Simple Ways to Deck the Halls with Christmas

photo 1 (17)Christmas is my favorite holiday and favorite season to decorate for. Perhaps it’s genetic because my parents have always gone all out for Christmas – garlands everywhere, two trees, a Christmas tapestry over the fireplace, a miniature “It’s a Wonderful Life” village set up on the piano, the usual motley mix of nativity sets, snowmen, nutcrackers, and Santa Clauses. There are so many other aspects of the holiday that bring me joy as well – sharing gifts, a delicious dinner on Christmas Eve, partying with family and friends, singing carols, Christmas brunch, being on vacation, lounging in sweats watching Christmas movies, Christmas dinner, attending plays and concerts, driving around looking at Christmas lights, and did I mention the food?

IMG_0283When it come to Christmas decor, I think it’s great to play around with different themes and colors, but there’s something about traditional red and green that has always struck a cord with me. In wondering why, I did some browsing on color theory and how certain colors affect our mood and emotions. Red is a stimulating color that energizes and incites passion for food and romance. It can help combat depression, which can be invaluable during winter when many people suffer from seasonal depression. Green is often associated with balance, renewal, and nature (which is why it is often used in spa decor), so the combination of red and green might actually be a decor choice that’s good for your health. Poinsettias are an easy way to incorporate red and green into your decor and they work well outside and inside.

photo (8)If you decorate one thing this year – do a Christmas tree. It’s so big and bright and festive that even if you do nothing else, it will still transform your living space. I read somewhere that if you want a “designer tree” you should put 100 lights for every foot of tree. I felt like that was a tad much, so I did 500 lights for a 6 foot tree, and I think that was just enough. My method for layering the tree was to place two strands of white lights in the inner depths of the tree, and then evenly spread out three strands of colored lights from top to bottom. For ornaments, I had a coordinated set of sparkly balls in red, white and aqua, which I hung one color at a time to make sure the colors were balanced across the tree. Then I wrapped ribbon around the tree, and lastly, added the more unique ornaments so that they were most visible on the outer edges of the branches.

To spice up other areas of the room/house, tree trimmings, leftover ornaments and fancy ribbon can go a long way. Adding a small fir branch, a sprig of berries and some ornaments to my side tables was just enough for that touch of Christmas. That worked well on the dining table as well, with the addition of some candles and pinecones. I also like to use some of my favorite Christmas cards from previous years, either by framing them, displaying them on a shelf, stringing them up with some clothespins, or some people create garlands and wreaths out of them.

There are so many inexpensive ways to deck the halls with Christmas. I hope you’re inspired to play around with what you’ve got to spread some Christmas cheer in your home. What are some of your favorite festive choices this year?

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The Apartment Project: Delightful Dining

In January, my husband, Hal, and I relocated from New York to central Florida to settle down closer to family. My parents graciously welcomed us into their home while we pursued jobs and got our ducks in a row before we could find an apartment. It was a wonderful, frustrating, patience-trying, lesson-learning four months’ wait before things finally fell into place. By the time we moved into our own apartment it felt like some magical dream come true. One huge perk of transitioning to Florida, is that for the same amount of rent we got about three times the space that we had in New York. Now that I have some space to work with, I can scratch that decorator’s itch and play. The Apartment Project series will focus on one room at a time as I decorate our new little home and attempt to overcome the challenges of apartment living.

Dining Room Before

BEFORE

We’ll start things off in the dining room. The first obstacle to overcome in moving into an apartment, is that sterile, “apartment white” paint color that is freshly slathered on every wall when you first move in. Our landlord allowed us to paint with the caveat that we had to repaint it “apartment white” before we moved out. Since it’s kind of a drag to paint and repaint, and it is not super cheap, we compromised by just painting the living and dining area to break up the white and help our main living spaces feel more cozy. We used Benjamin Moore’s Wedgewood Gray.

AFTER

AFTER

For years we had been living with a mishmash of hand-me-down, cheaply made, particle board furniture (what I like to refer to as “college style” living), so with this move we decided to start investing in quality furniture pieces that would stick with us for years to come. We purchased a modern farm-style table that seats six. It was important to us to invest in comfortable, upholstered dining chairs, because in our last place we hardly ever ate dinner at the table as a result of the painful, rod-in-your-back style chairs.

The two oil-paintings on the wall are original works by Mary Baker. Click on her name to check out her Facebook page, where she’s working on some exciting new digital art pieces. Her traditional oil paintings are a real treasure, and people usually mistake them for photographs at first glance.

Also displayed on the wall are some eclectic plates I had picked up from a thrift store in Brooklyn, a few postcards Hal had collected in Europe, and a fun nod to Shakespeare, our matchmaker. Hal and I were both actors, and it was through Hal’s production of As You Like It that we met. Shortly after we were married, we played Miranda and Ferdinand in The Tempest.

As a wedding gift we received four place settings of the wedding china we had picked out from Hal’s grandmother. Recently, I looked up that pattern to see if I could add more place settings to our collection, but that particular set had been discontinued. So I purchased white Strawberry Street plates from One Kings Lane, that can easily be layered in with the wedding china.

For a little something fun, I put up a chalkboard on the partition between the kitchen and dining room, where I like to write out the menu when we have guests over. MenuFinally, nothing finishes a space off like a fresh bouquet of sunflowers.Sunflowers

5 Things a Guest Should Never Be Without

Hospitality is a beautiful opportunity to open your heart and your home to someone. What better way to make a guest feel welcome, than to thoughtfully anticipate what their needs will be, so that they will feel as comfortable as possible? Here are five basic things that I believe every guest room should be equipped with, and yet sometimes get overlooked.

Side Table and Lamp1. A side table with a lamp. Many people enjoy reading to help them fall asleep. Once a book begins lulling your guest into cozyland, having to get out of bed and cross a room to turn off an overhead light is a sure way to ruin that deliciously peaceful journey to a REM cycle. Having a reading lamp solves that problem. Also, a side table is a helpful place for a guest to keep their phone, a glass of water, etc.

2. A box of tissues. This may seem like such a small thing, but many people don’t remember to stock their guest rooms with them, and it’s certainly not ideal for a guest to have to traipse down the hall in their pajamas in the middle of the night to grab a wad of toilet paper.

Basket Trash Can3. A trash can. Because where else is that used tissue going to go? I recommend using a stylish tin bucket or basket as a trash can to add a little charm.

4. A clock that is readable in the dark. It can be disconcerting to wake up in the middle of the night in a new environment. The ability to easily see the time is one small way to ground oneself in reality. An alarm clock with a built-in white noise maker might also be a thoughtful investment.

5. A set of towels. Rather than leave your guest to open closets and cupboards in search of a towel, why not arrange a cute basket with some towels rolled up and some basic toiletries and set it in the room? Towel BasketThese are just a few items that I’ve found were important to me as a guest, and so in keeping with the golden rule, want to make sure I provide that for my guests in turn. Hospitality is a gift that is enhanced with thoughtful attention to details. I’d love to hear your ideas as well. What are some items that you would appreciate as a guest?