Simplify your decorating for the holidays: Easy, step-by-step secrets [sponsored]


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Most of us look forward to the holiday season. But, honestly, don’t they sneak up on us rather suddenly? Like many of you, I am already thinking about a Halloween costume for my son, friends in the guest room, meal planning, family photos and gift shopping — which every year I swear I am going to do earlier than December.

On top of all of that, if you are the hostess for family gatherings and out-of-town guests, the effort of creating a pulled-together home can be a bit daunting. Here are some simple tips to survive the holidays with grace and a new, simplified style. And as a special gift for HellaWella readers, many of these tips can be put into action by using a 25% off discount code: HELLAREADER25 at Altogether Home.

Remember that less is more. Start at your front door and start taking pictures of your house. Nothing will reveal a cluttered interior like a camera. Once you see how much STUFF you’ve accumulated, schedule a weekend in October to remove extra furniture and accessories that are out of style, too large or in the wrong spot. Put on your design hat and use this checklist to re-vamp and update your decor:

1. Get rid of silk plants and matchy floral arrangements. Give them away and replace with live plants that you can’t kill, such as succulents and orchids.

2. Pare down the picture frames. Choose a treasured few, and store the rest to rotate seasonally. Make sure the frames are simple and arranged by similar styles so the subject matter in the photo shines through.

3. Split up the matching sofa and loveseat combos. Leave the sofa in the living room and use the loveseat in the spare bedroom. Remember: sofas don’t always have to hug the wall.

4. Give away out-of-style lamps and chandeliers. Replace with modern or clean-lined choices for an instantroom facelift.

5. Take down art that is too small for the wall. Replace it with a cohesive collection or larger canvas — even if you paint it yourself!

6. Unless you want a “canned model home” look, stop matching one style. Many rooms have too much of a good thing (i.e.,everything in a room is carved, ornate, bronze and Mediterranean, or every piece of furniture is “turn of the century” reproductions — even the upholstery.) The most beautiful rooms always mix styles, time periods, accessory attitude and wood tones. And most importantly, the room reveals a personal story of who lives there.

7. Update rugs that are too small. Place a cost-effective seagrass rug underneath the seating group and toss your existing smaller rug over it at an angle for a new boost.

Add versatile and functional accessories. Smart decorating can be budget-friendly if you plan for function and long-term use. Here is a list of what every designer considers essential “basics” for home decor and entertaining for the holiday season:

1. Big wooden bowl: No matter the design vibe, every home needs a big wooden bowl in the kitchen. Depending on where you live, fill it with the fruits or vegetables harvested in your area to express the change in season. In October, I fill mine with mini pumpkins or squash from the farmers market. My mother, who lives in a neighborhood full of pine trees, always fills a bowl with pine cones and nuts in November. And because we are Floridians, December provides fresh citrus for our kitchen bowls — but those of you in colder climates probably like to display crisp red apples, pears or pomegranates.

2. Clear lidded containers of assorted sizes: These are so practical and versatile. I use mine in the bathroom for cosmetics and personal care items such as cotton balls, and in the kitchen for appealing storage. Choose containers that double as vases when the lid is removed, and fill with related hues of flowers for a chic statement on the buffet table with minimal skill required. Another favorite trick of mine is to cut branches or leaves from my yard to create an edited, architectural look that celebrates your particular region.

3. Cake stands: Obviously use them to display cake or other desserts, because height variation on a buffet table is essential. But what I want you to know about cakes stands is that they also double as terrariums, ornament displays, perfume organizers or candle platforms. Stack graduating sizes with candles and small monochromatic floral arrangements for a buffet centerpiece that is cost-effective and easy to assemble.

4. Votive holders: Avoid colored candles that are seasonally inspired. Instead, express seasonal color with the votive holder itself. If you are using tapers, or filling a clear hurricane, use creamy candles whenever possible, and change the scent depending on the season. On the table, use unscented candles and tea lights so the aroma doesn’t interfere with the tastes of the meal. When I entertain during the holidays, my mantra is: You can’t have too many candles. And always remember to turn all of the lights down low.

5. Oversized trays: Trays are in every room in my house because they artfully contain a collection, or frankly, occasional clutter. In the kitchen, use a big tray to organize oils and vinegars, or to display a small bowl to hold seasonal fruit or holiday ornaments. In the living room, arrange your coffee table books, a candle and something living that celebrates the season at hand — such as Narcissus at Christmastime. On the buffet, start with a tray to display an antique crèche or snow village — this will make the arrangement look more sophisticated and pulled together.

6. Throws: Use throws to soften upholstery in the living room, bedroom and family room. Not only do they provide a complementary layer to most sitting areas, they can add seasonal color and practical, cozy warmth. In the winter, simply choose throws that reinforce a strong neutral in your palette — like gray or cream — or splurge on a color pop that resonates with your holiday color scheme such as peacock, persimmon or curry.

Find terrific decorating tips and home furnishings and decor at Altogether Home, and be sure to use the 25% off discount code for HellaWella readers, HELLAREADER25.