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Cover story: A few easy makeovers for holiday decorating

- - Wednesday, November 21, 2012

If the idea of putting up your holiday decorations leaves you yawning, it may be time to think about updating your decorating scheme. Whether you opt to revamp your color palette or rearrange the items you already have, interior designers can help you take a fresh approach to the season.

"When it comes to holiday decorating, I think the name of the game is to have fun," said Barbara Franceski, an interior designer and principal of Barbara Franceski LLC in Alexandria. "One modern way to update the traditional palette is to use a lively, cheerful color in place of red. Bright yellow, lime green, royal purple -- whatever makes you smile. All go well with holiday greenery.

"Using only one color in a bouquet of flowers makes a strong, tasteful impact, and the same goes for holiday decorating. Pare down all the colors this year and instead use one standout color."

Marika Meyer, owner of Marika Meyer Interiors in the District, suggested varying the traditional shades of red and green, using colors closer to dried pomegranates and artichokes instead of cranberry and evergreen. She also said silver accents set the mood for holiday sparkle and are not cliched.

Kelley Proxmire, principal of Kelley Interior Design in Bethesda, said she prefers to use gold, silver and white together rather than the expected red-and-green color scheme.

"Steer away from traditional holiday colors," said Iantha Carley, owner of Iantha Carley Interiors in Silver Spring. "The natural color of evergreens should be the base. Rev it up by using bright colors for accents. I love to use chartreuse-colored ribbons and bows for a bright modern pop of color."

Shanon Munn, an interior designer and principal of Ambi Design Studio in McLean, said she loves using alternative color schemes, such as fuchsia and key lime or gold and white, during the holidays.

Ms. Munn said, "The problem with a lot of holiday decorating schemes is that they are not pulled together or cohesive, so use a tie-in element. Go to your local fabric or hobby store and buy several yards of fabric in a color that goes with your intended holiday color scheme. Some good examples are lace, crinkly sheers, burlap and netting."

She suggested using this fabric in multiple places, starting with a bow on your front-door wreath and continuing the theme by using it as a runner on your dining table, wrapping it around your banister, across your mantel with evergreen boughs or as a tree skirt.

Ms. Proxmire said introducing a burlap ribbon juxtaposed with a metallic ribbon could make an unexpected pair of textures and colors that can add interest to holiday decorations.

Instead of using heavy-looking red velvet ribbons on the wreaths you hang from your windows or doors, Ms. Carley suggested using organza ribbon, which is available in a multitude of colors in craft stores.

If you have some basic sewing skills, Ms. Carley suggested creating original Christmas stockings.

"Let your imagination go wild on this one," she said. "Even if you choose to go a more traditional route with velvet stockings, try an unexpected color and/or pick up a color in your home decorating scheme."

Besides designing new Christmas stockings, you many want to revitalize your decorations for your Christmas tree and wreaths.

"Playing with the scale of ornaments is an amusing way to change the decoration of a tree," Ms. Franceski said. "Using only larger-sized decorations is an interesting twist and allows you to skip using some ornaments until next year. Playing with different textures is also pleasing, such as feathers, metals, porcelain, wood, shell."

Ms. Franceski suggested leaving some open space on your tree, mantel and tabletops so you can see more of what you use to decorate.

Nearly everyone has a box of holiday ornaments that are beginning to look a bit dusty or have just been admired for too many Christmas seasons, but designers have some creative ways to reuse them this year.

"Take all your old tchotchkes -- (all those Santa figures or nutcrackers, etc. -- and dip them in paint so they become monolithic," Ms. Munn suggested. "There is nothing cooler than a troop of all-black Christmas trees or all-white elves."

Ms. Proxmire recommended placing tired tree ornaments on a tray with fresh-cut greens to display them as a "collection of holiday memories." Sometimes just shifting the location of decorative items can make a difference.

"If a pair of reindeer has always been placed on the mantel, try putting them on the dining room table this year," she said. "In other words, mix up the expected placement of your old holiday decorative items and think outside of the box as to placement."

While tradition may call for you to decorate your mantel and your front door, and you may have a favorite spot for your Christmas tree, you may want to add a few decorative elements in unexpected places, such as your powder room or guest bedroom.

"Try grouping old decorations together by color, texture or shape and then put them all into a bowl or cache pot for display," Ms. Meyer said. "For example, a grouping of older Christmas tree balls can be beautiful in a glass bowl; they reflect light and can even serve as a centerpiece."

Ms. Munn said taking the time to hang new decorative ribbon ties on your Christmas ornaments is another way to bring them back to life.

One of the liveliest ways to add joy to your home during the holidays is to bring in fresh greenery or plants.

"For natural decorations, think about using produce," Ms. Meyer said. "If you normally use garland around the mantel, try nestling pomegranates, kumquats and other seasonal produce into the greenery."

Battery-operated candles, available as votives or pillars, enable you to add light to your greenery without the fear of fire, Ms. Proxmire said.

"Just tuck away some of these lights into a collection of holiday greens and see them acquire a holiday glow" she said.

If your favorite holiday plant is a traditional poinsettia, Ms. Carley has some advice.

"My major pet peeve is red poinsettias, even though they evoke warm feelings from my childhood and make me think of my grandmother," she said. "That's the issue -- they are so 40 years ago! The selection now is so varied, from pink, fuchsia, creamy white, yellow, orange and combinations of these colors. Get outside of your comfort zone and give them a try."

This holiday season, you may want to allow yourself to be a little more creative than in the past.

As Ms. Franceski said, "Have fun with what you put on the very top of your tree. Stars and angels, while lovely, are a dime a dozen. What about a pinata or a sparkly top hat? There are no rules here, only memories to be made."