Decorating & Design - Styling Secrets

Favourite holiday traditions

Designers share their fondest festive memories.

As you prepare to unwrap those cherished ornaments and plan your holiday feast, we asked designers and decorators from across the country to give readers a glimpse at what they do each year in their homes. Some stick to their tried and true family traditions while integrating new elements to spice things up. For others, nature is a prominent guest. But as some will admit, some of the best ideas are those inspired by others.

On trimming the tree: Three years ago while travelling through the English countryside, I came upon a store with decorated Christmas trees hanging upside down. In Victorian times, trees were often too tall to fit in houses. The tops would be cut off and the trees hung upside down. It fit our company's Victorian theme for a Christmas home in Saskatoon and was a huge success. It has become a tradition in our home to feature this tree each year with a different theme. It will either stand upside down on a weighted base or hang from the ceiling. We place the star at the bottom. -- Arlene Olson, owner, Art of Interior Re-Design, Saskatoon (Fave holiday food: A prairie dessert -- carrot pudding with caramel sauce)

On decorating: I love to use fresh greens, magnolia, berries, boxwood and ribbon every year. The beauty of using naturals and ribbon is that you can easily change up the colour scheme from year to year. Last year I mixed oversized bamboo trunks with birch trunks to frame the outside of my front door. I used a stunning fresh magnolia wreath on the front door and then used acid green and orange accents in my outdoor urns and throughout the interior of the house.

On entertaining: Being half Danish, we celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve. The herring is a must-have. -- Meredith Heron, principal, Red Heron Essentials Design Inc., Toronto ("This year I am leaning toward deep red, royal purple and acid green. Think Russia in St. Petersburg.")
On decorating: I'm not so much into the trends as I see things I like and I incorporate them. One year I went to a client's place and she had the whole banister covered in cedar boughs. I used that idea. When I first moved out, I thought, "I love nature," so I bought ornaments that had to do with it. My favourites are these long quartz crystals. Every year, I can't wait to put those on.

On food:
Every Christmas morning my family all gets together and opens the gifts and we have a brunch of sautéed mushrooms in butter, toast, bacon and eggnog. Ever since I was little we've never had anything else. -- Rob Everitt, owner, Everitt Design Associates Limited, Winnipeg ("I have always been fascinated by shimmering things.")
On holiday memories: When we lived in Halifax, which has a small Jewish community, there were Christmas trees everywhere. Our neighbour asked if I could go to the woods. I brought home a tiny tree and my father said "No way." We were allowed to string blue and white paper ribbon around the living room. That was our concession. And we hung stockings.

On entertaining:
I have quite a few friends who like to try new recipes and we pass them back and forth. We'll go to a friend's house and we'll reciprocate. You get to see different parts of everyone's traditions. -- Linda Camlot, interior decorator, Interiors by Design LC, 514.488.6285, Montreal (Fave holiday food: "I love brisket and potato latkes -- anything with fat in it.")
On decorating: I like to have (artificial) trees in different rooms, all lit with white lights. I double what you would normally use, so you have this beautiful glow of light. Then I disperse bits of flowers, greenery and twigs to accent, so it becomes more than your traditional shape.

Favourite ornament:
It would be the handmade decorations from my kids from way back. They're primitive, but they're sweet and special. -- Cathy Souch, general manager and buyer, Settlement House Shops, Port Perry, Ont. ("I like the glitter of glass and mirror decorations.")

Image courtesy of Pottery Barn

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