Expert tips to liven up your holiday decor

When Elza B. Design decorated the Concord Holiday Show House for Christmas last year, it used burlap table runners, small pieces of greenery, and toned-down shades of holiday colors for a simpler look. Jared Kuzia Photography for Elza B. Design

This time of year, not only do we have to prepare our homes for the dropping temperatures, we have to take on the task of decorating for the holidays. Do those boxes of red and green balls have you feeling a bit tired of the same old routine?  

To ease your minds and give you new options, we asked five interior designers for advice on decorating for the season.

Say, ho, ho, no to store-bought decor

Christmas decorations, in particular, can often seem overdone, said Anita Clark, an interior designer who likes to take a classic, simplified approach when decorating. “I like to decorate for the holidays much like I design on a daily basis,” she said of her clients at Anita Clark Design in Salem. “I prefer white light, simple greenery, and ornaments that have sentimental value.”

When shopping for decorations these days, it can be hard to find items that aren’t emblazoned with pictures of Christmas trees or dreidels. “Never get a banner that says ‘Happy Halloween’ or ‘Merry Christmas’ ” when decorating for a holiday, suggested Barbara Elza Hirsch, president of Elza B. Design in Concord. “Don’t be stereotypical. Try to think outside the box and focus on creating an authentic atmosphere for family and friends by integrating traditional pieces with personal significance.”

When Elza B. Design decorated the Concord Holiday Show House for Christmas last year, the team focused on muted shades of red and green and used different types of wood in the decor for a natural feel. —Jared Kuzia Photography for Elza B. Design

Stick to a few simple colors

Many folks opt for the typical holiday colors, such as red and green for Christmas and blue and silver for Hanukkah, but this year it may be time to experiment with alternative hues. Nikki Dalrymple of Acquire, an interior design company and boutique in Wellesley, recommends a palette of two to three colors and usually incorporates white, green, and a metallic into her decorations.

Alina Wolhardt of Wolf in Sheep Design in the South End said she sticks to muted, simpler colors pulled from other staple decorations in the home, such as heirlooms. This way, decorating for the holidays is a slight shift in the home’s everyday decor, rather than a full takeover.

In the Concord Holiday Show House, subtle colors and nude garland don’t overwhelm the decor. —Jared Kuzia Photography for Elza B. Design

Organic materials are best

As the cold settles in, it’s easy to forget about the beauty of the outdoors, especially here in New England. To combat this, you can bring the outdoors in during the holidays with materials such as burlap, boxwood, and birchwood made into wreaths and centerpieces. A welcome break from bright crayon colors, these natural components bring an air of authenticity to the home.  

These materials can be used to create a low-lying centerpiece for the table, allowing guests to talk while dining without the annoyance of a large decoration such as a vase of flowers, says Linda Weisberg of LW Interiors in Newton. She also makes sure to include her home’s exterior in her decorating plans, placing items reminiscent of the season just outside her front door, such as pumpkins, gourds, birch logs, or evergreens layered with branches. These displays can give the home a more natural, handmade look and add a pop of color.

At the Concord Holiday Show House last year, the design team integrated outdoor materials such as birchwood and greenery with the entrance of the home. —Jared Kuzia Photography for Elza B. Design

Trendy or traditional?

In years past, Wolhardt and Dalrymple said, people would decorate the exterior of their homes with fake snow blankets and huge light displays. While this may seem pretty to some, decorations today are becoming more organic, incorporating natural materials such as woods and greens, alternative color schemes, and more subtle lights. Additionally, hurricane-glass vases are very popular, many of the designers said, as they can showcase decor such as leaves or bits of evergreens inside a classic container and be placed on the dining room table or anywhere around the house.

Still, some are torn between these new trends and keeping traditions alive. “I always use things that have been in my family for years to keep the tradition of the holidays sentimental to me, as I knew from my childhood,” Clark said. “Who cares if other people don’t like what is special to you?”

Wolhardt echoes that opinion. Her family puts Danish flags around the tree and uses paper decorations and white lights, keeping the scene classic and ancestral. Interior designer Jeanne Finnerty of Finnerty Design in Charlestown agrees that traditional ornaments are important reminders of the childlike innocence of the season and the pure joy that Christmas brings to children and adults alike.

That said, the most important part of the holidays is spending time with loved ones and making memories. While decorating may seem crucial, being perfect is not what the season is about.

“The best decoration is a smiling host,” Weisberg said.