From subtle neutrals to darkened jewel tones and lush velvet accents to festive glittering objects, there are so many ways to decorate for the holidays. Not all of them, however, are expert-approved. Ahead, discover the styles, products, and aesthetics interior designers are choosing for their own homes and parties this year.
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June Reese of the Houston-based luxury boutique design firm House of June Interiors chooses seasonal items in line with her everyday taste: "My holiday decorating aesthetic is much like my personal and brand style: modern, bold, and sophisticated," she says. For Reese, this means rich neutrals—like lush cream, warm browns and tans, soft taupe, and sophisticated black—paired with glimmering, saturated jewel tones and eye-catching prints. "When it comes to prints and textures, I love to pair the unexpected," she says. "Cool, abstract prints paired with classic stripes and African-inspired patterns are my absolute favorite."
For the holiday dinner party she'll host this year, Reese chose a black-and-white tablecloth with a geometric rain-inspired print and black alligator-textured vinyl placemats. White glass snowmen sculptures and a shimmering silver garland add shine to the tablescape, while sapphire-colored velvet trees provide an abstract dash of color. "Your décor does not have to be mainstream or straightforward," says Reese. "Step outside of the norm—do what makes you feel good!"
After years of decorating a pure white Christmas tree, Francis Toumbakaris of Francis Interiors in New York City has a "traditional-with-a-twist" vibe planned for this year. "I purchased a pencil-shape, very tall, green tree with thousands of fairy lights," he says, but instead of classic cherry-red and bright green, he will work with dark burgundy, forest green, and black tones. "I'm going to have a bit of a more German or Austrian feel with a modern twist," he says, noting that he was inspired by velvet H&M pillow covers with a fox and reindeer styled after vintage Victorian portraits.
"It's very easy to bring the holidays into your home," he says, citing small, festive details that take your spaces not just into the Christmas season, but through the winter. Complement your solid-color sofa with soft, inexpensive throw blankets in chunky knits, cozy wool, or festive plaids; display your favorite heirloom ornaments in a small vignette on a side table; and add a little bit of glitz in an unexpected spot. "It can be something as simple as buying a box of glass ornaments and displaying them in a glass bowl," he says. "It's so simple and it creates such a festive atmosphere."
In Honolulu, where designer Shaolin Low of Studio Shaolin offers interior design and home staging services, the Christmas atmosphere is different from the snow-covered scenes typical in movies and television shows. "Hawaii is an interesting place to live during the holidays because we don't really have seasons," says Low. "It's kind of the same all year around, except for the rain that comes from November to March. That being said, there's always a reason to decorate!" When hosting for a group, Low often asks everyone to contribute to the overall aesthetic by bringing flowers, monstera leaves, ti-leafs, and other plants from their yards. "We piecemeal everyone's contribution together to make floral arrangements or tablescapes," she says. "It's a sustainable and fun way to bring color to your space. Hawaii is all about community and getting together." Low buys fresh her fresh Christmas trees from sustainable farms, and decorates it "Charlie Brown-style" with heirloom ornaments saved from her childhood. "My mom bought each of us one ornament every single year of our lives, so I have a bunch and I'm following the same tradition with my girls," she says.
She plans to start a new tradition this year, too: buying outdoor decorations. "A lot of the décor around here is tropical, since we don't have snow—I almost prefer the houses that go all out and look like they threw up Christmas in their front yard," she says. "This year will be the first year we decorate outside, and I plan on doing lights with local plants woven into them." Low considers the entire sensory experience when planning her holiday vignettes. "I think smell is a huge part of the vibe—I love to put on the essential oil diffuser and have cinnamon going through the house. Or, nothing beats the smell of a turkey or pie baking," she says. "I swear I could have nothing up yet, but if something is in the oven, we feel like it's time for the holidays!"
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