For much of America, Christmas comes wrapped in white. With or without real snow on the ground, holiday decorations recall snowmen and sleigh bells, icicles and snowflakes. It’s what carolers dream about.
Coincidentally, American homes often gravitate to all-white color schemes year-round. Rooms swathed in white (and its many shades) look clean, bright, uncluttered and modern.
But how do you turn everyday to holiday? That’s where a little designer magic comes into play.
“It may not be an all-white Christmas, but it’s at least a monochromatic Christmas,” said Sacramento designer Kerrie Kelly, one of the experts who tackled house makeovers for the recent Sacred Heart Holiday Home Tour.
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Kelly and her team worked on the 42nd Street home of Stephanie Kilmer. They started with white furnishings and white walls.
“Our holiday home tour house was quite monochromatic,” Kelly said. “We had cottonwood walls with white trim and white furniture. We simply layered in burlap, craft paper, reclaimed wood and organic elements.”
All-white rooms are a definite trend for 2014, she added. But an all-one-color scheme can feel flat.
The solution? Texture, nature and light. That combination doesn’t just work for the holidays but all year-round.
“When you’re working with one color, really playing with texture and organic elements gives it more interest,” Kelly said. “White allows me to mix metals – silver and gold. It also gives me an opportunity to use natural elements, such as leaves, branches and pine cones. The juxtaposition really complements each other.”
Among the metallic finishes, aged gold and brushed silver are particularly popular, Kelly said. Brushed nickel also has its niche.
“It’s not really shiny, but feels warm and glowing,” Kelly said of these aged or brushed metallics. “Mixing silver and gold plays off the white; you can use one or the other, but really anything goes.”
Natural tones soften the all-white look and make it feel more comfortable, less formal. For example, in the holiday tour house, the tan tones of burlap and craft paper gave a warm and fuzzy edge to the snow white drift of sofa and chairs.
Designer Shiree Hanson Segerstrom, another home tour veteran, also likes the “natural” contrast. Her own Sonora home was featured on a recent Association of American University Women holiday tour. She’s also noticed a lot of white décor.
“We’re seeing a lot of all-white all over the place,” Segerstrom said. “On Pinterest, it’s so prevalent. We’re also seeing a lot of Swedish-inspired design incorporating natural elements: moss, pine cones, manzanita, olive branches, evergreens. It’s not a lot of color, but a lot of texture.”
All-white décor can seem clinical without something to pique other senses, such as touch or smell, she noted.
“Natural elements such as pine can often add scent as well as texture,” Segerstrom said.
She noted that many clients are asking for lighter, brighter room designs. She credited this phenomenon to aging baby boomers.
“We baby boomers, as we age, our eyes change,” she said. “It’s harder for us to see in dark rooms. My older clients want lighter rooms. They want lighter finishes to floors and furniture. They want a lot of light fixtures. And baby boomers tend to set the trends because there are so many of us.”
Adding sparkle makes those rooms look special, especially for the holidays. That shine can come from mirrors or mirrored surfaces, crystals or other glass or metallic accessories. If it sparkles, it can become an ornament. At Pottery World in Rocklin, for example, an all-white tabletop tree was strung with rhinestones, pearls and vintage costume jewelry.
“Metallics add interest and make (rooms) feel festive,” Segerstrom said. “Anything that sparkles adds a festive touch. Silver and gold feels like Christmas and New Year’s. You don’t see a lot of metallics for Easter.”
You may have everything you need for decorating already close at hand – in your home or garden, she noted.
“I do a lot with stuff right out of my own garden,” Segerstrom said. “It adds to that Swedish look.”
Some of her favorite landscape plants for holiday decorating? Nandina (heavenly bamboo) with red berries, holly, boxwood and myrtle. Propped up in a vase, plain branches of birch or manzanita are great for hanging ornaments.
To get into the holiday spirit, try decorating the dining room table, she said. Start with a plain tablecloth in white or a very pale green. Add texture with simple woven place mats. Metallic chargers or plain white plates add some shine. For her own table, Segerstrom added gold-rimmed crystal dessert dishes to the center of white plates. A gold-rimmed place card for each guest sat in the middle of each dessert dish. She decorated the center of the table with garden greens laced with ribbon.
“The secret to a pretty table is layering,” Segerstrom said. “There’s no set way to do it. Experiment. But always do a trial run; you don’t want to wait until the last minute with guests coming through the door.”