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The holiday season is special for a reason. People go out of their way to make their homes sparkle with strings of colorful lights and beautifully decorated Christmas trees—and that’s just for starters. To get any home Hanukkah-ready, there’s an array of delightful decorating ideas at your fingertips. You can do a lot to bring the festive spirit to the forefront.
It’s something that Alure Home Improvements’ interior designer Elizabeth Clemens knows well. Not only did she decorate Alure’s showroom, this custom kitchen and bath designer has specialized in holiday decorating for almost two decades.
The principle is relatively straightforward in her eyes. You want the holiday décor to match the color palette of the interiors.
For traditional homes, she recommends traditional Christmas colors like gold, red and green—and plenty of green garlands around the main entrance. She’d also put large green ornamental balls in the planters by the door, too, if there’s room.
“You don’t want anything garish or something that will clash,” Clemens says. “You want to tie it into the theme.” If the doorknobs are gold or brushed nickel, then the colors should match the metals. The same goes with the bows and balls. “You don’t want them to clash with the furniture or the window treatments.” Kitsch and clutter are a no-no.
As Clemens points out, blue, silver and white are the predominant colors used in decorating for the Jewish Festival of Lights. Of course, the centerpiece of this holiday is the menorah, so many people place it in the front window for all to see. Window decorations could include blue and white lights, the Star of David and dreidels.
“One of my favorite decorating tips is purchasing cobalt blue stemware to set the table for when company comes,” says Clemens. “It makes a very elegant statement.”
“Just pick a focal point,” she advises. “If you’re decorating the tree, make the tree the focal point. If you have a huge mantel, make that the focal point. If you have a larger foyer area, you wouldn’t have stuffed Santas in every corner—it just gets too much.”
As for a Christmas decorating trend, she says, “Plaid is back big time!” Ribbons and little ornaments, all have a plaid theme for that traditional appearance.
She’s especially fond of the latest in LED lighting.
“They’re doing a very warm LED light, which is very, very pleasing to the eye,” Clemens says, adding that these new lights not only last much longer than the traditional Christmas tree bulbs, they also come in colors. Plus, with the new technology you can change the patterns at will. You could have the reds and the greens alternately flash. The options are tantalizing.
These days, pre-lit trees come wrapped in LED lights. All you have to do is assemble the sections—sometimes there are two or three—plug the chords in, and you’re done. Just add ornaments, and don’t forget the presents underneath. These trees also look a lot more realistic than artificial trees of old. Their branches have realistic tips at the ends and they’re bendable. On the other hand, they don’t exude that fresh pine scent, and they can be rather pricey than a natural fir.
Another trend is the flocked tree, when the branches come sprayed with white powder that looks like snow has just fallen on them. Clemens says these kinds of artificial trees are popular for non-traditional Christmases that may have a woodland creature theme or a winter theme.
“The flocked trees are great for that,” she says. “You don’t even have to put balls on them. It’s a very wintry look and the trees have minimal green underneath.”
If your home or your living room has a mid-century modern style, something from the 1950s or 1960s—or that’s the look you’re going for—then she recommends adding tinsel to the tree.
“If you wanted to be true to that time period, then tinsel would be cool,” she says. “Real trees look really good with tinsel and colored lights.”
Clemens offers special holiday advice for families with young children. It starts with a traditional look with red and green balls.
“As the children grow up and go to school, you can hang up their little art projects on the tree,” she says. “And you can collect ornaments from places you’ve visited. So, from far away, the tree looks beautiful with red and green ornaments on it, but as you approach it and look closer, there’s all these little treasures of places that you’ve been or little arts and crafts projects that your kids have done.”
It’s a traditional pretty look but with a family memories hanging on every branch.
By adding to the tree every year, Clemens says, the ornaments evoke sentiments like: “Oh, I remember when we went on this trip!” or “I remember when you were in kindergarten and you did this little craft for me!”
“That’s a really nice way to go,” she says.
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For homes celebrating the Festival of Lights, Clemens has a great suggestion.
“Since the main focal point of Hanukkah is the menorah, why not make a table-scape centerpiece?” she says. “Purchase some blue and white organza, and grab some books you are not using. Place the stacked books in the center of the table, and drape the blue and white organza over them to hide them. Next, place the beautiful menorah in the center. Then add dreidels, gold coins, and small presents wrapped in blue and silver wrapping paper. My favorite new trick is to tuck small strings of fairy lights that are battery-operated through the beautiful display.”
Too bad our homes only begin to look like the holidays once a year.