Help me "Wow!" Santa
December 28, 2011 10:44 PM   Subscribe

What are some good resources to learn how to decorate for Christmas?

We always have a tree, and I have a few very eclectic Christmassy items. I have gathered these items slowly over the years, getting things that I thought were cute at the time. There is no cohesive theme whatsoever, and the overall effect is pretty underwhelming. I would like to create some wow factor.

I don't have a particular style or theme in mind (our regular decor is pretty minimal to begin with, so I can't build on our existing style). So that's where I would like to start, with some resources to help me define a (Christmas) style, and then learn how to implement it in our particular space.
posted by vignettist to Home & Garden (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Disclaimer here: I have no experience with holiday decorating. But I do have experience learning about things I previously knew nothing about (don't we all though?).

Anyway, two points to consider:

- You mention that you already have a collection of items, and you imply that you want to use them when decorating ,so I am assuming that you are not willing to purchase anything new

- I think the "how" depends on your learning style. For example, I don't have the patience or humility to have to someone else show me how to decorate. I prefer to learn only by reading. How do you prefer to learn? There is no right way or wrong way, but there is your way!

That being said ask yourself why is it underwhelming?
- Are the items too sparsely distributed? Maybe you need to "concentrate" your X-mas area
- Would it make sense to make things more cohesive by purchasing something to act as a focal point, and then use your items as filler? For example:
- the tree can be the focal point and then you place a table in front of the tree with a green, red or white tablecloth (or cotton to mimic snow) and place your items there?
- you place a Christmas themed print on a large easel and have smaller tables on each side
- do you need to optimize or add appropriate lighting (or maybe remove it)?

I would also encourage picking up the home decor magazines for ideas. You don't have to do exactly what they do, but ask yourself "what makes their setup so nice?"
posted by bitteroldman at 6:13 AM on December 29, 2011

Are you going for big capital-S Style? Something along the lines of the stuff featured in Southern Living or Martha Stewart? Victorian? Kitsch could be fun, too. The big-box home improvement stores and arts/crafts/hobby shops around here are jam-packed with magazines starting in, oh, October that are full of this sort of thing.

We're sentimental over here, so most of our decorations have some sort of deep family meaning. Take ornaments: we've settled on a theme that uses souvenirs from our various trips and vacations. Sometimes they're not even real ornaments, just small tchotchkes that are ornament-sized. Little clay skulls from Mexico, that sort of thing.

Pulling them out every year prompts several long 'hey remember that trip' sessions. Most of the rest are things that the kids have made over the years, rotated in and out as they start to fall apart.
posted by jquinby at 6:14 AM on December 29, 2011

Don't worry about how eclectic the items are. Ask yourself how you picture the holidays, and go with THAT as your theme.

Let me explain that more clearly with examples: my sister loves the idea of Dickensian Christmases and Victorian times, which I appreciate in theory, but I couldn't go with her style, because to DO this she has a tree with only silver and gold ball ornaments and Victorian angels. Elegant, Very cohesive, nice to look at.

We're sentimental, though, like jquinby. My life is all about my family and our time together. The holidays bring that into sharp focus. So what do I have cluttering up my tree?

Photo ornaments of my kids at various ages, sitting in our laps; train ornaments we collected for the pun factor (my husband is anengineer); paper angels, bead-wreaths and popsicle-stick reindeer my kids made in school over the years; animal ornaments that mean something to us specifically: bears from the years we met some(!) on our mountain vacations, cat ornaments that look like our family pets, rhinos of all types from the years my youngest son was into them for some reason; handed-down ornaments from loved ones, like my MIL, who passed away a little over a year ago and crystal ornaments we got out our wedding shower over 22 years ago are nestled in with the cheap, 'our first Christmas' ornaments we bought each other when we were dating.

I actually kinda take pride that my tree has very few duplicate ornaments on it, because each one means something. And decorating for the holidays can be stressful--people want Norman Rockwell, but we often end up with something closer to A Christmas Story. So, when we decorate, we have all these shared memories that help (me, at least) enjoy the Season without getting stressed out wanting Everything To Be Perfect.

Look at your 'eclectic' ornaments, think about why they appealed to you, and then go on an after-Christmas shopping spree (bonus! Clearance sales) on and get more stuff that makes you feel the same way.
posted by misha at 10:59 AM on December 29, 2011

I love getting new Christmas ornaments and only recently have enough to "curate" the tree a bit.
Some ideas on how to curate ornaments-- all red ornaments, all glass/sparkly ornaments, all angels, all reindeer, all Santas or group these: "red, green and Santa ornaments" "silver and angel ornaments"--
Try something new each year for a few years--it's fun!
posted by calgirl at 8:35 PM on December 29, 2011

I think there's a critical mass that needs to be reached to convert your decorations visually from "random objects left on table" to "markers of special festive space".

That doesn't mean you necessarily have to buy lots more ornaments or statuettes or whatever; as others have said upthread, it's good to have a nice balance between focal items and filler. Since you say most of your existing decorations were purchased individually, I'm guessing they're mostly on the focal-piece side of things? If so, then investing in some filler decor might help to tie everything together. For instance, could you add some garlands, draped fabric wall-hangings, strung tinsel or beads, greenery/plants (poinsettias!), or holiday tablecloths, runners or rugs? Light strings also make great visual filler, and they're all super-cheap this time of year.

To be sure your filler plays well with your existing collection, you might just take a look at the objects you have and consider what their general visual character is-- are they mostly made of a particular material, like wood or glass? Are they handmade/crafty in style, or minimalist, or ornate? Any predominant colors or textures, and are the colors saturated and bright, or muted? Generally shiny, sparkly or dull, transparent or opaque? Once you've pinned down the general style you're going for, you can be sure to get filler items to match; if there really is absolutely no common thread, then consider subdividing your decor collection into two, more unified subgroups that you can use in different areas of the room or house.
posted by Bardolph at 11:55 AM on December 30, 2011

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