5 Ways I'm Making Holiday Decorating Feel Extra Special This Year

Decorated Christmas mantle.

Lauren Zillinger for Laura Metzler Photography

Last December, I practically ran myself dry dashing between festive restaurant dinners, holiday housewarmings, and gatherings with friends. And looking back, I’m feeling very glad that I fully embraced all that December 2019 had to offer, as this holiday season will of course look a little different.

This year, I’ll be spending a large portion of the holiday season alone in my apartment, and while I won’t be hosting guests, I’m determined to make my space feel merry and bright regardless. While I’ve never been one to go all-out with holiday decor, recently I've been craving a little extra cheer—because, well, 2020. Here’s what I’ve done so far to go the extra mile. 

Hanging Live Garland

Garland draping over mantle.

Lauren Zillinger for Laura Metzler Photo

Live garland isn’t for everyone, but if you don’t mind sweeping up needles here and there, it truly makes all the difference. I never used it in my apartment before, so I searched online extensively before scoring big with these 25-foot garlands at Sam’s Club, which were just $50 each.

You don’t need to be a member to place an order, so I purchased a couple and they arrived on my doorstep on the delivery date I selected at checkout. I secured one to my living room archway using heavy-duty Command hooks, covering any visible white plastic with extra sprigs, which I attached using twine. I then cut the other garland into smaller pieces, which I displayed on my fireplace mantels. Even though it’s likely that no one else will be appreciating the setup in person, I love how festive my space looks with all of the fresh greenery, and it smells pretty divine, too. 

Garland, Western Red Cedar (25 ft.)
Sam's Club Garland, Western Red Cedar (25 ft.) $49
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Upgrading My Faux Tree

For the past several years, I had set up a four-foot faux tree—which actually came with me to three different apartments—but I decided that this year, I wanted something a bit larger. That said, I didn’t want to splurge on something seasonal, so I was thrilled when I spotted a six-and-a-half foot tree for under $50 on Home Depot’s website.

Since it came pre-lit, it didn’t take long to decorate at all, and I love keeping it plugged in to admire while I’m working from home or just lounging on the sofa, peppermint hot chocolate in hand. 

6.5 ft. Festive Pine Pre-Lit Artificial Christmas Tree
Home Accents Holiday 6.5 ft. Festive Pine Pre-Lit Artificial Christmas Tree $49
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Customizing My Wreath 

Wreath hung on entryway mirror.

Lauren Zillinger for Laura Metzler Photography

I decided that I was willing to invest in a nice faux wreath, as these pieces can be displayed in any room, are easy enough to transport in a move, and can be kept up into the new year. I fell in love with this realistic cypress wreath from Crate & Barrel, which already boasted tons of rave reviews.

To make it a bit more custom, I wove in some fresh eucalyptus stems that I’d picked up at Trader Joe’s and also added strands of faux berries. These small touches took the store-bought wreath from good to great, and made a ubiquitous piece look more unique. 

Cypress Wreath
Crate & Barrel Cypress Wreath $99
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Burning All the Candles

In pre-COVID times, I loved to unwind after a long work day by lighting a candle, sipping a glass of wine, and reading for a bit before bed. But now that I’m home all day long, I like to be surrounded by my favorite scents at all times.

I almost always have a candle lit atop my kitchen table-turned-desk to make long work days feel a bit more festive, and this time of year I’ve been turning to anything peppermint or balsam-scented. You’ll find holiday-inspired candles at a wide range of stores, but many small businesses carry their own variations, so you can easily support independent makers while celebrating the season.

Documenting the Process

Decorated Christmas mantle.

Lauren Zillinger for Laura Metzler Photography

Since I won’t be hosting a Friday evening cocktail party for my group of friends like I did last year, I’ve been working to bring the holidays to everyone virtually by posting pictures of my seasonal setup on Instagram. I always love seeing how others decorate their spaces come December, and let’s face it, the likes and comments don’t hurt—after all, getting that garland arch to stay in place wasn’t easy.

I also love seeing how my favorite designers decorate their homes for Christmas and how brands style their seasonal products. It’s never too early to start gathering inspiration for next year, which we can all hope will be different than this one.

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