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Chicago Interior Designers on Holiday Decor

Decking your halls for the holiday season can be as much of an event as the holidays themselves. It is exciting to see your home take on a new feeling of coziness and cheer. But how do you keep it fresh, instead of dragging out the same old tinsel and ribbon?

Interior Designer Holiday Tips

We asked Stephen Gertz, Susan Brunstrum, Hunter Kaiser, and Kenneth Walter -- all Chicago-based interior designers filled with the holiday spirit -- how they bring that warm, happy feeling to their homes each December. Read on for their tips!

How do you prepare your home for the holidays?

Stephen Gertz: I love preparing for hibernation by getting out those warm fleece blankets to snuggle under on cold nights. Creating even more of a secluded cabin feel, I like to boil cinnamon, cranberries, and pine which fills my home with an enchanting aroma.

Susan Brunstrum: With a lot of joy! But seriously, everyone who knows me will tell you that this is my holiday mantra: Choose décor within the color palette of your home. I never decorate with the traditional bright red and green because it clashes with my existing pieces. Instead, I lean toward creams, whites, beige, taupes and earth tones with sparkly accents of gold and silver to brighten things up.

Hunter Kaiser: As I prepare my home for the holidays, I like to do a deep clean and polish of all my glassware, silver and china so that it is at the ready for entertaining.  I also change out the bed linens for winter to give a new cozy feel.  In addition, I take some time to pack away some everyday accessories, to make room for holiday accessories and floral.

Kenneth Walter: Our holidays begin with Thanksgiving -- this for us is the kick-off. We typically buy our tree, wreath and whatever else we need that weekend. This is also when I find out we need more lights as many are not working properly!

Interior Design Holiday Decor 

What are your favorite holiday decor staples?

Stephen Gertz: I find myself leaning more towards the rustic look these days. For centerpieces, I utilize old wood crates and mason jars as candle holders combined with accents of holly and pine branches. Pheasant feathers and burlap are other great accent features I use in my settings.

Susan Brunstrum: Mother Nature is my source for many of my holiday staples! Natural elements just feel cozy and warm for the holidays. I might fill a bowl with dried pomegranates, rose hips, sweetgum pods, pinecones and moss or make an arrangement of birch logs in a tall container. In a tall vase, I would arrange red twig or yellow twig dogwood branches with artificial snow and just attach two or three snowflake ornaments. I’ve been known to bring home a variety of evergreen clippings – the fragrance just says ‘Christmas’ – or winterberry branches and pinecones and add silver or gold ribbon and bows.

I’m crazy about wreaths of a different breed too. Instead of typical fir tree wreaths, how about using moss, boxwood or magnolia leaves? And don’t forget about the shape. There are no laws saying you have to have a round wreath! How about squares or diamonds? And here’s a tip - instead of just hanging one wreath on your front door, try a set of three hung vertically on a length of pretty, sturdy ribbon – all the same size or in graduated sizes.

Hunter Kaiser: Some of my favorite staples for holiday decorating include good quality #9 double faced satin ribbon; fresh greens of cedar, magnolia, nandina and aucuba remind me of past holidays in the south; loads of white lights and candles; and fresh citrus fruit studded with cloves.

Kenneth Walter: The tree of course, we love the aroma! We always drape our front entrance with a big fresh wreath and boughs all wrapped in lights.

Interior Designer Holiday Tips 

What tip would you give homeowners who are wanting to take their holiday decor to the next level?

Stephen Gertz: Don't be afraid to think outside the realm of normal holiday decor color schemes. Reds and greens are great staples, but changing it up once in awhile is a lot of fun. Silver and white combinations or even charcoal with a splash of a peacock teal can be just as inviting if done well.

Susan Brunstrum: Think clusters! You create a bigger impact when you display holiday décor in groupings: a mini forest of little trees, votive candles, ornaments of all shapes and sizes, or a trio of snowmen. Don’t forget the faux snow and mica for a bit of bling - eyes will turn! I also love hanging large ornaments on ribbon from the center of drapery rods to add a festive element from the outside looking in you.

Hunter Kaiser: If you want to take your décor to the next level, have a little something holiday in every room of your home. It will make each space seem that much more special this time of year. Introduce some drama or some whimsy to your décor. We just installed a 12’ pole pine wrapped in white sheer and gold branches up the middle of a client’s circular staircase, and it is a beautiful centerpiece to their foyer. One year, I did a small tree with all those old Christmas card photos Mom made us take every year growing up. It was a fun conversation piece. Rethink what goes on the tree, it doesn’t just have to be ornaments. Sometimes, your everyday items can become great décor with some fresh greens or a beautiful ribbon.

Kenneth Walter: Bear in mind, it's a lot of work. So pace yourself, try to limit the work to warmer days as a sudden cold snap can really make it a miserable experience for DIYers. To really take it to the next level, consider a theme, stick with a few colors (less is more!), and when in doubt hire someone to wrap the trees in white lights; it's worth it!

Equipped with these tips, you can freshen things up and impress your guests this season. And, if you’d like to relax by the fire and let a designer take over next year, consider hiring one to do your holiday decor!


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