Your Holiday Home Questions, Answered
I'm a minimalist but I've always loved my mom's more-is-more Victorian Christmas style. How do I carve out my own holiday identity?
Here's my philosophy: The holidays should be what your own thoughts and crazy dreams are. They're not supposed to be "tasteful" or "elegant" or "dignified." The point is to sit in wonder in front of lights and decorations and feel like a kid again. If your fantasy is big bright rainbow bulbs and no theme or color scheme, just peppermint- and pine-scented mayhem, you should go for it. If you dream of a simple, organic holiday, more power to you. We will not be holiday-shamed! Now more than ever, this is a time to do you.
Besides, holiday decor used to be all minimalist. Wintry greens, wreath on door, candles in window, small tree. There are a lot of ways to be festive without going over the top: a loose garland across the mantel; twinkly lights in a glass bowl; a low ornament-to-branch ratio. All of these things can be lovely and enough.
There's no law requiring swags throughout the house in traditional Christmas colors. You can do one solid color throughout or just a couple of statement areas—the center of your table or a console in the living room. Wherever you land, go into the holidays with gratitude. You have a home where you can hang your wreath and people you love to celebrate with.
- If you're trying for a minimalist holiday, think Scandinavian. Hygge is all about simplicity but isn't spartan. This space feels like therapy to me. I feel nested here.
- Ornaments don't have to go on the tree. Gather some on the mantel or in the fireplace. Rachael weaves tiny lights along her bookshelves, then mixes ornaments in.
- An organic, neutral palette looks polished and pretty, but also makes a great canvas. Add some soft ribbon in a favorite color to personalize this vibe.
Sometimes the thought of taking out the decorations and then having to put them away makes me feel exhausted. I guess I need a better storage method?
My best storage advice is to edit when you close down the season. Rather than pack everything away, take a minute to pull out stuff you don't love anymore to donate or re-home or toss out; keep only the things that are still beautiful to you. Then try to figure out what you need more of, and get it during the post-holiday sales. Pack it away with the usual stuff and you'll forget about it and get a great surprise next year. Finally, buy some bins that make you feel organized and on top of things. This is a form of self-care—seriously! If it will make you happy and make your life easier, find the budget. Quit putting yourself last on the list.
If you're just overwhelmed at the idea of all the work, recruit help. Young people—your own children, nieces and nephews, or the neighborhood kids—are all looking for holiday money. Figure out what you love to do and outsource the rest. "Mom used to make me…" That's a memory and it's character building. And it's fun to listen to kids busy at a task.
Remember: You're not going to ruin Hanukkah if you don't get the giant inflatable menorah on the lawn this year. Don't overcommit. Prioritize. Take a break and make cocoa for yourself and nobody else!
Where can I find great vintage decorations?
Start with Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. Or, if you want the most amazing almost-priceless things that will sell for hundreds on Etsy and 1stDibs next year, go to estate and garage sales. Summer is when these happen, so make a note to seek out a few in July or August. You'll find anything and everything, like mid-century blown-glass ornaments worth a fortune. One caveat: Do not buy vintage electrical items, like lamps. But if you must, don't plug them in. Use a battery-powered LED puck. There are so many shapes and sizes you can retrofit into a vintage lamp, and you don't want to burn down your house before the holidays!
Is it horrible for the world if I get crazy dollar-store decorations?
It is if you throw them out the day after your party. But if you share the love and pass them along after you're done with them, give them second season and a new home, you'll feel better, and whoever gets them will feel grateful. You can post them free on Craigslist or Facebook, or just hand them over to your sister's teen to decorate her bedroom. You can also give them to a shelter or meal-program site. It's great that everyone donates pantry items, but people there may not be where they want to be for the holidays, and cheer is something they need, too.
To summarize: Be a good person, get the decorations, share them, and stop beating yourself up.
The latest from Rachael Ray Home is an update on her popular Chelsea line, white dining and bedroom furniture with lattice trim and gold-toned bases and hardware. The newest pieces include multitaskers like this pretty cabinet, which works as a media console or a dresser—but this time of year we're definitely envisioning it containing and concealing plates and place mats as a chic sideboard. "Versatility is the cornerstone of our whole brand," says Rachael. "This guy can separate spaces in any room due to its height and shape." Each piece works alone or in a set," says Michael Murray, Rachael Ray Home GM. "It's clean and crisp and will wake up any space, whether a city apartment or home in the burbs. It feels young and bright and fresh, and it appeals to the millennial in us all."
This article originally appeared in our Holiday 2021 issue. Get the magazine here.