Deck The Halls

December 1, 2014
Tips and trends in holiday decorating.
By Susan Kehoe, Ph.D.

There is no more special time of the year to decorate the house than during the holidays. Whether you go all out with live greens and designer ornaments or have your hands full just wrapping the presents, everyone appreciates well-executed holiday décor. We’ve checked in with some local designers to bring you this season’s decorating tips and trends.

Birmingham residents and designers Arturo Sanchez and Barry Harrison (Art|Harrison Interiors ~ artharrison.net) designed a two-story holiday tree for clients. They created three layers of lights by starting with a pre-lit tree and winding LED lights around the trunk from top to bottom. Next they placed additional star-shaped strands of lights between the branches to add sparkle. More than 2,200 ornaments adorned the tree.

Harrison suggests, “To create depth, place some ornaments deep inside the tree as well as on the outside branches.”

Many ornaments were crystal-studded and hand-beaded; others had flat, shiny and clear surfaces in hues of gold, silver and platinum. Over-sized ornaments were added to balance out the enormous scale of the tree.

“That’s where holiday decorating misses the mark,” says Harrison. “It’s important to properly proportion the scale of the decorations to the tree or the room.”

If you’re not sure about a tree this year, mantels and console tables have become a favorite focal point for holiday decorating. In a house originally remodeled by designer Shirley Maddallena, Gabrielle Reilly (Flowers by Gabrielle ~ Gabbydesigns@aol.com) designed the holiday trim. In a stunning statement, Reilly draped garland across a mirror and crystal sconces, creating a sweeping arc that continued to the console table below.

“For ‘Transitional Style’ homes, understated holiday trim is the most elegant way to enhance the rooms,” Reilly said. In another part of the house she used a lighted garland to hug the foyer archway. The garland was entwined with gossamer ribbon and hints of small silver and gold balls.

Arturo and Harrison suggested dressing the dining table for the holidays.

“It’s an interesting way to invite the festivities into that room,” Arturo said.

In this contemporary setting, they started with a shimmering table cover, custom cut from a bolt of material, to fit from end to end. They added several clear glass vases of red amaryllis, interspersed with large dimensional stars and votives marching down the center. Red napkins and a candy cane hung on each wine glass added a special touch. Gifts on each seat welcome guests and reawaken the childhood anticipation of unwrapping a present. Family traditions often include giving a special or collectable ornament as a table gift. What a wonderful way to bring back memories of past celebrations year after year.

For an intimate holiday dinner, Shirley Maddalena (Maddalena Designs ~maddalenadesigns.com), Bloomfield Hills designer, demonstrated how to transform a small space into a scene reminiscent of a Tuscan villa. Maddalena started with a red velvet tablecloth and layered it with Tiffany holiday place settings, elegant chargers and glittering placemats.

“It’s all about the layering,” Maddalena said.

To further personalize the setting, she included a classic Tattinger cooling bowl that contains everyone’s favorite drink. The centerpiece consisted of white roses mixed with fresh greens from the yard and laced with simple red ribbon, intentionally kept low to avoid obstructing the guests’ view of each other.

Kevin Serba (Serba Interiors ~ Serbainteriors.com), Birmingham resident and designer, said that “Casual Elegance” seems to be a trend today. He dressed a holiday table with a collection of interesting pottery (in this case mid-century white pottery) scattered down the center to create sculptural interest. “Casual elegance adds the unexpected — like red tulips for a twist on traditional holiday flowers,” Serba said.

In keeping with the theme, he also used pottery for the candleholders. “Candle light never goes out of style,” he assured us.

Perhaps you can use some of these ideas to toast in your holiday celebration or the New Year. NS

What’s Trendy

Color themes: White, glittery gold, amber and shimmering silver along with traditional red and green or blue and silver. Crystal and beaded décor for highlights.

Flameless candles: Wax-dipped pillar candles come with a 1,000-hour battery life, timer and remote control. Provides safety around children.

LED lights: Available on thin bendable wire for garlands, holiday tables, inside anything. They come in white and amber shades.

Snowflakes: Replace window wreaths with snowflakes. String several together to create a snowfall affect. Dangle from high ceiling foyers and walk-throughs.

Outdoor containers year-round: Remove summer flowers and fill containers with a natural display. Holiday touches can be added in, and then removed from the arrangement at season’s end.

Natural and woodland décor: Cluster different-sized “twig trees” with burlap-wrapped bases and dust with snow or outline branches with a few lights.



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  • Richard M. Haggerty
    December 2, 2014 at 6:56 PM

    What a timely and well written article in your December issue. The Holiday decorating theme from the local professional designers in the Deck The Halls section is outstanding. The pictures and layouts are terrific and the story itself is well written. We will be using some of the ideas presented and I’m sure the results will make our Christmas season very enjoyable. Thanks again for your excellent article.

  • B. DeHut
    December 3, 2014 at 7:56 PM

    I appreciate the inspiration provided by the article and photos, as well as the names of design resources consulted. Useful, just-in-time information. Thank you.

  • Mark
    December 4, 2014 at 12:06 AM

    What a great article. Everyone wants to decorate during the holidays, but many of us actually shy away just to avoid possibly ending up with a sloppy or even tacky look. However, this year I’m going for it, guided by several of the ideas laid out here. I feel like I’ve been empowered to confidently add holiday touches with sparkle and class.

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