From wilted garlands to overly neutral palettes, we reveal the mistakes people make when celebrating the season, plus the best ways to remedy them. Avoid dining table centrepieces that crowd place settings, scented candles that trigger headaches, and robotic adherence to red-and-green colour schemes if they clash with your décor—these are some of the holiday-decorating gaffes that drive designers crazy.
But for every mistake, there’s a tasteful workaround.
People often fill their interiors with holiday décor before putting away their everyday decorative items. The result is overbearing. You can’t have everything say, “Look at me!” If the goal is a calm, festive setting, then it demands that everything be simple and work together in a harmonious way.
THE FIX: Guests feel invited into the heart of the home if you simplify the scene and punctuate it with meaningful holiday décor.
Traditional holiday colour schemes—Christmas equals red, green and white, are overused. Introducing red and green into some homes creates a jarring, clashing effect with your usual interior décor.
THE FIX: Gold and silver metallics, cozy whites, furs and neutrals or rustic patterns are all great alternatives.
You often see fresh wreaths and garlands not properly prepped. In a short time, they become dry and brittle.
THE FIX: Soak garlands and wreaths for 24 hours in a tub of water, drain and air dry.
With tinsel, glitter, bright colours, and lights, holiday décor can be disastrous without a little pre-planning.
THE FIX: Set up vignettes around meaningful pieces. Give your displays a little breathing room between each set.
Often we see homes that feel a little cold and sterile due to a limited, neutral palette.
THE FIX: The holidays are an excuse to be kitsch. From choosing the right crackers, preferably patterned, and coloured glassware—the accent of red adds to the festive mood—to mixing in metals like gold, which always works well on the table. The holidays were made for a little more adventurous home styling. We usually stick to green and gold. We have Chas Clarkson on speed dial at Christmas. If you want your decorations to look a million dollars, you don’t need elaborate, expensive baubles, just lots of them for a luxury look; and stick to two or three hues. Read more, ‘Christmas is the best Time for Entertaining.’
Beware of anything that jars with your usual interior décor.
Overpowering scented candles are very unappealing.
THE FIX: Pick one that’s made with either soy or beeswax and a high concentration of essential oils, which give a natural scent.
Many people unknowingly buy LED lights without considering the temperature of the bulbs. White blue-hued LED lights not only create a cold feeling, they are often hard on the eyes.
THE FIX: Cast a warm light by purchasing LEDs with a temperature of 3,000k or less. Choose lights that cast a warm light – Interiors are as much about ‘feel,’ as ‘looks’.
Keep yours warm, and welcoming this Christmas.
A big mistake people make is not changing up the way they decorate with the same holiday items each year. After a while, people get burned out because it becomes a chore.
THE FIX: Reimagine a new design with the same decorations. Just because you had a garland over a door last year doesn’t mean you can’t drape it over a mantle or down the middle of your dining table this year.
SAME, SAME, SAME:
The most common mistake we see in table settings is overmatching. We went to a dinner recently with beautiful china from Bernardaud Limoges. The cutlery was Hermès. Everything was perfect, everything was the best. But it looked like a showroom setting, and resulted in a character-free space, however upmarket.
THE FIX: We always put a few things on the table that: have a story. A table setting needs a mix of tones, textures and patterns to give it life and interest. We always have candlesticks from somewhere. We learned about using candles on the table from our grandmother, who had all kinds of candlesticks, all old silver. She had cupboards of them that were used at different heights running down the table, which is flattering for people, because the light hits them at different heights.
If somebody asks, everything has a story.