Learning from a Master: How Kathy Ireland® would decorate your house for the holidays

How Kathy Ireland would decorate your house for the holidays

Kathy Ireland® Once Upon a Christmas

Holidays offer countless entertaining possibilities and a chance to bring family and friends into our homes. We want them to look their best. But such gatherings also present challenges. Do we have enough comfortable seating, have we made the house look joyous and festive, are we on-trend with colors, materials, textures and other trends?

We talked with Kathy Ireland®, one of the 50 most influential people in fashion who has graced the cover of Forbes Magazine twice—in 2012 and 2016, to share some of her favorite decorating ideas. kathy ireland® Worldwide (kiWW®), is listed among the most powerful brands in the world by License Global Magazine.

Holidays often mean more people showing up—and staying, so would you provide tips on more seating, more comfort, more warmth for both furnishings and accessories?

The answer depends on whether you planned your home to accommodate large groups. In our kathy ireland® Worldwide | Michael Amini Home Designs collection, we have ottomans, which serve the multi-purpose of seating, storage, and relaxation. Overstuffed pillows are helpful for sitting on or leaning back. We utilize loveseats for smaller spaces, and oversized sofas where there’s room. Always remember that when furniture was invented, it was owned only by the richest people, in some cases only royalty, and it was always moved, except for the bed, from room to room. Pull those chairs away from the dining table. Make your dining room work for a buffet gathering, and share prayers and your meal in the living room, which is probably where your Christmas tree is! Add in some folding chairs, which you can find at any home improvement store, along with pillows and throws. The result: Everybody will be comfortable.

What are great ways to decorate a home to make it welcoming and give it some holiday pizzazz, as well as set it apart from the typical decorations that everybody else has?

The typical decorations are, of course, red and green (blue and white for Hanukkah), monochromatic white, and green with gold. Those are traditional and beautiful. If you want something different, pair lavender and silver in a mixed assortment of decorations, on a white flocked tree. A friend of ours did an Art Deco tree in black and white. Or consider a green tree covered in fairy lights. What are your favorite colors? What ornaments mean the most to you and your family? Frame a picture and turn that into an ornament. Every year, we take a family photograph which becomes our Christmas card. It’s always emotional, in a good way, to watch how our babies have grown… and to miss the loved ones who are now in heaven.

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How should someone not go overboard; or when is there too much tinsel, wreaths, candles and so on?

Start with your budget. It shocks me to see how extreme people become, over decorations and gift giving, which they know is not affordable. Please don’t go into debt. Also, keep the design personal to you and your family. When more is just more… it’s hard to see anything individual. If your family can afford it, and it’s something you want to do, multiple trees with specific themes, is a fun idea. Why not consider tree celebrating family vacations… a Disney tree… a tree done in your favorite colors… a Twelve Days of Christmas tree. Wreaths and garlands are wonderful accessories when they’re done in a tasteful way, that doesn’t make guests feel they’re lost in a Christmas forest. Whatever your décor choice, make sure your heart is behind the art of what you’ve done. Encourage your children to be part of the design-scape team. Save every drawing… every scribble… every ornament made from popsicle sticks and glitter… they will all be treasures in the years ahead. But you don’t need to use all at the same time! Get everyone who can participate involved, from the oldest member of your family, to your youngest child.

Does every room need some decorations?

It’s back to affordability and taste. If you decorate with candles, be very careful that they’re not in a room where putting out the flame could be forgotten. In our family, we’ve had serious incidents with candles. We use them… beautifully and carefully. Poinsettias and Phalaenopsis orchids can be wrapped in Christmas paper with oversize bows. When you use these orchids in multiples, consider placing a Christmas ornament in the space between each pair of orchids. Four orchids and two ornaments make a statement of six objects and a stunning display. Add two candles, and we now have eight, which can be generous for a mantle or a centerpiece on a dining room table that can be removed before the buffet is set out. Never be afraid to rotate flowers and objects d’art. Then you don’t have to buy as much! Invest in lighting that makes everyone look great—and don’t forget dimmers. Area rugs that are gorgeous and clean easily are another must have. Winter can be a messy season, from rain to snow, so be prepared to clean up.

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What about the debate regarding real or artificial trees, plus ornaments?

It’s a personal decision. You cannot make a mistake. Even Martha Stewart, who is the epitome of good housekeeping and style, has been known to use artificial trees. The scent of a real tree… the touch and the feel… are all extraordinary, if you’re up to the task. If you decide on a real tree, please consider a living one, which you can water and have planted after the holiday season is over.

What are some trends in holiday decorating, such as colors, materials, smells? The good and the bad?

I’m not going to choose "bad" because there’s something for everyone. I love color, so mixing it up, from vintage to just now, is the way our family designs Christmas. The silver and lavender story is very chill and chic. The traditional winter fragrances, from roasted chestnuts to pine cones, have been translated into potpourri and candles and more. There are more scents that appeal such as pumpkin, apple spice and cranberry. Personally, some inspirations should stay in the dessert realm. I’m not a girl who’s wild about ham, turkey, and prime rib candles! We’ve spoken in the paragraphs above about color stories. Fragrant candles, mirrored placemats, oversized sea shells all can be reminders of trips to the beach. Or consider putting ribbons on chairs and slipcovers to give a tidy upholstered look. You can do this even with a rental chair. The point is to have fun!

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How can décor help—and hurt—the sale of a home since this can be a time when folks are off from work to look at listings?

If you’re hoping to sell your house, as an investor and owner of multiple properties, please take this advice. Keep it neutral. Consider a traditional tree, some wrapped presents–even if they’re empty, some candles, a pan of water with cinnamon in the oven–all will suggest the holiday spirit but not be overkill. Homes have better appraised value when the kitchen is painted a pale yellow. If you have a fireplace, turn it on. During open houses, put out appetizers and non-alcoholic beverages. These are all techniques that we’ve used to move properties forward.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.