Everyone’s busy and merchandise is scarce, but we still want December to be festive. Is it possible to create tender memories and a sense of heartfelt cheer with a minimum of fuss?
Yes, says Nicole Wear, a Portland interior designer who runs Friday and Company, a real estate, design and home-staging firm, with her husband, Calle Holmgren.
“Decorating for the holidays doesn’t have to be an all-day event,” says Wear.
She doesn’t pull back on the fun and feeling of the season — “my family takes this very seriously,” she says with a smile — noting that adding a few simple, sentimental touches can help put everyone in the holiday mood.
But she focuses her effort on the rooms where the couple and their three children spend the most time together — the living room, dining area and kitchen — brightening the spaces with natural greenery, candles and a selection of whimsical, meaningful holiday pieces.
Wear’s year-round design approach, which she calls “Scandinavian Zen,” is to create texture-rich, family-friendly, inviting spaces with a light, bright feel. Think washable white walls and cozy upholstered furniture. She carries this aesthetic into the holidays.
During the pandemic, the family found that the dining room became the place to sit, eat, work and relax. Here, they play board games, add a piece to a puzzle or just look out the large window. For the holidays, a fresh floral arrangement decorates the table.
Wear’s tip for a less stressful season? Keep the tchotchkes to a minimum.
“Since we’ve always lived in smaller homes, our holiday aesthetic definitely resembles our daily design philosophy,” she says. “We aim to create a lived-in space that feels fun, cheery and tidy.”
This is the time, she says, to slow down, light the fireplace and bake with Christmas music playing.
Here are five more tips from Wear for easy holiday decorating.
Add a garland
Decorating for the holidays means adding more greenery to the house in the form of garland, garland and more garland, Wear says. The fresher the better.
Wear recently posted photos on Instagram of evergreen boughs hung around the window frames and French doors in her kitchen. Draping pieces all the way to the floor, rather than just across the tops of the window frames, created a dramatic effect.
Look for various lengths of fresh western red cedar, Douglas fir and noble fir garland, available at local nurseries, to drape on a staircase, mantel and bookshelves, as well.
Illuminate the seasonal darkness using the soft glow of candles, says Wear. She likes simple, individual candlestick holders that she arranges in small clusters on windowsills, tables and other safe surfaces.
“We also use an Advent candelabra to mark the four Sundays preceding Christmas,” says Wear. “I am particularly drawn to carved wooden candlestick holders in different heights and wood tones.”
Use your bookshelves
Bookshelves are an essential part of the family’s living spaces; books are always front and center, says Wear. For the holidays, she sparingly adds colorful, holiday-themed objects like mini Christmas trees and nutcrackers.
Make the fireplace a centerpiece
The century-old fireplace in the family’s home was damaged and poorly repaired long before they moved in. They have since restored the fireplace to its original look, with a traditional plaster surround and a ceramic tile hearth.
During the holidays, the children’s stockings hang above the fireplace. Fresh garland and wood candlesticks decorate the mantel.
Get a fresh tree
A fresh Christmas tree is the centerpiece of Wear’s living room, and a variety of Christmas-tree-shaped objects in different shades and textures are on display on shelves and tables.
Also part of the scene are white, candlelit ceramic houses and handmade Swedish Tomte elves under pointy red hats.