Homestyle: Decking your halls for the season

By Elaine Markoutsas
Universal Uclick

   For serious all-out holiday decor enthusiasts, planning begins well before Thanksgiving. There's a camp that subscribes to ritual, repeating decorations with favorite ornaments, tree toppers and even wreaths styles that have been part of family traditions. Then there are those who view the yearly exercise with an eye for something different, like kooky lime and orange ornaments in unusual shapes.

         Jennifer Perkins relates. She is crazy for mod seasonal decorations and shows her love at Christmas with about 100 trees displayed in her Austin, Texas, home. (Many, you might guess, are of the tabletop variety.) The blogger and DIY stylist (, who has appeared on HGTV and the DIY Network, is well-known for her craving for color and offbeat takes on holiday decor.

         One recent favorite: nearly neon yellow trees in her '60s-inspired living room. It all started with a trip to the Salvation Army last November.

         "I fell in love with this floral-printed couch," says Perkins. "It was so goofy, I had to have it. I took out all the furniture and rearranged the whole room, with Christmas trees around that couch, decorating with emerald green ornaments.

         "Christmas should be fun and whimsical," she says.

         There is nothing like Nat King Cole crooning "The Christmas Song" to give us the warm and fuzzies. But one lyric, "Everyone knows a turkey and some mistletoe/ Help to make the season bright" has new meaning when it comes to today's holiday decor. While the seasonal classic combo of red and green still prevails, though sometimes nuanced to berry and apple green, vivid hues have become a part of the conversation.

         Neiman Marcus and Horchow consider modern brights one of five major decor collections to create a holiday haven, describing the look as "fresh, fanciful and full of joy." Brands like Cody Foster and Co., MacKenzie-Childs and Kim Seybert (known for beaded stockings, tree skirts, place mats and table runners) all deliver. At Anthropologie, many of the pop-y colors are embraced in decorations with a handcrafted look. A fluffy pompom wreath composed of colorful yarns is especially dramatic on a vivid coral door.

Kara Whitten fell in love with a pink-flocked tree and teamed it with red-and-white candy-striped ribbon, with supersized ornaments in pinks and aqua for her mantel. She designed the wrapping paper for the packages as well as the color-blocked tables, the reindeer and small trees.

         In addition to more mainstream sources, Pinterest is full of ideas, and posts on blogs and even retail websites feature modern brights as well as candy-colored pastels, some in combinations reminiscent of the macaron palette from the French confectionary Laduree. Perkins actually is a brand ambassador for Treetopia (, where you can find yellow, orange, pink, red and blue trees in addition to patterned offerings (candy- and zebra-striped).

         Also high on Perkin's list is Glitterville Studios (, another rich source for stylish and colorful handcrafted decor by Stephen Brown of Knoxville, Tennessee. You can even purchase his how-to, "Glitterville's Handmade Christmas; A Glittered Guide for Whimsical Crafting!" on Amazon (Andrews McMeel Publishing; $24.99). A set of Brown's patterned hand-painted gift boxes graced the cover of Oprah magazine three years ago. (Full Disclosure: Andrews McMeel Universal is the parent company of both Andrews McMeel Publishing and Andrews McMeel Syndication.)

         Kara Whitten also is a cheerleader for brights. Her Austin, Texas, living room tree last year was pink flocked ("It stole my heart") and decked with red-and-white candy-striped ribbon with aqua ornaments. Beneath the tree were packages -- all color coordinated -- wrapped in papers she designed. Her white mantel screams, "Go Big or Go Home!" with a fun display of oversized ornaments in shades of pink and turquoise.

         "Every year we do something different," says Whitten, who graduated with a degree in chemical engineering and quit her first post-college job because she couldn't imagine working in a lab for the next 40 years.

         During a trip to a fabric store to get a pattern for the wedding dress her grandmother was sewing, she found a cool handbag pattern. She found her inner artist, launched what eventually grew into her website Kailo Chic ( That morphed into a brand, and now she sells crafts that she produces, as well as writes about home decor, craft and how to add color to your life on her blog,

         "I've always been drawn to color," says Whitten, who designed a set of DIY color-block ornaments after she was inspired by color-blocked planters that she created. A set of bright acrylic trees available at her online shop were inspired by clear triangular trays, which she stood up, painted and set on a stand.

         Whitten sees Christmas as the perfect time to play.

         "A monochromatic home is fine, but it's just not me. It does not make me happy and smile. But for someone looking to try something new -- this is a good time, because it's temporary."

         Global trend forecaster Michelle Lamb, who covers an international Christmas fair each year in Frankfurt, Germany, says the current affinity for outside-the-box seasonal colors make perfect sense.

A dramatic way to dress the front of the home, these supersized ornaments from Grandin Road are elegantly hand-painted in bold, graphic designs, like giant glossy versions of glass Christmas tree ornaments. The small oversized yard ornament in red stripe (slightly tilted) is 24 inches in diameter, 29 inches tall; medium black and white is 27 inches, 34 inches tall; large red plaid (also slightly tilted) is 30 inches, 38 inches tall.

         "Christmas was once a standalone event," says Lamb. "You'd decorate in a Christmas palette -- and it didn't matter if it was like anything else in your home. Now people strive to integrate (colors) into their decor."

         Part of the reason for brights and even neon colors, says Lamb, is because of a surge in popularity of 20-century artist Frida Kahlo (last year there was a huge exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London) and also a punk rock revival, which played out in a big way with "So Punk Rive Gauche" at Le Bon Marche department store in Paris in the fall.

         "(Some of it) is kitschy, but it's sophisticated," says Lamb.

         "If there was ever a time to let your inner kitsch lover out, it is Christmas," says Perkins.

         Perkins populates almost every surface in her home with decorations. "It's a chance to restyle everything," she says. "My house is like a living, breathing organism that never looks the same way twice." She clears off bookshelves and etageres, like the brass Milo Baughman piece that her mother scooped up for $100 in a thrift shop, and displays collectibles, including colorful glass, vintage art, elf ornaments from the '50s, small artificial trees, mirrored glam, '50s plastic. She says she tries to avoid the same things by mixing and mingling eras and putting together odd groupings like angels and vintage cameras. "So no tree is big box from head to toe," she adds.

         Another winning Perkins combo is a champagne tree that perfectly suits an '70s rose gold mirrored credenza with its funky collection of orange and pink ornaments.

         "It's never going to appeal to the majority of people," she says. "But for those who want to create environments that feel and are unique, brights are one way to do it. Colors definitely make me happy."

         'Tis the season to be jolly, to be sure. And fa-la-la-la-la fabulous! "So have fun with it," says Perkins.


         -- Anthropologie, 800-309-2500,

         -- Garnet Hill, 800-870-3513,

         -- Glitterville Studios,

         -- Grandin Road, 866-668-5962,

         -- Horchow, 877-944-9888,

         -- Kailo Chic, 512-636-3780,

         -- Neiman Marcus, 888-888-4757,

         A Rush to Blush

         Blush is making a low-key move into holiday decor. At West Elm (, there's a pink tinsel tree shown with blush and amber glass balls, as well as elegant dinnerware that combines the palest pink in abstract gilded brushstrokes on dreamy cream dinnerware. At CB2 (, pine gets a refresh with pretty-in-pink wreaths, garlands and faux fur stockings, and tree skirts in dusty rose.

         "There are a lot of reasons for blush to be part of the palette," says global trend forecaster Michelle Lamb. "In fact, one of my favorite trends for 2020-2021 is a winter fantasy with the sea, blush with a little bit of turquoise and light spa colors, against a backdrop of white and ivory."

         Besides solids, patterns in these appealing palettes have been emerging. Many are graphic, geometric and even a little suggestive of Southwest-style motifs. Colorful boxes and wrapping papers with striking graphics also extend the more standard Christmas tandems of red and green.