If it were socially acceptable, I’d go straight from Halloween to Christmas. WHY? Because there is scientific evidence (somewhere) that proves those who decorate earlier are happier. Last year, I was VERY happy because I decorated in early November (for a shoot but left it), which meant 2 1/2 months of TOTAL JOY. No sarcasm there—it made all of us genuinely happy despite some child confusion and lack of extended advent calendar. This year, to get this to you before you even think about decorating, we took it even further and in early October, decked out the Portland house with the Target Threshold line (and now I’m very sad that isn’t all in my house…YET). The style we went with was a pulled back version of a very traditional Christmas full of classic components but styled in a fresh way. Think lots of green, pops of red, twinkle lights and cozy textiles…but keep reading to learn about all the elements, how to pull them together and some styling tricks that are super easy and high impact. Pump that Christmas playlist on Spotify (it’s okay, I know it’s early but HELLO HAPPINESS), and get ready to feel all merry and bright (FOR THE NEXT SEVEN WEEKS!).
But wait, because we’re all about anticipating needs here, we created this short video with Target for anyone who wants to skip the read and just want to watch “TV” (like my children!) instead. Hit that play button, listen to me throw some decor treasure nuggets at you for two minutes, and then either scroll all the way down for all the shopping details, or dive in deeper because you just must know more about that perfectly sparse tree.
Okay, back to our regularly scheduled content…
Red and Green is the New Red and Green
This was the foundation of our whole look, but not in the way you think. We wanted classic and warm yet updated and simplified, so hold on to your jingle bells, because we’re shaking things up. The red and green palette says “Christmas,” but how we incorporated it was not this explosion of these colors and no surface was dripping with decor. Here’s how to do it:
Green: This anchor color comes in here in actual greenery, like the tree, garlands, wreaths. You won’t find it really anywhere else here, and that’s okay (well, technically we brought it in in that velvet pillow…more on textiles later…and ribbon, but that’s the gist). We used faux greenery, which every year I’m like man, this is so easy, clean and, in the long run, so affordable and I’m not just saying that because it’s Target product. In fact, while now pinning for Christmas at the mountain house, I’m realizing how much easier it will be year after year to keep garland, wreaths and trees up there and in good shape. It’s a lifestyle choice, like marble versus quartz. Real and faux greenery both have major pros and cons. I love how the faux Target greenery looks in this room and with no mess or watering, and easy storage…
Red: Repeat after me—”I will not overdo the red, I will not overdo the red.” Listen, red is a powerful color, it draws the eye…that’s what it’s SUPPOSED to do. And while this is the time of year to go for it, for this more refined look, don’t use a ton of different tones of red—use it sparingly, in more graphic shapes and reduce the glam.
HOT TIP: Okay, so the real secret here to get that updated traditional look is to pair those red and green moments with a lot of neutrals—whites, blacks, woods and oatmeals ground everything and feels fresh and sophisticated. The black-and-white art, checkered throw (in the foreground on the sofa), wood credenza and black reindeer let the bolder red elements and the green garland have their moment without feeling heavy or overly ornate. This is not your grandma’s Christmas decor (unless your grandma is a cool grandma, and I hope she is).
I’m a firm believer in putting trees, no matter how big or how small, basically anywhere you can this time of year (do I need to remind everyone of the Christmas tree-a-palooza from last year in Charlie and Elliot’s rooms? or the fact that I’ve now done two permanent tree murals and I’m not stopping there? I take trees seriously, folks…perhaps I was an arborist in my former life? I’m not joking). This little potted faux tree just so happened to be the perfect little addition to this corner in the living room and provided that punch of green all those neutrals needed. It’d also be really cute in a foyer, a few of them bunched together on a console table basically anywhere, or even as a less over-the-top tree in a kid’s room.
Another great thing about staying more on the classic end with the color palette is that it will never get old. It’s classic for a reason. You can bring out this decor year after year, building onto it (or keeping it more minimal…whatever you like).
Pare It Back
To make the traditional feel more “updated,” use some restraint and go more minimal in how MUCH you decorate. This is actually more in line with our whole “Updated Classic” trend this year. Yes, you can go traditional, but if you want that more modern traditional look, then it’s about less. Not every surface has to be dripping with lights, mini villages, nativity sets, and fake snow (although I realize that’s like the pot calling the kettle black (or red) because remember this Christmas that was literally dripping with garland?). Pick a few areas to dress with decor and keep them refined and simple. A few suggestions: a mantel (if you have one), a pretty window nook or console table vignette, a staircase and entryway.
In the vignette above, we could have gone with a full wreath, but the half-wreath was a modern twist on a classic. Plus, its oversized scale (it’s HUGE at 45 inches and perfect for a big bay window like this one, but could absolutely also work over a fireplace) shakes things up further by being unexpected.
Speaking of entryways (and front doors), we went with a classic holly wreath on our front door. While a fresh wreath can be enticing to some, if you’ve never had one, you might not know the annoyance that is gently misting the back of it every few days, only to be greeted with who knows what little friends that have decided to take up residence in the branches. Oh, and don’t get me started on the needle loss…every time you close that door, your Pinterest-worthy fresh wreath is going to get a shakedown and grace your threshold with needles that will turn into brown bodkins, forever stuck in the spaces between your pavers. Again, it’s a lifestyle choice and I’ve done both.
SO, if you want to go the fresh wreath route, proceed with caution or I should say knowledge…or save yourself a little stress in an already stressful season with a faux version that frankly, is just as festive and good looking. You want something that will continue the design story past the front door (so I went with a red-and-green variety here). It would have felt like a bit of a disconnect if we had gone with something silver and gold tinsel out here. Think of all these design moments as chapters in the same story. Not to say you can’t throw in any twists, but…it all should work together or else you have yourself a messy plotline that no one can follow.
A fireplace mantel is an easy place to kind of lose control, so I’d suggest, well…let’s just move along to my next point to dive deeper into this:
Avoid the Christmas Chaos
Holiday decorating is one of those things that can either be a little paralyzing (“I have a tree…what else? I guess I’ll put this nutcracker over here…and light a pine candle?”) or a total free for all…in a not-so-cute way. There’s a happy place between a half-hearted string of lights thrown around a window and a tinsel explosion, and it’s about putting in the effort while avoiding chaos. But guess what? It’s super easy if you use the following trick: pick a few iconically Christmas elements and repeat them. This creates a high-impact look that’s actually incredibly easy to execute and more affordable.
Case in point: garland. I love to use garland in a soft drapey way throughout a room with just a few other decor moments thrown in. All the fireplace needed beyond that and twinkle lights were some stockings (which also speak to the theme of repeating one element a few times—we could have done a mix and match look here, but the trio of buffalo check brings in some neutral colors and graphic pattern to modernize a “traditional” Christmas decor element—and a stocking holder that brought in our punch of red.
Now, if you are wondering where all the first-grade child ornaments made of macaroni are hung, it’s very simple—you burn them. Make it a festive ceremony. Involve your kids!
They have to learn that style and sentimentality don’t always mix. JK. You can easily mix in those pieces and still get the look if they are in the color palette and if not, and you still want this more curated look then dedicate a secondary tree to sentimental ornaments. It’s the equivalent of having a hallway of family photos versus having then spread throughout your house. It’s a personal preference and both are perfect. It’s Christmas time—it’s up to you and it doesn’t matter. We are here to provide tips and styling support but if you want to hang Little Saffron’s brown paper foot-shaped ornament with beads and glitter on your perfectly curated tree, then please do that. It’s your funeral (I’M STILL JOKING—here’s a secret: despite knowing exactly what will look good, I really mostly believe that doing what makes your family as a whole the happiest is all that matters). I love this look, but would I do it with two small kids? Nope. That’s why we shot it up in Portland instead of LA. For us, right now in our life, I want macaroni ornaments, and yet I LOVE this look, too.
Okay, back to the garland…Bring that same greenery over to the staircase (if you have one) and don’t overthink it. Sometimes simple is the best answer. We added some fairy lights (these have a battery pack…don’t even think about needing plugin lights on garland anymore) and boom. It’s done.
You can also create special little moments throughout your house as we did here on the dry bar (a dry bar is a wet bar without a sink—like a prep space for drinks or food but nothing WET, only DRY, except ice, although dry ice is also welcome during appropriate holidays). We kept things toned down and pared back by just bringing in one item that screamed CHRISTMAS (the super fun brass deer antler candle holder). We could have gone with red or green taper candles there, but opted for that grayish blue because we already had our green and red happening in the cake platter, napkin and eucalyptus (which echoes the garland in the living room).
We can’t talk about Christmas moments without the big ol’ moment of the tree, of course. When we were planning this shoot, we knew we wanted something sparse and modern and this unlit 7-foot faux balsam fir tree was just the ticket. It gave us that almost Scandi feel that a noble fir offers (which, by the way, is “the” tree right now). It’s also a super easy way to use restraint and not go nuts on ornaments. Less branches = less need to fill every inch of tree. Oh, and because this tree was unlit (which I’d recommend because lights always seem to find a way to go bad or certain parts just stop working and then you’re stuck with a tree that has strings of non-functioning and supplemental lights), we took extra care to wrap the individual boughs to get that super glowy look without seeing a ton of cords.
Speaking of lights…
Look, you can never have too many fairy lights. That soft sparkle is fun day and night, BUT for the sake of a polished holiday look, choose your moments. Here, we tackled the mantel, tree, staircase and the sweet console vignette from earlier. We could have thrown some in the fireplace, strung some around the window, heck even wrapped furniture in it, but…wait, what was that I said about never having too many fairy lights? As has been the case for this whole post…pick your moment. Holiday glow is one thing, but looking like your house is on fire from the outside should never be the goal if you’re after something polished and sophisticated.
Let’s talk one second about the temperature of those lights. We went with the 90ct LED Dewdrop Lights by Phillips in a “warm white.” When LED twinkle lights first came out, they tended to be VERY blue and cold…almost icy. Maybe that was the intention, but things have changed. For our warm and inviting Christmas look, I knew I wanted to go the warmer route.
Okay, back to talking about this pretty tree. What’s a Christmas tree without ornaments, right? I find that there are two mindsets when it comes to tree baubles: change them out every year and create a “look”, or use the same collection (maybe passed down to you) that you grow year after year (including glittered craft pinecones and macaroni wreaths). For anyone who is looking for some fresh ideas or starting from scratch, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Pick a color palette and stick to it. We already had the green of our green and red palette, so it was all about adding in a few red moments rounded out with our neutrals.
- Vary your shapes and sizes. It’s easy to buy one of those giant 100-ct. canisters of all round ornaments, but if you want something that feels more special and thought out, it’s best to bring in a variety of shapes. Some big round, some small round, some teardrops, etc. I’m particularly fond of the below top-shaped wood ornaments. I might need to get those for my tree at home this year (plus, I don’t have to worry about glass shattering or little fingers getting hurt).
- Have fun with materials and finishes. Like with anything in design, it’s all about the mix. Sure, we could have done something edgy and SUPER modern by using all the same ornament in a matte finish, but that’s not what we were going for. To create an updated traditional vibe, we brought in both polished and matte round red ornaments, glittery black mini globes, some disco ball-like ones with facets to catch the light, and then, for our “updated” elements, there are ornaments wrapped in natural seagrass, snowy white yarn, and, my favorite, the blonde wood with leather strap.
Wrapper’s Delight (i.e. Check Something Off Your To-Do List That Will Also Add to Your Decor)
Pssst…want to know a stylist’s trick that also saves you hours during Christmas crunch time? Wrap a handful of presents early in your color palette and use them throughout your home in styled out vignettes to spread that holiday cheer while checking things off your list. This also ties back to my earlier point about picking an element and repeating it over and over again. Using packages of all different shapes and sizes in that pretty paper and ribbons (more on that in a sec) is high impact but also so, so simple.
Okay, let’s talk paper and ribbon. If you’re already putting thought into your decor, don’t stop before you get to how you’re wrapping those presents that are going under the tree. To echo our mostly-neutral-with-pops-of-classic-green-and-red look we’ve got going on, we created a base with brown craft paper and solid black and white. Then we mixed in one graphic pattern—the stripe—to bring in that bit of modern edge without feeling like a totally new element. We then repeated that stripe in the ribbon and peppered in some white, red and green ribbon to tie it all together.
Look how happy I am, sitting amongst a pile of plush, cozy textiles and “the Christmas pillow.” Sure, I may have over-applied my spray tan lotion on JUST my legs but I’m still happy!!! This is a thing (not the spray tan, the pillows) and it’s something I’m VERY into, but these are more updated and simple options that allow you to bring in the traditional holiday cheer without it feeling too kitsch or heavy. Keep things mostly neutral, but vary your textures (some fuzzy, some knit, some plaid, some velvet). I also like to swap out some of our summer textiles for more cozy and warm options like these faux fur and knit blankets. They say “winter” without just saying “holiday” so you are good ’til summer.
We LOVE a grid-print around here, and this red and white version feels just seasonal enough (plus it’s SO soft and cozy with a sherpa-ish lining on one side). If you don’t want that chair, you are a monster, or maybe just someone with too many chairs already. It’s my new favorite affordable chair (which I mentioned in my fall styling post—check it out here—as being my new favorite chair), wrapped in that blanket, drinking hot cocoa from that mug, having a quiet moment while you watch your children play nicely, using all their manners and inside voices while eating a plateful of kale chips gratefully and happily? That’s what happens when you buy this chair and live this life. It’s so easy!
There she is, the Christmas pillow. Every house in America needs one, of course. And while I love the holiday pillow, so it doesn’t stick out like an ugly Christmas sweater at a black-tie dinner, we kept it in a wintery cream color to feel subtle and blend in with the rest of the nubby textiles (but again, if you want a loud Christmas pillow GO FOR IT, we are giving tips for this look so you have some guidance but I really love all creative expression with Christmas pillows.)
I was ready to do this. I had been dreaming about a proper refined traditional holiday look. I love how this turned out so much that I almost bought this house myself, holiday decor intact. By keeping the traditional more minimal and refined, you can get this look and start even earlier and earlier.
If you like it, head to Target and snag your holiday decor (before the whole EHD staff grabs it all) to enjoy as long as socially acceptable. 🙂
1. Green Taper Candlesticks (set of 2) | 2. Black Candlestick Holder Trio | 3. Cedar Pinecones Artificial Garland | 4. Plaid Stocking | 5. JOY Stocking Holder | 6. Stringed Dew Drop Lights | 7. Black Ornaments (set of 4) | 8. Wooden Spindle Ornaments (set of 4) | 9. 7′ Artificial Tree | 10. Christmas Tree Skirt | 11. 50 pc Red/White/Silver Ornaments | 12. Floor Lamp | 13. Side Table | 14. Wingback Chair | 15. Fireplace Log Holder | 16. Gold Task Table Lamp | 17. Red Plaid Throw Blanket | 18. Dark Green Velvet Exposed Zipper Throw Pillow | 19. Wreath Gold Wire with Red Berry Pine | 20. Sofa | 21. Plaid Throw Pillow | 22. Faux Fur Pillow | 23. Seasons Greetings Pillow | 24. Cable Knit Lumbar Pillow | 25. Cable Knit Throw Blanket | 26. Seated Reindeer with Scarf | 27. Reindeer with Collar | 28. White Vase | 29. Gold Metal Tripod Lamp | 30. Red Wooden Tree | 31. Large White Wooden Tree | 32. Small White Wooden Tree | 33. Toile Velvet Oversize Lumbar Throw Pillow | 34. Red Hand Quilted Velvet | 35. Black Faux Fur Throw Blanket with Buffalo Check on Reverse | 36. Cream Faux Fur Throw Blanket | 37. Wood and Gold Serving Tray | 38. Blue Taper Candles | 39. Multiple Candle Holder Reindeer | 40. Holiday Icon Plates (set of 4) | 41. Eucalyptus Garland | 42. Glass Wine Goblet | 43. Red Glass Cake Stand | 44. Candy Cane Stripe Napkins | 45. Pie Server | 46. Serving Fork | 47. Rose Hip Wreath | 48. Square Tapered Planter | 49. Red Satin Ribbon | 50. B & W Striped Ribbon | 51. Green Satin Ribbon | 52. Kraft Postal Wrapping | 53. Melamine Plaid Serving Tray (set of 2) | 54. Natural Wood Chair (set of 2) | 55. Black Fabric Ribbon | 56. B & W Twine | 57. White Satin Ribbon | 58. 2′ Faux Pine Tree in Basket Small | 59. Red and Wood Tray
I love trying out new trends throughout the entire year, you know I do, but there is just something so nostalgic and warm about this classic traditional Christmas that makes me feel like, well, like I want to be a better person. I’m not just saying that flippantly. The second the holiday decor comes out I think ‘What can we do for others?”, which is also shaming as that should be something we feel more throughout the year. It’s a larger conversation but stay tuned for some fun holiday service projects. Because the holiday retail rush is for me in competition with my holiday service rush.
Don’t you all wish you could conjure the feeling of Christmas all year round (including that feeling of service).
So are you more traditional (like this) or more modern? Do you think that red and green are the new red and green????