In my last blog post, I talked about how I was feeling a little blue this Christmas and working on managing my expectations for the holidays. While that may be the case, that doesn’t mean I’m skipping Christmas or forgoing the traditions of putting up the tree and decorating the house for the holidays. On the contrary, I quite like Christmas decorations and the family festivities that come along with them. But as you may have guessed, I won’t be sacrificing long hours trimming my roof in lights to outshine the neighbors. I prefer simpler holiday decor that I can enjoy putting up with my kids rather than something that feels like manual labor. My Christmas decoration inspiration comes from my early days as an interior designer in New York City, a fond trip to decorate a client’s home in Aspen, and memories of my childhood home, which happens to be the home I live in and decorate now. I want to share some of these fond memories of Christmas past and how to incorporate these warm feelings into cozy holiday home decor.
Spending Christmas in a New York City Snow Globe
From the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree to Fifth Avenue shop windows to Bryant Park Winter Village, New York City turns into a winter wonderland from Thanksgiving through Christmas. When I was in my 20s, I worked for an architecture and interior design firm on the Upper East Side. The walk home turned into a magical journey, passing brownstones adorned with garlands, ribbons, and lights while crunching on a thin layer of real snow that was novel for a Texan. I wasn’t used to such tasteful and vintage holiday decorations, with some homes and shops harking back to the Victorian Era for inspiration. I’d stop in front of the windows of Saks and Bergdorf Goodman and marvel at the culmination of thousands of hours it took to deliver these dynamic displays. The city went to a lot of trouble to celebrate the season, and it was utterly charming. It was like walking through a snow globe, and I loved every minute of it.
Looking for Christmas Trees in Aspen
Years later, I was working at a small design firm in Gramercy Park when we were asked to fly to Aspen to prepare a client’s home for Christmas. While New York City takes the cumulative effort to deck the halls, Aspen naturally holds the beauty of a holiday landscape. Of course, that didn’t stop the little well-heeled mountain town from gussing up for the season, and the lights only added to the glimmer of the snow. We spent our days searching for the most beautiful, modern-shaped Christmas trees we could find. Rather than chopping them down, we lined the living trees in pots out front of the house to welcome the family home for the holidays. I don’t recall if we brought in evergreen garlands for the tablescape because I was distracted by the wafting scents of the homemade lentil soup we prepared as a warm arrival treat. Sometimes a home-cooked meal is decor enough.
Decorating My Childhood Home for the Holidays
A few years ago, I moved back into my family home in South Austin and renovated it to reflect the mid-century ranch style I grew up with. I’ve spent many Christmases here now, both good and bad. When decorating, I draw inspiration from the magical charm of New York and the natural beauty of Aspen while honoring the era of the home and my own memories here. We put up a real tree adorned with multicolored lights and a collection of decorations curated through the years. Some ornaments are fancy, while others are homemade — the combination is just perfect. We put up our tree very close to Christmas so that it lasts the full 12 days and take it down on Little Christmas in January, or the day the wise men were supposed to have arrived at the manger. For me, the process of decorating is more important than the finished result. This is your chance to share a cup of hot cocoa and bond rather than work your fingers to the bone to impress passersby.
Christmas Decoration Inspiration for Your Home
Sometimes, simple is best. Here are some Christmas decoration ideas I use to prepare for the holidays while having some fun along the way.
Fragrant Live Evergreens
Nothing beats the real thing. Bringing in a real Christmas tree or incorporating evergreen garlands into the home takes me back to that trip to Aspen. It adds a fresh welcome for the season.
Warm Vintage Nods
Metallic and glittery holiday decorations can easily start to feel cold and austere. I prefer to take a warm nod to Christmas past, like the Upper East Side brownstones I’d pass adorned with window wreaths and ribbon. Alternatively, you could just play your favorite holiday movie to add a dash of nostalgic atmosphere.
Homemade Window Displays
While I won’t be spending the thousands of hours the Bergdorf Goodman team does on their window displays, there are ways to nod to the vibrancy of Fifth Avenue. Use the windows to display a Christmas village, gingerbread house, holiday wreath, or even the leg lamp from A Christmas Story if that’s your thing.
Nothing channels the holiday spirit like the roar of a fire. Or, you can be like me and substitute with a virtual Yule log channel. Either way, fireplaces in our homes serve as warm spots to gather and socialize during the season.
Something to Celebrate Rather Than Work At
Finally, I’m going to go back to managing holiday expectations and putting my and my family’s needs first. Decorate to enjoy the process, not to impress the neighbors. There are no rules when it comes to holiday decor, so put up as little or as much as you enjoy. Just save time for cocoa breaks and fireside chats with the kids.
Wishing you a merry and bright season.
Amity Worrel is an award-winning interior designer based in Austin, Texas. She has worked on high-end interior design projects for celebrities and tastemakers in NYC, LA, and the Bahamas. In 2008, Amity decided to bring her passion for diverse design back to her hometown of Austin. Her spaces pull from timeless design concepts ranging from coastal contemporary to cozy cottage to Austin eclectic. Emotional connections, functional flow, and a touch of humor remain central to every interior design scheme. Her work has been published in national and local publications, including The Wall Street Journal, House Beautiful, HGTV Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens, and Austin Home. In her free time, she loves perusing estate sales and diving into design history. Learn more about Amity.