Each year, as Christmas approaches, the latest trends in seasonal décor roll out. One year it might be silver and white, another, bronzes and browns, and another year might herald a cosy country style.
But what is important, according to Marnie Warman, is that when you sit back and really examine your Christmas house, it feels peaceful, welcoming and personal.
“Have fun, be creative and use your imagination,” she advises. “There are no rules. What works for you is right.”
And she should know ““ few decorators have bedecked more Christmas homes than she has. She's the owner of Interior Design House in Burlington and has been in the design business for 26 years. In almost every one of those years, she has decorated a house for the Junior League Holiday House Tour of Distinctive Homes. Her team also participated in the Appleby College House Tour for years.
She knows Christmas décor and she is a faithful supporter of the Junior League of Hamilton-Burlington Holiday House Tour. Held this year from November 11 to 13, the tour will feature three homes designed for the season by local designers. Funds generated from the tour go towards supporting the Junior League's community programs. Their programs impact the lives of women affected by poverty by helping to improve their educational success and instilling a desire to succeed.
>> The home Warman and her team designed for the Holiday Tour last year is a perfect example of the inspirational beauty that the professionally decorated homes on the tour can provide. Those who visit can pick up great ideas to make their own homes glow with a stylish Christmas warmth.
Warman's 2015 Christmas décor was a master class in timeless elegance. “There really isn't a set look that is in or out for seasonal décor,” Warman explains. “Styles range from industrial minimalism to sophisticated country and they are all lovely. This house was guided by a coastal aesthetic, with soft colours and lots of texture.”
The central Christmas tree was large and dramatic, as it should be, but not overwhelming. Glistening oversized gold balls matched the big dimensions of the tree, while white branches, large magnolia blossoms and silvery twigs added bulk and interest. The surprise of wicker reindeer heads, nestled between branches, added some whimsy.
Warman loves big things on the tree- large branches, seed pods, floral product ““ things that add volume and texture. “Build out the tree by adding the large elements for bulk, and add the smallest things last.”
The mantle in this central room was basically green and white, elegantly sophisticated, with fir boughs in weighted white vases, magnolia leaves, glittery branches and little lights.
“The strings of battery powered little lights are great to use for brightening up an arrangement, or just curling around some silver or gray balls in a clear bowl. They bring instant shimmer to any room.”
The tree and décor in the glassed in sitting room continued the white, green and silver colour theme, with large rope balls for texture, and oversized mercury glass gourds at the base. Feathers and white twists of branches add interest to the tree. Aside from added fir greenery, pine cones and little lights, the room is a simple statement of holiday design, without being overpowering.
The table in the dining room, set for a holiday family dinner, glows. Candles sit on mirrored trays. The woven round placemats are ringed with rhinestones around the edge, topped with a copper charger and a white square plate placed on an angle. The white linen napkins are wrapped with twine for texture and one perfect gold pear is placed in a clear glass goblet at each place. A long footed basket in the centre of the table is filled with greens and balls. A white branch is bent and tucked under each plate adding that “wow” factor to the table. Yet the colours are soft and the effect is soothing.
Perhaps one of the most important and dramatic parts of the seasonal decorating process is the front door ““ it sets the mood for the house and is the first thing to welcome guests. Warman kept her entrance simple and beautiful, with one large wreath with clear lights that matched the coastal design of the house. On each side were three boxwood shrubs in urns with white lights, and lanterns with battery operated candles.
Warman graced counters and tables with the simplest of arrangements ““ a bowl of simple balls, sprigs of fresh pine or greenery, strings of lights and small hurricane lanterns with lights inside to add the feel of the season without being too complicated. “Rope and wicker balls, berries and pods and fresh pine boughs bring nature inside, and fresh flowers ““ white tulips, hydrangeas, paperwhites ““ are a pleasure to look at and add their lovely scent to rooms.”
Powder rooms shouldn't be neglected. Warman suggests doing something simple on the countertops ““ a tray full of paper hand towels, simple balls, sprigs of greenery and some lights will do the job ““ simple is good. White lilies, some pine and a scented candle will work well too.
The bedroom in the Junior League house was another place where the coastal look played a big part ““ the colours were soft grays, blues, and creams, and the holiday touches were simple green and white elements with silver.
“But don't be afraid to mix the metalics,” Warman advises. “Silver, gold and copper can all look good together.”
She also advises using the things that you love but that you might not have thought of: “There are no limits ““ it's all in how you put it together!”
One example of that is the tree she decorated for the library in last year's house tour home ““ a Christmas tree that fittingly was an homage to books, with stacks of books as the tree skirt, matte finished balls stuck onto the tree and pages from old books, twirled into cone shapes, added. Then smaller books were hung like ornaments. It was a brilliant and literary work of art, surprising and charming and ideally suited to the space.
In general, Christmas décor these days is varied and multi-faceted. This year, Coastal style is still big, with pale blue and cream tones, wide strips, textured balls, shells, interesting glass, rope balls and lots of texture creating that Hamptons' feel. Traditional still works ““ red is always right, and the new bright apple green shade paired with silver and white is elegant. Gold is big and coming back.
There are some charming twists on ornaments, like black and white houndstooth-dressed foxes, glass vintage automobiles and birds. Matte black and bleached white balls mix well with textured pieces. Blue is still a hot colour and can be very restful. Grey is big, softer than black and goes with everything. Burlap ribbons are casually rustic, while all white with bright greenery is always classy and elegant.
Warman feels that decorating for the holiday has changed. Baby boomers were used to putting up more than one tree, and decking the whole house fully for the holidays. That is not happening so much today, as time is so stretched for busy families, and more people are traveling for the holidays. Christmas décor is still alive and well, but the over the top adornments have been scaled back. Styles are easier, simpler, and in some ways, better ““ the festive feel without being overdone.
To keep it simple, she advises using things in your home that you might have all year round ““ bowls and mirrored trays and glass vases, for example. Add some fir or pine and a few balls and votive candles, and you have a Christmas arrangement without having to buy anything.
Warman's advice is to take a casual approach to your holiday decorating ““ use the things that you love, aim for simple and tasteful, and then ““ relax and enjoy your family and the holidays.