime.

Also, I want to second others here that it would be great to also see some minimalist Christmas decor for those of us who either don’t have storage space or the budget. Like maybe all foraged natural decor? Just a thought — either ways I love this decor too!

3 years ago
Reply to  Kap

All foraged natural decor is a beautiful idea — I’d like to see that too.

3 years ago

I’ve been living thru Online Rug Buying Hell this past month. (There’s one from Rejuvenation rolled up by my front door, waiting for UPS, right now. The real thing looked so different from the photos I’d admired for years.) Anyway, I’m going to try that Threshold rug you have, but in cream. It looks really nice. Wish me luck!

3 years ago

So much to enjoy here. I would not have been surprised if you said the bell wreath with black ribbon was $120-150. It looks very high end because the ribbon is black.

3 years ago

Love the house (as always!), and the festivity is a lot of fun and just makes me smile.

Emily, if you set up a P.O. Box, we could totally send Christmas cards to you. 🙂

3 years ago

I need Sara and Mac to be on the blog until they are 80+ yrs old. They are the best!

3 years ago

I loooove the candles in the fireplace. We have a non-functioning fireplace and we stack it with candles in winter. Of course, Christmas here in Australia is during summer so this year I’ve filled the fireplace with a vignette made from a super cute wonky potted yucca palm hung with baubles, the wooden nativity scene my Nonna brought me back from her trip to Israel, a ceramic cross from Greece and one of those candle holders that has a scene painted on it (of a Mediterranean city) that glows when the candle is lit. It’s very Christmas-in-the-desert which feels appropriate both for Australian heat and for the climate of the middle east where Jesus was born!