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6 Designer Tips for Holiday Decorating

Fill your space with good cheer and great style with these holiday decor tips from interior designer Heather Draper.

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Whether it’s all those fairy lights or the rich colour palette of the season, Calgary designer Heather Draper knows that “there’s a special sort of warmth that comes into the house at the holidays.” Create that toasty atmosphere with her six steps for festive decorating, and fill your own home with some good cheer.

Start seasonal. Metallics and jewel tones can make an appearance mid-November, but save your snowmen and Santas for closer to the holidays. Bring out the baubles come December—Draper loves to hang Christmas balls off curtain rods.

Make existing décor merry. There’s no need to redesign your whole space. “You’re not decorating your house so that you can go out and buy a whole bunch of new things,” Draper says. “You’re decorating your house to create really special holiday memories.” With that in mind, make use of what you already have. Replace framed family photographs with more festive ones—a shot taken last Christmas morning, or perhaps a chilly snowscape. In her own home, Draper swaps out a tray of beach glass for one filled with cinnamon scented pinecones.

Toss the tinsel. Why not trim your tree with some living ornaments instead? Draper makes her evergreen bloom with the addition of red and white tulips for holiday parties. “They open up in the warmth and get huge,” she says. If you’re looking for something a little more low maintenance, try decorating with vintage jewellery or use feathers and pussy willows to fill out your tree.

Reinvent wrapping. “I love the idea of a gift wrapped up in another gift,” Draper notes. Pretty tea towels and scarves serve just as well as wrapping paper when tied up with ribbon. And if you’re tired of bows or have to mail your package, try finishing your parcel with some die cut snowflakes—scrapbooking stores will often let you use their machines for free.

Scratch the centrepiece. “You’ve got to have fresh flowers,” Draper says. But one large centerpiece isn’t always the most practical choice for a full holiday table. Instead of sacrificing prime turkey space for an oversized arrangement, Draper recommends having unique bud vases at each place setting—this Christmas, she’s using a beer stein and Anthropologie mug, for her husband and best friend respectively. “If there’s a common colour,” Draper explains, “not all of the containers have to match.” Better yet, your guests can take their individualized arrangement home with them at the end of the evening.

Say no to re-gifting. That ornament you inherited, a wreath bestowed by the neighbour: we’ve all received well-intentioned presents that just don’t match our own design tastes. For Draper, it’s a pinwheel crystal vase, gifted from her father-in-law. “If you have something that’s sentimental, present it in a way that’s suitable for your aesthetic,” she says. That might mean hanging heirloom ornaments from an empty frame and mounting it over your mantel. “It’s a beautiful nod to your heritage and family but it’s still presented in a chic way,” Draper explains. As for that pinwheel vase? It’s now filled with delicate crystal Christmas balls and looks right at home in her space.

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