No matter what color or style you choose – or which holidays you celebrate – here are some standard must-haves:
1. Candlesticks Nothing can set a mood like the flicker of candlelight, and if you have glass or metallic candleholders, all the better for stoking the holiday spirit. It should go without saying that a candelabra or a good pair of candlestick holders bring drama and elegance to a holiday mantle or table. But why not go for a bit of nostalgia with traditional chambersticks? (Those are the holders set into a pan with a tiny loop for a handle.) Electric models can safely be set into windows, a centuries-old tradition intended as a sign of celebration or welcome.
2. Glass Bowls It sounds almost too simple, but glass bowls are incredibly useful for dressing up your home. A trifle bowl or hurricane glass can be filled with holiday candy, layered with pinecones and greenery or loaded with ball ornaments or dried fruit. You’re only limited by your imagination. Use them as centerpieces or as decorative elements anywhere a bare, flat surface beckons.
3. Glass & Metallic Trays Sure they can fulfill their intended duty as a backdrop for hors d’oeuvres. But filled with ornaments, beads or chandelier crystals, they easily make the transition from scenery to star. Slip a tray under a flower centerpiece or beneath an arrangement of pillar candles. They’ll add an extra bit of sparkle to your tabletop décor.
4. Ball Ornaments Ball ornaments allow you to introduce color or shine anywhere in your home. Collect them by hue, by size or both. If you have a glass bowl that can be set into another bowl, place smaller balls in the top vessel and larger ones in the bottom. Also employ them in wreaths, or use them to create their own wreath by stringing the balls onto an old wire hanger.
5. Beaded Garland Beaded garland is a versatile standard, whether wrapped around a tree, intertwined with greenery or festooned across a mantle. Plastic garland tends to looks like fake jewelry, so stick to glass or crystal, when possible.
6. Linens It’s wonderful to have tablecloths and napkins to complement your color palette or style of décor. But don’t overlook remnants, which can be used as table runners or tree skirts.
7. Collectibles Almost everyone has a holiday collecting tradition, but too many tchotkes can look messy. Whether you favor Nutcrackers or nativity sets, snow globes or menorahs, try grouping them in one area – on a fireplace mantle, for instance-or pick an odd number (three or five tend to look best) and center them along a table.
8. Wide Ribbon Quality, double-sided satin ribbon is one of the smartest purchases you can make – especially if you can get it on clearance at the end of the holiday season. Use it to trim garlands with bows, wrap it around trees, create ornament bouquets (as shown) tie it on presents. Three-inch and five-inch wide pieces can be used as table runners. Often ribbon can be salvaged and reused the following year.
9. Topiary Topiaries work well in pairs in foyers or on either side of the front door. Smaller ones can be lined up along a table in sets of three or five to create a modern look.
10. Sleigh Bells Sleigh bells have a romantic feel that evokes wintry scenes. Once upon a time, they were used to alert pedestrians that a sled was traveling on the road. They have long since lost their practical application, but not their charm. Found at retail stores and antique shops, sleigh bells are often admired (and acquired) for their inlaid patterns. In fact, some can be quite ornate. Affix them to wreaths or garlands. Or tie single bells to ribbon, twine or raffia and hang them from individual panes of glass. Better yet, collect a whole bunch and place them in a glass bowl centerpiece for a modern twist.
11. Greenery The scent of fresh greenery is the scent of winter holidays. Whether you choose juniper, fir, boxwood or pine, fresh looks best, but some quality artificial greens are available (sans the enlivening aroma, of course). Fresh swags or wreaths can be sprayed with an anti-desiccant to prevent drying. Otherwise, spray them with water and leaving them in a trash bag for a day or two to hydrate. A longer-lasting alternative to greenery is to spray paint tree branches white. Used indoors or outside in window boxes or urns, they are appropriate for use well into the New Year.
12. Fruit Fruit is an easy and traditional way to include the warmth and comfort of the holiday season into your overall décor. Apples, pomegranates and pineapples, for instance, add color and texture to tabletop centerpieces. If you’re using fresh produce, apples, pomegranates and artichokes tend to hold up the best. Kumquats and lemons brown quickly, as does holly foliage, she adds. Dried fruit can last for several seasons, depending on how well it was preserved and whether it is used inside or outside. Cardboard boxes wick moisture during storage. Use plastic bins only for cones and pods that will not get mildewed. And always date boxes so you can reuse older items first.