For many, the first day of November is the day to break out the holiday décor. But for seasonal spirit that doesn’t have an expiration date or clash with your aesthetic, you need to get strategic with your holiday décor—choose and display items that don’t scream “this is holiday décor.” Designer Kelsey Haywood of haywoodmade offered us her pro tips for getting a holiday look that doesn’t steal the show.
Meet the Expert
Kelsey Haywood leads the full-service interior design studio haywoodmade located just outside Chicago, Illinois.
Commit to a Color
An intentional color scheme will say "holidays” much better than a multi-color pillow embroidered with a cursive holiday greeting. Stick with one color and lean into it. “I do love red for the holidays, especially ruby reds or a wine color,” admits Haywood. If red is too much for your existing color scheme, go for whites or golds to create an elegant, wintery scene. Or take a cue from Emily Henderson and embrace patterns. On their own, checks and stripes aren't particularly festive, but in white, red and black, they add a sophisticated holiday flair to the living room.
Go All Natural
It’s safe to say that a vase of fresh flowers or greenery never looks like chaotic or like clutter. The same rule applies to fresh materials when holiday decorating. “Natural materials and real greenery are my go-to whenever possible,” recommends Haywood. A live garland is a low-effort, high-impact option: “You get the pine scent in your home and, short of draping it over a doorway or mantel, there isn’t much work involved.”
Eucalyptus, boxwood, and long-needled pines are all great options. Plus, it looks festive all season long. “I like to use local floral shops and try to get the jump on it right after Thanksgiving,” advises Haywood.
Don't Add—Swap What's Existing
Holiday décor is often added to a space—but then nothing gets subtracted. “I don’t like a lot of clutter and feel like sometimes that’s what holiday décor can become,” explains Haywood.
Instead of adding in more items, make swaps. Change out pillow covers and throws, doormats and tea towels, and stylish accessories. Take inspiration from Ursula Carmona of Home Made by Carmona and change out your favorite candle display with votives in a festive color scheme. The more integrated your holiday décor is into your existing décor, the less it will feel like clutter.
Decorate in Neutrals
Reds and greens or silvers and golds can overwhelm the eye and lead to thoughts of a Hallmark Christmas and aWhen Harry Met Sally New Year’s Eve. Try incorporating holiday décor in neutral colors. Brown kraft paper snowflakes, despite their suggestion of the wintery weather we’re all dreaming of, are nearly sculptural when hung on the wall. And certain textures, like heavy knits, fuzzy weaves, and faux fur, give off a cozy, festive feel without declaring their allegiance to any one holiday.
Display the Bold Items Together
It’s possible to honor the traditions of the holiday season and also maintain your décor sanity. It's all about incorporating the boldest, loudest holiday décor in a purposeful way—like on the tree. “Our tree is where we put our ‘sentimental’ spin on things,” says Haywood. “My mom gave me ornaments each year after I had a place of my own and I started a similar tradition for my kids. The collection grows every year and I love that about it!”
Balance out a really bold holiday display by going subtle and understated with the rest of the décor in the room.
Blend in Small Changes
To keep your holiday décor from stealing the show, make it blend in. Choose holiday décor that looks natural with your existing color scheme or your prized year-round display pieces. Tuck that Santa-themed plate into the display of vintage plates on your sideboard. Add some cream-colored bottlebrush trees to your arrangement of beige sculptural pieces. Accent evergreen cuttings or a few holly berry branches to a floral arrangement.
Have a 'Shelfie Moment'
If you really want to display an item that’s basically a billboard for the holiday season, have a "shelfie moment,” as Haywood calls it. “Dedicate a set of shelves or a small corner of a room to the kitschy stuff. That way it doesn’t look like the holidays consumed your home!” she says. Look to the areas of your space that aren’t front and center—the powder room, the bar cart, the window sill above the kitchen sink—and add holiday pizzazz to your heart's content.