As I’ve shared, this year’s holiday decor set a new personal record when it came to how early I decked out our house. And apparently I’m not the only one who decided that 2021 deserved a little extra time to feel festive. When I shared a poll on Instagram, 49% of you said that you were planning to put up your tree before Thanksgiving this year. Nearly half of you! So, since one of my favorite things about this season is filling my home with holiday spirit, I got very excited to capture the magic and share it with everyone who enters our front door.
This year’s look was inspired by sculptural branches–both lush evergreen and wintry twigs–that made a major statement against a minimalist backdrop of neutrals. Cozy textiles and twinkling firelight recall the Scandinavian concept of hygge. So perhaps we’ll call this year’s look “Woodland Scandi,” yes? Scroll on for the creative and modern Christmas decorating ideas that make the most of simple elements–especially when they’re layered on for a look that’s full of warmth and texture. It’s an approach that works for all kinds of spaces, both big and small, and I’m sharing a few of my favorite ideas that we incorporated below…
Minimalist, meet maximalist
My overall strategy was to stick to a minimalist color palette of neutral shades and natural greenery, but then go a little over-the-top in using them everywhere. Garlands and wreaths around the front door, a statement-making sculptural garland on the mantle, wreaths on the windows in the dining room, and even a pretty evergreen swag in the kitchen. My friend Elle Worsham owns Gracious Garlands, and her team created the most beautiful pieces that created a sense of magic throughout our entire living space. Since the greenery felt so lush, I kept the rest of the details simple–our stockings hung from sweet little wood hangers on the mantel, a delicate snow globe, and our family’s ornaments on the tree. It’s all about going all out on a few things and using restraint on the rest.
Create a focal point
The centerpiece to this year’s decor is the bold, sculptural greenery that Gracious Garlands created to surround our fireplace. In the weeks leading up to our shoot, Elle and I collaborated on a shared Pinterest board that brought together all kinds of unique branches and modern Christmas decorating ideas, and she imagined a mantle piece that used these sculptural winter branches as the focal point to the room.
On her inspiration, Elle said, “I wanted a raw, free-flowing design to shine through; a nod to the captivating and beautiful mess that is nature and thus, life. As we’ve trudged through the past almost two years, I wanted this mantle to capture the beauty within the mess. By incorporating sticks and wild lines, lots of texture and movement, my hope was to capture this less curated and pristine vibe that makes space for anyone, in any season, to feel welcome at the table.”
Swap out art
During most of the year, our living room feels beachy–in fact, our whole house has summertime vibes. In order to cozy up the space and feel more seasonal, we traded the large scale ocean photograph that usually hangs over the fireplace for a classic mirror, instead. In the off-season, I keep it wrapped in brown paper and stored in a closet, and it’s fun to mix things up with this piece that only hangs in our living room for two months out of each year.
But incorporate your existing decor
I left the open shelving in our living room styled pretty much as they normally are–I like how these non-holiday decorative objects anchor the room and keep it feeling aligned with my personal style. Not decking out every square inch allowed the space to maintain a sense of cool instead of looking like Santa’s workshop exploded in our living room.
Put a bow on it
Textural ribbon, like the velvet we used to tie up our swags, is a simple way to add luxury and sophistication to simple greenery. It also oozes holiday luxury, and I’ll save some to trim the gifts that we stack under the tree. On of my favorite modern Christmas decorating ideas is to wrap my gifts in kraft paper, then use textural ribbon to dress them up.
Give me all the wreaths
Is there such a thing as too many wreaths at the holidays? In my book, the more the merrier. Gracious Garlands created swags that hung on the back doors, and wreaths for the front door and on the windows around the dining room… it was a motif that packed a punch and made the entire house smell so good.
Rather than start from scratch, Elle used a wreath mold and embellished it with seed pods, eucalyptus, berries, and other natural elements. Here’s how she made this one:
- Start with a base wreath like Gracious Garlands’ Tri-Mix Wreath. It already has great texture, as it’s made of fraser fir, boxwood and white pine
- Forage vines, stems and other textural elements like berries or eucalyptus to add to your wreath – another chance to head out for a nature walk to add elements of your local lands to your decor.
- Wrap and weave the vines throughout the wreath: Start by sticking one end of the vine into the wreath, nestled tightly into the base and wrap the vines, weaving them in and out of the stems, sticking the other end of the vine into the wreath after a few
- Trim down foraged stems and add foliage to existing wreath – if using the Gracious Garlands tri-mix wreath as your base, the base should be sturdy enough to simply interweave your new stems into the existing stems on the wreath
Choose an intentional color palette
In years past, I always thought I had to hang every single ornament we own on the tree, but this year I stopped and asked myself–what did I actually want on the tree? So I did an edit, and it turned out that nothing bad happened when I packed away a few of the brighter colored ornaments to save for future years. I stuck to the ones in shades of white, burlap, silver, and gold–and that minor edit made a major impact on pulling this year’s Christmas tree together
I’ll also stick to this palette of neutrals and metallics when wrapping my gifts this year. I stocked up on kraft paper, plus a couple rolls of black and white with metallic details.
Add festivity to unexpected places
The kitchen is often a place that gets overlooked when it comes time to decorate for the holidays, so this year, we added a sweet and simple swag to the hood surround. I love the velvet ribbon it hangs from, and just this one small piece is all we needed to make this room of the house feel magical.
Embrace scandi vibes
To prepare for cozy dinners ahead, I draped our dining table in an oversized white linen tablecloth, then added simple runners made of evergreen and pomegranates that are low enough to not get in the way of dinnertime conversation. When it comes to modern Christmas decorating ideas, you can pretty much always turn to Scandinavian design inspo to lead you towards those minimalist yet cozy vibes. For parties, I’ll add lots of twinkling votive candles, a few flowers, and a bottle of good red.
Cozy is key
Especially when working in a neutral palette, texture is everything. Sheepskin, woven pillows, soft blankets…layering on these cozy textiles imbues the room with so much warmth, and makes us all want to kick off our shoes and stay awhile.
Layers of greens
These garlands layered together fraser fir, boxwood, and white pine for a fuller dimensional look than could be achieved with only one varietal alone. Elle says, “Different types can add tones and textures that create movement and depth. And remember, this is a chance to make it your own! There are no rules.”
Cast a magical glow
This year’s holiday decor incorporated lots of different lighting elements to create a magical glow across the room in both day and night. In addition to the fire that I keep burning almost all day every day, there are candles scattered on the coffee table and twinkle lights in the Christmas tree and the mantel garland. When I curl up at night with a cup of tea and a good book to read by firelight, I truly wish this season could last forever.