Holiday Decorating: Top Designers Share Their Favorite Tips

By KLAFFS Editorial Staff

Great Ideas for Adding Sparkle to Your Home

As you pull the boxes of holiday decorations from attics and storage lockers for yet another year, here’s a roundup of ideas from some of the area’s top designers to help you raise your holiday decorating I.Q. Read all the way to the end for great ways to freshen your home’s holiday look as you entertain for friends and family during this most special season of the year. Check out the designers’ websites and social pages for year-round décor concepts.

Gregory Allan Cramer
Gregory Allan Cramer & Company, Inc., Scarsdale, NY

A great place to look for fabulous Christmas decorations is Jamali Garden, 149 West 28th Street in New York City’s floral district. The store has everything you can imagine and more to make your holidays sparkle in style….

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Pictured: The Christmas tree and decorations Gregory designed for the Bartow-Pell Museum Mansion last year!
Photography courtesy of John Phelps/Image Faucet

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Tori McBrien
McBrien Interiors, Fairfield, CT

I have a couple of tips I’d love to share:

No matter what time of year, I love using fresh flowers. During the holidays I bring in crimson poinsettias, cheery variegated amaryllis, and even sprigs of classic holly throughout my decor to bring warmth and softness.

And… We have always been big twinkle light enthusiasts in my home and we think we have perfected the art of adorning the Christmas tree with lights: Start from the bottom and wrap tightly around the trunk as you work your way up. Then come back down the tree coming out only halfway, taking breaks to step back and make sure you haven’t left any dark spots. Finally, use a few last strands to wrap around outermost parts of the branches. This way, the tree appears to glow from the inside and the ornaments will twinkle from all the lights.

Cindy Rinfret
Rinfret, Ltd., Greenwich, CT

This is a season for generosity so be generous with your holiday decorating! I believe that when it comes to holiday decor – more is more! Don’t be afraid to layer lush greenery onto fireplace mantels and other focal points. Add lots of candles for light and warmth.

My mantra extends to Christmas trees. You don’t have to limit yourself to one. I decorate trees all around the house – including one for my dogs, hung with doggie ornaments and treats for them. Have a lot of fun!

Photography courtesy of Michael Partenio

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Linda Banks
Banks Design Associates LTD, Falmouth, ME

Tabletop decor is such an important part of holiday decorating. My trick is to jazz up greenery with candlelight, apples and a little glitter. I buy mini wreaths and then find very large pillar candles and put them in the middle of the wreaths. The candles are large and dramatic (six inches in diameter is my preference) and are so festive surrounded by the greenery.

To add color and texture I arrange baby apples around the leaves. I pile up the apples in little mounds nestled into the wreaths and add whole nuts like pecans and walnuts. It almost looks like a food platter but better because I then sprinkle it all lightly with glitter. It makes for an enchanting dinner.

Barbara Lewis
The Lewis Design Group, Stamford, CT and Glen Cove, NY

Magnolia garlands are my go-to greenery for the holiday season. Real magnolia garlands age beautifully, if stored properly, and can be used from year to year.

Real is best for most holiday greenery but when it comes to the Christmas tree I recommend an artificial tree. The sturdy branches in artificial trees really allow you to go all out with lights and ornaments, without the worry of the decorations staying in place. It’s the way to go if you like to decorate early in the season. Later in the season I add a second real tree — because more is more when it comes to the holidays.

To add color to the greenery, it’s fun to incorporate the classic and chic color combo of blue and white — it makes for a natural companion for many color palettes, including red and green. I particularly love to use blue and white vases for holiday floral arrangements. It’s also a fabulous, sophisticated look when mixed with tartan plaids. Blue and white absolutely takes holiday decor to the next level. (Editor’s Note: The Blue and White idea is a good one for those celebrating and decorating for Hanukkah.)

Photography courtesy of Kimberly Gorman Muto Photography

Stephanie Rapp
Stephanie Rapp Interiors, Weston, CT

The new mini battery-operated LED string lights are a game-changer when it comes to holiday decorating. Their micro design adds an ethereal sparkle in any location or application, without worrying about unsightly wires or a power source.

My favorite way to create a “wow” moment with these lights is to integrate them into a tabletop centerpiece for an illuminated dining focal point that delivers a dose of drama, while still being elegant and tasteful. The trick is to nestle the lights into some holiday greens. I love to arrange these on white birch logs and then tuck a few strings of the mini LED lights within the logs for added glow and dimension.  For some added glam, fit the lights inside a few of your favorite holiday balls and rest those amongst the greens.

Now that the table is set, it’s time to have a party and nothing speaks of fun and sophistication at a holiday party like a bar cart. Stock it with your favorite spirits, make a signature cocktail and add some vintage glasses and barware for some extra style. It is sure to be the life of the party.

Rachel Duffy
Duffy Home Solutions, Greenwich, CT

Lighting Adds Sparkle and a Welcoming Mood

We all know decorative lighting creates that welcoming vibe we all want in our homes at the holidays. But who really has the time to dart through the house each day turning the table lamps on and off! We purchase plug-in timers for all our lamps. They are inexpensive, sold at most hardware stores and anyone can install them. Set them to come on in the evening and turn off at night so your family and guests enjoy a constant glow throughout your home each evening. We also have them set to turn on for those few dark morning hours to make the house feel warm and cozy for early risers!

Decorate for Your Soul

Holidays can be chaotic so incorporate nature in your decorating scheme to balance your family’s senses. Simple, organic clippings of pine, cedar, boxwood and magnolia provide natural and calming aromatherapy to the air in your home as well as wonderful seasonal visuals that remind us all of the beauty that surrounds us.

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Kim Annick Mitchell
KAM Design, LLC, Larchmont, NY

A timeless holiday design does not include commercialization but authenticity. Keep it natural! Take cuttings from your own holly bushes or pine trees or ask the nursery to save the ends of your Christmas tree when they cut off the bottom branches. Gather pine cones and add just a touch of sparkle with solid silver or gold ornament balls. Battery-powered tiny white lights (not colored) create that special something. Then create a wired-ribbon bow and presto you will have decorations that will make you feel right at home, not like you entered the mall at holiday time!

Linda Feaster
House Whole, Inc., Hastings on Hudson, NY

We use a single candle (electric for safety) in every window for a warm, traditional, yet simple and elegant statement.

Drape one large strand of fresh, green garland up and around the entire fireplace. Voila, mood set, just add stockings!

I traded my traditional tree skirt last year for a leopard one and my tree instantly feels hip and modern — and Santa still knows where to leave the gifts!

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