“Really, Mom? A tiny tree in an urn covered in pink and blue dried hydrangeas? For Christmas?!”

by Patricia Cove

As the holidays approach, we all begin to formulate our holiday decorating plan. Most of us take a mental inventory of decorations past, remember the broken lights and lost ornaments of last year and make a last minute dash to replenish our stock. With that, our decorating is complete.

May I suggest a new approach this year? Begin this year with a new theme, a new plan, a “non-traditional” holiday season! Yes, this probably will take some additional preparation and planning, but the end result will be a unique, elegant and truly original spin on the traditions of the past.

Start with a new color scheme. A variation of the traditional red and green is an easy and safe way to start. Keep your “eyes open for burgundy ribbons and wrapping papers, accented with a deep forest green. This scheme transforms your surroundings into a richer, more “English” version of the basic red and green combination and is complemented superbly when surrounded with mahogany furnishings, wainscotings and molding.

Headed in the opposite direction, you may create a “Floral Christmas Feast.” This color scheme reflects the softer palette of roses, lilies and poinsettias. Pinks and salmons replace the red shades of the traditional scheme with seafoam and celadon greens. You may even use floral wrappings with large celadon bows and include the flowers – silk or fresh – as part of the wrapping decoration. Pink and white poinsettias work beautifully with this scheme, complemented with a variety of ferns, holly and baby’s breath. Use the same color combination as you set your holiday table, the table’s centerpiece and wreaths throughout the house.

A third and more dramatic deviation from the traditional holiday colors involves the addition of bright yellow accents to deep plums and hunter-green. Large yellow bows stand out beautifully against evergreen wreaths, and plum ribbons add a majestic aura to eucalyptus and holly boughs that may festoon the stairwell.

You can bring the holidays to every area of your home by purchasing several miniature trees and using a different theme in each room. A Victorian bedroom’s tree can be covered in lace, baby’s breath and pink ribbons. A little boy’s play room can display a colonial tree, embellished with old wooden toys, miniature musical instruments and colorful tiny balls. The kitchen tree may display wax fruit, nuts, popcorn and berries all strung together. You may even want to hang freshly baked cookies on tiny silver ribbons through holes that you make before baking.

Rather than hang ornaments on the main tree in the living room, create a pretty, wintry scene instead by blanketing each limb with lengths of rolled cotton topped with crystal snow.

Don’t feel you are limited to what department stores offer in the areas of decorations. Visit fabric and specialty stores to purchase bolts of plaids, moires and taffetas, that can be cut and sewn into tree skirts and table cloths with the cuttings used as ribbons and bows for packages and wreaths. Straight cutting and sewing goes extremely fast (take it from a person who does not have a lot of time). Trim stores offer hundreds of colors of braids, cordings, tassels and fringes that can be added to ready-made napkins, table runners and seat cushions. Use the excess pieces to top off a special ornament or gift.

Being resourceful is a key element to creativity, and often becomes the one ingredient in the most successful decorating projects. My favorite example of such resourcefulness came from a client of mine, who, after inheriting a dated chandelier, dismantled the piece, and created brilliant tree ornaments using the various shaped crystals.

You can be resourceful, too, and creative, courageous and ingenious – all at the same time. It’s still early, and you still have time. Make your plan now. Pick a color scheme, hunt for fabrics and be innovative. You will be amazed at what fun a little change can be. And if your family hates you for abandoning some old traditions, remember, there is always next year. But then again, everyone will probably love the changes.

Patricia Cove is the Principal of Architectural Interiors and Design and can be reached through her website.

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