You might be dreaming of a white Christmas, but I prefer the traditional red and green – for decorating, that is! These colors cheer up even the dreariest of winter days; they’re naturally found in nature, which often means cheaper, faster decorations (think: hand-cut evergreens and berries); and, better yet, they coordinate perfectly with the palette of my house!

Unconventional Entryway Cheer
Unconventional Entryway Cheer Photo by Julia M. Usher
Greens and Berries At Every Door
Greens and Berries At Every Door Photo by Julia M. Usher

I swear, not more than a week ago I declared to my Facebook friends that I wasn’t going all-out this year. Too much travel, not enough time, yada yada . . . I’d just slap my quirky 50s-era masonite wreath (below) on the front door, and that would have to be fine. But once I latched onto this easy red and green idea (with a Santa subtext), I soon found myself on overdrive.

. . . And Even in the Milkbox! Photo by Julia M. Usher
Repetition Can Be Striking
Repetition Can Be Striking Photo by Julia M. Usher

Yep, there’s no better decorating guide than a strong theme – with a few unusual twists. And no better impetus than an appreciative husband. (Can you believe it? The sweetie left me a handwritten thank-you note after seeing what I’d done!) Want to see too? Read on . . . along the way, I also offer a few tips for making holiday decorating more breezy!

. . . Without Being Complicated
. . . Without Being Complicated Photo by Julia M. Usher
Santa as a Secondary Theme
Santa as a Secondary Theme Photo by Julia M. Usher

1 | Start the Theme Outdoors.

Why decorate your house one way on the inside, and another way on the outside? A wide variety of elements only complicates the decorating process and usually blows the decorating budget (if there is one) straight out the roof. I stuck with simple greens and berries, and lots of them at every door and vantage point (see photos 1 to 5). But to prevent them from being too blah (a risk you run as you streamline elements), I paid special attention to containers and small embellishments. Normal planters, window boxes, and door hangings wouldn’t suffice, so I substituted a rusty cistern, an old newspaper box (hung the wrong way!), and a milkbox handed down from my mom. I already had these things, I just used them in new ways. As for the small details, I kept them simple and similar to make the whole setup easy on the eye . . .  a burlap bow on the newspaper box (photo 2), burlap ties with red buttons on the hanging wreaths (photos 3 to 5), and galvanized metal containers everywhere.

The Red, Green and Santa Themes Move Inside
The Red, Green and Santa Themes Move Inside Photo by Julia M. Usher
Unexpected Containers Transform the Traditional
Unexpected Containers Transform the Traditional Photo by Julia M. Usher

2 | Bring the Indoors Out.

It’s important to project a warm coziness to guests, especially when it’s icy cold outside! And I like to do so from the get-go by putting touches of the inside on my front porch. A toss of a Santa pillow and a red quilt were all I needed to dress up the old bench that greets my guests (photo 6). The Santa was also an intentional sneak preview of the sub-theme I had going on in the house.

Centerpiece, To the Left
Centerpiece, To the Left Photo by Julia M. Usher
Containers, A Bit Closer
Containers, A Bit Closer Photo by Julia M. Usher
Egg Scales and Chicken Troughs - A Logical Pair!
Egg Scales and Chicken Troughs – A Logical Pair! Photo by Julia M. Usher

3 | Be Consistent Inside, To a Degree.

Again, a wide variety of decorating elements can be time consuming and expensive to assemble – not to mention completely distracting. Greens (a mixture of pine, fir, spruce, and boxwood, to be exact) and red berries also dominated my centerpiece (photos 7 to 12), as did different forms of Saint Nick! You may have seen my vintage papier mâché guys last year – and that’s quite alright. It’s wasteful not to re-use items from Christmases past; we all should, but with caution intact. By that I mean: if you don’t change things up in some way, you’re bound to put your spouse and other regular guests to sleep. But here’s the good news . . . even small twists can be a big hit. I went from mini trees (last year) to arranged greens (this year), and from Santas in 7-Up crates to Santas surrounding an old chicken trough! If you check out the photos then and now, I think you’ll see a considerable difference.

Centerpiece, To the Right
Centerpiece, To the Right Photo by Julia M. Usher
Santa Mugs!
Santa Mugs! Photo by Julia M. Usher

4 | Carry the Theme Through the Details.

If you’ve read even a few of my posts, then this tip should come as no surprise. I’m a detail person – God is in the details, beauty is expressed with details, and guests feel fully appreciated when they know you cared enough to sweat the details. (You catch my drift!) Here, you’ll see this principle expressed through Santa. When you least expect him, he pops up everywhere (photos 13 to 18). He’s the mug that will be warmed by hot cocoa; in postcard form, he’s the liner in the tray that holds those mugs; he’s the vessel used to serve Mulled Cider Sorbet; he’s the prime decoration on a plate of gingerbread cookies . . . and when those cookies get photographed, he turns into a bunch of colorful gift tags (last two photos).

Santa Postcards Line the Tray!
Santa Postcards Line the Tray! Photo by Julia M. Usher
Santa Used to Serve Cider Sorbet!
Santa Used to Serve Cider Sorbet! Photo by Julia M. Usher

5 | Learn to Let Go.

It’s easy to let holiday decorating consume you. We all get caught up in the passion to make everything as special as possible for our family and friends. But, remember, the season won’t be special for anyone if you’re too frazzled to give of yourself. After spending a few hours hanging the wreaths and garlands on my porch (photos 4 and 5), nearly all of them blew off in high winds today. Initially, my heart sunk and I scurried around in the storm salvaging them all. But you know what?! I’m pretty sure they’ll stay un-hung from here on out. I’m getting tired, which is a signal that it’s time to turn on the Christmas tunes, pour a glass of eggnog (spiked, preferably), and kick back!

Santa Cookies!
Santa Cookies! Photo by Julia M. Usher
Even Santa Gift Tags!
Even Santa Gift Tags! Photo by Julia M. Usher

An Aside: For all of my Santa cookie how-tos, check out the tutorial here. I think you’ll like the fact that this cookie uses a relatively quick drawing technique! And for the sorbet recipe, you needn’t click any further than here. Lastly, be sure to scan down to the bottom of this post to catch all of my pictures, or click on anyone to enlarge it and then use the arrows to advance the photos in a slide show.

Gift Tag, Closer Photo by Julia M. Usher

May your holiday season be filled with cheery decorations, great food, friends and family, and well-deserved time off! Live sweetly!