Early November: We've arrived at the brief calm before the happy storm of holiday celebrating begins.
We may be thinking about the gorgeous decorating we'll do and the great parties we'll throw, but we haven't plunged into the work of it just yet.
If you lay some groundwork now, however — before that crush of holiday gift shopping, cooking, baking and partying begins — you can make this year's holiday decorating easier, and hopefully more spectacular, than ever.
CLEAR AND CLEAN
Interior designer Betsy Burnham, founder of Burnham Design in Los Angeles, suggests clearing out small items now from the rooms you'll be using for entertaining. "Clear off the surfaces, the tabletops," she says, so that you'll have room to add holiday-themed items next month.
Put away things you won't need during the holidays, then give your home an especially thorough cleaning. She suggests choosing a few extra projects — such as shampooing rugs or touching up paint around window frames — that can be done now to make your home brighter during the holidays.
THINK SEASONAL, VERSATILE
Celebrity designer Thom Filicia, who has been decorating the grand foyer at New York's Radio City Music Hall for HGTV's "Radio City Holidays," says the weeks before Thanksgiving are the perfect time to start bringing out versatile items that can be used throughout the holiday season.
Put out crystal and glass pieces for serving or decorating, along with any silver items and candleholders.
With candleholders or tea light holders in place, he says, you can fill them now with candles in fall colors; swap those for different candles as Christmas or Hanukkah approach; and finally switch in silver candles for New Year's.
If you've created that foundation of sparkling items, he says, "then it's really easy to just add those one or two little holiday items that really sort of sell the holiday that you're embracing at that time."
Designer Brian Patrick Flynn, founder of decordemon.com, takes the same approach: "Find things that are not necessarily 100 percent aimed toward the holidays," he says, "and get them out."
"If I'm at a clients' place and I look in the garage and find a bunch of cool bronze accessories, that's the perfect thing to put out now. You probably have all these things that have a holiday feel, but they're not technically 'holiday' pieces."
BEGIN ADDING COLOR
Flynn suggests adding items — anything from throw pillows and tablecloths to picture frames and flower vases — in colors you'll want to use throughout the holidays.
If you bring out items that are hunter green and brown in early November, he says, they can stay in place through the Christmas season. Another favorite palette of Flynn's that can be used from now until New Year's: turquoise with silver and gold. It's festive, he says, without being specific to any one holiday.
INCLUDE NATURAL ITEMS
Burnham suggests decorating now with natural items like pine branches, which look great all winter.
Flynn agrees: "There's something about using those organic textures at the holidays, the branches and even things like burlap and other natural textures."
Filicia suggests starting now with gourds and pumpkins on a dining table, then subbing those out with pinecones after Thanksgiving. These items can be displayed on the same glass tray or in the same silver bowl, making the switch simple.
"Having that foundation not only makes the table look great or the house feel warm and inviting," he says, "but it makes entertaining a lot easier, when you know you have those pieces ready to go."
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