Making Merry

December 2022 View more

Let your home shine this holiday season with these decorating ideas

A room decorated with holiday decor

As a creative personality who designs spaces for a living, it’s not surprising that Rachel Alcorn, principal and owner of Glen Ellyn–based Two Hands Interiors, gets her groove on decorating her own home for the holidays. But a global pandemic taught her that having a holiday-ready home is also a cherished tradition for her family, which includes children in middle and high school. “We weren’t doing any parties in 2020, but my family still wanted to decorate,” Alcorn says. “I always thought holiday decorating was something I was doing mostly for myself, but I learned that it’s a part of the holidays that we all really look forward to.”

Alcorn knows that time can be an obstacle to decking the halls, especially during a season packed with activities and traditions. “Go all out in one room,” she advises, focusing if possible on the space you use the most or where you’ll be doing your holiday entertaining. “That way, if you don’t get to the kitchen, so be it.”

To keep costs manageable, make sure the centerpieces of your annual holiday ornamentations are neutral and classic. Alcorn, for example, uses two large brass bowls each year, filling them with greenery, holiday trees, or barware as her tastes dictate.

When the holidays wind down, and it’s time to clean up, Alcorn even finds a silver lining to the pack-up chore dreaded by some. “It’s always satisfying to put everything away after the holidays and start the year with a clean slate.”

1. (Top) Wondering whether pros gravitate toward fresh greenery or faux? Interior designer Rachel Alcorn mixes both, favoring the fresh for its wonderful smell and texture while using faux to add volume and to cut down on the cost of purchasing new supplies each year. Hit the post-holiday sales for the best deals.


Candlesticks on a mantel

2. Candlesticks—another staple of holiday decorating—make a bigger impact when grouped together and placed at varying heights. Though these are from different sets, all are made of metal and each holds a simple white candle, giving them a unified look.


Interior designer Rachel Alcorn decorating a mirror

3. Alcorn loves using mirrors in her designs year-round but especially at the holidays. “They are inexpensive and low commitment,” she says. They also reflect light, including the twinkling variety, which is especially welcome when daylight is scarce.


A tablecloth decorating a table serving as a cocktail station

4. Alcorn collects vintage tablecloths “wherever she can find them,” using them liberally in her holiday decor. Here, a traditional plaid cloth is draped over furniture sporting a pop-up cocktail station. A pretty ribbon tied with greenery gives a standard table lamp a touch of holiday glam.


A seasonal vignette

5. Gather readily available materials such as a vase, ice bucket, and glasses to pull together a seasonal vignette. “Sometimes it’s about staging little moments,” Alcorn says.


Alcorn decorating bowls with holiday decorations
Bowls adorned in holiday decor

6. and 7. “I’m a huge believer in tweaking what you already have displayed,” Alcorn says. Bowls and vases on display the entire year get the holiday treatment with the addition of bulbs, bows, and greenery.


A room decorated in holiday decorations

8. Red and green isn’t the only game in town when it comes to festive color schemes. In fact, the pairing often clashes with the existing decor in many homes. Variations such as sage and cranberry can be a better fit, Alcorn suggests. Shades of pink and blue, paired with brass, silver or copper are also rich, luscious options.


Photos courtesy of Kristi Hughes