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Find Your Own Holiday Style

Why stick to the old red and green? Steal these pro designer tips to put your own spin on holiday decor.

Running here, there and everywhere has become a trademark of the holiday season. While you're heading all over town in search of the perfect present or ingredient for a holiday meal, who's at home decorating your house?

Before you become too stressed over your home's lack of yuletide cheer, let us help you "deck the halls." We'll have you feeling festive long before your first guest arrives.

How to Make Your Style Represent You

"Define your holiday," says Derek Groves, a design consultant in Salt Lake City, Utah. "Everybody has different religions and lifestyles. Think of what and why you're celebrating."

Then, once you've settled on the basics:

Consider a contemporary twist. If you're all about contemporary style, why force yourself into a velvet red, green and gold holiday season? By decorating your home in a style that's not compatible with you, you're setting up an uncomfortable atmosphere.

So how does contemporary translate into holiday cheer? Groves recalls a particular client with a very contemporary home and lifestyle. He was called to the house to decorate for the Jewish holiday season.

"We did stylized garlands, nothing red and green," he says. "It was so special because [the client's] holiday decorations were a reflection of her authentic style. Guests who knew her expected this; they expected to feel comfortable in the home, just as they felt comfortable with her."

Or, put your personal "stamp" on the traditional. After all is said and done, you might feel you're best represented by the traditional Christmas plaid and candles galore. In that case, go through old holiday snapshots. Set aside the photos that particularly reflect the best celebrations. Take notice of the background. What decorations stand out? What colors are you attracted to? Then, look around your home. How do you decorate in the "off-season"?

"Decorating for the holidays is an extension of accessorizing; it's important, but it's not the main thing," Groves says.

Have a Christmas Tree? Decorate It in New Ways

Try bringing the outside in. For example, Rita Klein, a Wauwatosa, Wis., mother of two, loves the outdoors. After applying Groves' "personal style approach" to her holiday decorating, Klein raved about the outcome.

"My kids and I set out on our daily walk. We took a garbage bag and collected everything that looked interesting. That year, my tree was filled with maple leaves, birds' nests and grapevine garland. My guests were forever commenting on how beautiful everything was."

Make your tree interactive. "It's always nice to give your guests a reason to get close to the tree," Groves says. You can accomplish this by adding photos of family and friends in interesting frames – handmade, even.

But Groves' favorite suggestion is adding something edible. "Buy some netting and ribbon from your local fabric store," he says. "Cut out small squares, add a few chocolates and tie it up with a bow. Place the treats in the tree and encourage your visitors to help themselves."

Don't rearrange the furniture around it. Groves points out that rearranging the furniture can be a time-consuming – and even dangerous – task that many parents loathe.

"I'm all for eliminating rather than rearranging," he says. "In my house, I simply remove one accent table, and there's the spot for my tree."

More Tips and Tricks

Add a touch of holiday decor in every room of your house. Rest assured, it doesn't have to be elaborate. Groves suggests traditional swags of garland on mantles and banisters. He says that this universal holiday decoration can then have other items added in order to reflect personal style.

"We had a beautiful garland swag over the mantle," Klein says. "In the center, we put a cluster of maple leaves, a bird's nest, some dried wild flowers and a few other things we collected on our walks. It was breathtaking."

Groves encourages clients to add clusters of holiday decor in every room. "Add beeswax candles of varying sizes on a decorative saucer," he says. "Save some items from the tree and garland to adorn the cluster."

Klein created clusters of bird nests, leaves, dried flowers, beeswax candles and stones in each guest bedroom and bath. "It was just enough," she says. "I don't have time to spend hours decorating and even more hours moving the stuff to dust and clean. It wasn't overwhelming. It just added something special."

Get the kids to help. Of course, many people find that a holiday just isn't a holiday unless it can be seen through the eyes of a child. Groves suggests that you get older children involved by enlisting their artistic expertise.

"Have your kids write poems or thank you notes," he says. "Write them onto squares of paper and roll them into scrolls. Place the scrolls in a basket by the door or in the guest rooms and encourage your guests to take one before they leave."

This year, create your own holiday style. The results will bring authentic joy. After all, isn't that what the season's really about?

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