‘Tis the season to decorate your home

It’s the time of year when New Yorkers deck their halls with with merry colors and lights for the holiday season. But with all the running around gathering food for holiday meals, presents for loved ones and still trying to make it to work, who has time (or let’s face it, money) to get creative with home furnishings?

To help you out, our favorite interior designers gave us some tips for decorating your home this holiday season with all the flare and fun that New Yorkers love, without breaking the bank (or giving you an urge to break your clock).



Betsy Helmuth of Affordable Interior Design gave amNewYork a tour of her favorite décor stores in Chelsea.

At West Elm, 112 W. 18th St., she recommended picking out a chunky basket to fill with fire logs in your living room, as bare wood suggests a winter-feel.

"Even if you don’t have a fireplace," she said, "you could just buy a bundle of logs at a bodega and then you could just fill in the basket with logs (???) and put it next to your fireplace or your couch."

She also suggested drawing on pictures in frames with a dry-erase marker – like a snowman next to your cute kids.

At Duane Reade she said to get some ribbon to tie around your throw pillows so they look like presents, and pick up candy canes to hang over your lampshades.

Katrina Szish, Manhattan-based lifestyle expert and Rent.com contributor, said that since she lives at the southern tip of Manhattan by the river, she likes to decorate her home with a nautical theme.

"This is the season where people have wreaths on the door," she said. "I always love a tradition wreath, but it doesn’t have to be Christmas-sy."

Szish likes to grab some anchors, sand dollars and other beachy decorations to put on her wreath (and Christmas tree), and her theme colors for the holidays are black and white with glitter.

If you don’t have the time for that, L.L. Bean sells fresh wreaths for $30-$40 – Szisch loves their Coastal Evergreen Wreath.

And to make your home feel like a ski lodge, Szish recommended getting a washable wool blanket in a plaid color scheme (L.L. Bean sells them for under $100) to throw on your couch.

"That’s a fun way to turn your apartment into sort of an alpine ski lodge," she explained. "It’s just a fun way to feel cozy and get into the holiday spirit."


If you’re celebrating Christmas, you’re most likely going to decorate a tree.

But our experts say that traditional ornaments aren’t the only way to go.

Instead, Helmuth recommended filling a hurricane vase with ornaments you can get at Duane Reade and use that as a centerpiece. On her tree, Helmuth likes to use pieces of her kids’ outgrown toys as decorations, or items she picks up while vacationing with her husband in the off-season.

This way "your tree is like a conversation piece that really dazzles," she said.

Don’t feel like trekking to get a tree?

Brigitte Starr, an interior designer based out of the Upper West Side, suggested "using a string of lights affixed to the wall in the shape of a tree."

"Then whenever someone sends a card or email, Facebook greeting or an electronic card, I’ll print it out on card stock along with a picture of the sender and pin it to the tree," she said. "It’s easy, fun, personal and inexpensive, plus it’s not messy (no pine needles)."

If Christmas isn’t your holiday but you still want to decorate, stick to your color scheme, our experts say.

Also, play with candles.

One idea is to take your clear glass drinking glasses and fill them with "food coloring in the colors of the holiday you’re celebrating, and then you can float a votive candle," Helmuth said.

Starr recommended taking a doily (spell?) or piece of lace and gluing it inside a glass or vase.

"Use a tea candle inside and decorate the rim of the glass container with a ribbon," she said. "You can also add tiny acorns, a small evergreen branch, a loved ones’ picture, a tiny bell or angel."



It’s your turn to host the holiday party, and of course it has to be better than your sister’s was last year – so what do you do?

Helmuth has one idea you’re going to love (just make sure you hide all your copies of amNewYork in the days or weeks before the party).

Instead of – or along with – having a traditional spot in the home to pour cocktails, "have a coco bar," she said.

As she described her idea, Helmuth pointed out an arrangement of tall glasses on a lacquer tray in West Elm.

"Make a liter of coco for a festive party," she said. "Each one of the glasses can hold a different addition – marshmallows, peppermint swizzle sticks, Godiva chocolate."

And on your table, instead of putting down placemats that can take the attention away from your delicious-looking food, go with simple metallic napkin holders.

"For the holidays, anything shiny is awesome," Helmuth said.

And when it’s time to hand out gifts, head down to Pippin Vintage next to their jewelry story at 112 W. 17th St. It is a quaint, Massachusetts countryside-inspired store set back from the street that you have to walk through a hallway of mirrors to get to.

Pick out some vintage décor items to gift this year.

"How fun would it be to get a vintage cookie jar from a friend?" she gushed. "It’s so fun to get something vintage."