Easy ways to make your home bright and cheerful for the holidays

Christmas wreath with gold trim hanging on door

By the time we’re in our 60s we have set up and taken down approximately 40 Christmas trees, untangled 80 strands of lights, broken 23 precious family tree ornaments passed down through the generations, draped 600 feet of tinsel garland, hung between 60 and 90 stockings by the chimney (with care), baked 3,350 cookies, and wrapped no fewer than 920 gifts. No one can blame us if we want to take a breather. Rather than doing nothing, we’ve come up with an easy way to decorate our homes for the holidays. There are four simple steps.

  • Decorate your front door. It lifts your spirits before you step into your home. Wreaths are the easiest way to do this and they are plentiful in both fresh and artificial forms.
  • Use color strategically. Neutrals are fine when there are 14 hours of sunlight. Now, we need color. Scatter some seasonal accent pillows around the living room. Or buy a trio of poinsettias. And don’t forget your bedroom.
  • Bring in the light. One lighted garland draped over a mantle or table can instantly add a warm glow to a room.
  • Fill the air with seasonal scents. Scented candles and diffusers can bring in the scents of an Alpine Forest or the homey scents of oranges, cloves, and cinnamon. Or have a pot of mulled cider simmering on the stove (but keep an eye on it; a slow cooker with timer does a marvelous job).

We found some items to inspire you of the many–easy–possibilities available to get your home into the holiday spirit. Just add music, a mug of hot chocolate, and some gingerbread.

1. Create a cheery welcoming entrance

A colorful wreath on your door greets you every time you come home–an immediate boost to your mood. (Not quite as joyful as a dog wagging its tail, but we’re working with you here.) And so simple to do. Buy one made of fresh greens at your local nursery or invest in a beautifully designed wreath that you can use for years to come. Or opt for a swag

Outdoor Magnolia Ridge Wreath

Magnolia wreaeth from Balsam Hill

This elegant wreath is the perfect holiday welcome for your front door.  Elegant and unfussy, it has just the right amount of green foliage, punctuated with pine cones, red berries and teeny lights.  This tasteful wreath doesn’t scream the holidays, just lets your guests know you are celebrating. Balsam Hill, from $179.

Lynch Creek Farm Fresh Evergreen Wreath

Fresh evergreen Christmas wreath with ribbon

The scent of cedar and pine greets you as you approach this lovely wreath from Lynch Creek Farm. It is overflowing with fresh noble fir, pine, juniper, and incense cedar, and topped off with ponderosa pinecones. Highlights include apples, bright red berries and clusters of small pinecones. Lynch Creek Farms, $67.95

Antiqued Gold Metal Bells

Door decor red ribbon and bells

People have long associated the sound of bells with the holidays.  There’s a reason why Jingle Bells is the third most popular Christmas song ever (and the first song ever broadcast from space).  Hang one or more of these festive bells tied with a deep red velvet on your front door and enjoy the tinkling every time someone drops by. World Market, $9,99.

Classic Fresh Evergreen Swag

Swag of evergreens with red ribbon

If a wreath isn’t your thing consider decking your door with a festive swag.  Each of these swags from Home Depot contains live Maine balsam, white pine and fresh cedar greens. Real pinecones, faux holly berries and a hand-tied, weatherproof red velveteen bow accent the swag beautifully. Made in Maine. Home Depot, $18.23.

Christmas Decorative Lantern

Decorative lantern for holiday decorating

Decorate your steps or stoop with this beautiful, welcoming lantern, decorated with a spring of foliage, berries and pine cones.  The flameless candle provides a warm flickering light as your guests arrive.  What says Christmas of old better than a lantern?  You can even hang it from low branches. Amazon, $39.99

2. Toss around a few colorful pillows

Transforming a room can be as easy as placing a few pillows in seasonal prints and colors around your living room or on your bed. They bring good cheer into your home with minimum effort. And fortunately, they are available in sophisticated patterns that can take you into the new year. Mix them with solids and a variety of fabrics for a magazine-worthy look.

Crewel Colorblock Trees Pillow Cover

Red gold and green trees needlework on pillow covers

A cheerful row of marching trees in the colors of the holiday greet you when entering a room. The modern geometric design creates a fun, unexpected take on holiday decor. The hand embroidered crewel work adds a mix of matte and shine to texture. From West Elm, 20×20 pillow covers only, $36.75. Pillow inserts can be ordered on the product page.

Spruce Green Winter Trees Pillow

Ivory pillow with green beaded trees

This appealing cushion features a variety of beaded evergreens in shades of green. It looks as if it’s hand made and will bring some sparkle to a comfy chair or sofa. With not a spot of red in sight, this cushion says Christmas in the most elegant way.  World Market, $34.99.

Red and White Peppermint Throw Pillow

Candy Cane swirl pillow

There is nothing understated about this cushion; it’s just joyous in every way.  Think candy canes and children’s red cheeks.  If you love decorating for Christmas, you will find a spot in your home for one—or even more—as an unapologetic ode to the holidays. World Market, $34.99.

Christmas Ornament Round Pillows

Round Christmas ornament shaped throw pillows

It’s as if two giant bobbles fell off your Christmas tree and landed on your couch. Decorated with contrasting bows and strings of pearls, these pillows will no doubt be a conversation starter with guests.  If you are (or not) decorating your tree, why not your couch as well? Grandinroad, price as marked.

Red Felt Botanical Petals Pillow Cover

Red felt botanical leaves pillow.

Poinsettia leaves cut from red felt cover this gorgeous red pillow.  Buy two or three–they come in several colors–to throw onto a beige or white couch or bed and amp up the holiday color in your room. From Pier1, $36.7518″ x 18″ pillow cover only. Pillow inserts can be purchased from Amazon.

Safavieh Beige and Gold Snowflake Velvet Accent Pillow

Beige Gold Snowflake pillow

This exquisite beige and gold accent pillow from Safavieh adds a touch of sophistication to the ho-ho-ho season. It features gold beaded accents, finely stitched snowflake motifs, a soft beige velvet backdrop, and playful corner tassels. Add a few to the sofa, your bed, or club chairs for some shimmer and flair. Find it on Amazon, $43.99.

3. Let there be (a few) lights

Lights of all kinds turn the deepest, darkest days of the year into magical scenes and spaces. That little spark of joy that comes from seeing the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, the fantasies created in store windows, the lights in the windows of your neighbors’ houses. Bring that feeling into your home with a few well-placed string lights or fairy lights or candles.

Bonsai Fairy Lights

Artificial bonsai tree with fairy lights

These gorgeous gold trees with their fairy lit branches are a refined option for those who have tired of the season’s ubiquitous red and green.  Even if you don’t own a home in the Hamptons, these on a mantle or a table in your home communicate good taste and elegance. Set of two from Amazon, $29.99

Globe String Lights

Lights for Christmas on branch like wire

Christmas is all about lights.  These beautiful white lights appear to be growing on climbing branches and can be configured in so many ways: climbing branches, draped over a fireplace mantel, or twisted into swirls that hang in the window.  The soft light and organic shape will help you relax amidst the hustle bustle going on outside. From Amazon, $37.99.

Lit Faux Frozen Pine & White Berry Garland

lit pine and berry garland

This garland of faux evergreens from Pottery Barn offers an easy way to deck your halls with holiday spirit. Lifelike pine needles, white berries, and glitter-strewn pinecones are interwoven with dozens of warm-white, energy-saving lights. It’s like a beautiful Christmas tree, only horizontal. One of many beautiful garlands at Pottery Barn.

Pre-lit Artificial Pine Tree

Pre-lit artificial Christmas tree

Yes you can enjoy the twinkling lights of a Christmas tree without all the work of a fresh-cut tree. This 3-foot artificial tree is maintenance free. All you do is bend and fluff the branches and plug it in. Voila! Instant Christmas. Of course you can add as many ornaments as you like but the major work is done. And the best part, you can use it next Christmas and the next and into perpetuity.  $34.50 on Amazon.

A Trio of Candle Holders

Trio of lacy gold tone pillar candle holders

Just say yes to flickering candlelight. These decorative candle holders feature a metallic gold perforated leaf-pattern that will cast playful shadows on your walls. Delicately crafted of robust and polished iron material. From Lowes, $32.48.

Pinecone Flameless Flickering Candles

Wax battery candles

Flameless candles are a good choice the older we get. If you can’t find your keys, are you going to remember to extinguish candles before you go to bed (and burn the house down)? These pinecone inspired flameless candles have a real wax exterior that won’t melt all over the place because LED bulbs provide the flickering light. AND they come with a remote! “Buy now” is what you’re thinking, aren’t you? $32.99 for the pair on Amazon.

Fireplace for Your Home

Fireplace video for Christmas

Fireplace for Your Home is a streaming video that will give you up to an hour of flickering, roaring, crackling fire–without the need for an actual fireplace. Or wood, Or soot. Fireplace for your home is available in several iterations on Netflix. Amazon Prime has other fireplace videos if you don’t have a Netflix subscription.

4. Fill your home with scents

Cookies baking. Fireplace crackling. Tree evergreening. Your sense of smell may be a better memory trigger than your sense of sight, says science. That’s why a whiff of seasonal scents may instantly transport you to Christmases past in your mind. Fortunately there is no need to be tethered to the oven or struggle with a 6-foot tree to recreate the aromas of Christmas in your home. Candles and diffusers are respectable substitutes and they are available in almost every scent of the season. All you need (and want, truthfully) is a whiff.

Portable Christmas Tree

Christmas tree scented candle

There is nothing faux about the spruce scent in this unique candle.  This candle comes from DS&Durga of New York City, makers of perfumes, candles and lotions with minimalist packaging and scents like “Big Sur After Rain”.  Their portable Christmas tree candle will quickly quell your longing for the smell of a fresh Christmas tree.  From D.S. & Durga,

 Thymes Frasier Fir Diffuser

Thymes Frasier fir diffuser set

If you aren’t planning to have a real Christmas tree this year (and the trend is to leaving the trees where they are) you don’t have to forgo that unmistakable scent.  Thymes Frasier Fir diffuser smells like the forest.  In addition to the scent of Frasier Fir, it has scents of cedar wood and sandalwood.  There’s a reason this is one of the best-selling scents on Amazon. Diffuser sells for $56 on Amazon.

Woodwick Ellipse Candle in “Fireside” Scent

Oval glass candleholder with scented candle

Candles come out at Christmas, but Woodwick candles stand out from the rest with their unique shape and design.  Each fragrance is custom blended using the finest ingredients to create a sophisticated, complex scent–the Fireside candles offer a wonderful fireside scent, and due to the wood wick creates a long, dancing flame and crackle to give you that fireside feel, even if you don’t have a fireplace. Available at Amazon, $26.34.

NEST Fragrances Holiday Scented Classic Candle

NEST New York holiday candles

NEST is known for its sophisticated scents. Its holiday scented candles are an easy way to make your home feel warm, festive, and holiday ready. They are made of a rich blend of pomegranate, mandarin orange, pine, cloves, and cinnamon with a hint of vanilla and amber. They will burn cleanly and evenly for 50-60 hours. Find them on Amazon, $46.

Santa’s Naturals, Snow Fall Christmas Candle

Santas Naturals candle in snowfall scent

If snow had a melody it would be the scent of this Snowfall candle. Woody and sweet, this candle hits all the right notes with bright citrus and eucalyptus, followed by the earthy scents of pine and cypress. The snow may not be falling on cedars but with this candle you can curl up with a book while staying snug and warm inside. Made from sustainably sourced soy and beeswax, plant-based essential oils, and cotton-core wicks. You can buy the Snow Fall candle on Amazon for $15.99.

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