Let home sparkle for holidays

New baubles and ornaments can add visual excitement to seasonal decor

December 17, 2006|By Elaine Markoutsas | Elaine Markoutsas,Universal Press Syndicate

If you can't help but be seduced by the magic of the season, no doubt you've given some thought to holiday decorating.

Even if you're stuck on traditions with an almost ritualistic fervor, you probably can't resist introducing a new bauble or two.

Decking the halls with boughs of fresh holly may be impractical (the prickly leaves pucker and dry out too quickly), but there are plenty of showy alternatives. With all the catalogs and furnishings magazines pouring in, inspiration shouldn't be a problem.

Though some holiday decor is an obvious focal point, most falls into the accessory category. A well-chosen decorative piece or three can add an instant dash of color, personality and style.

A simple way to start is to substitute or supplement items that are part of your permanent interior landscape, weaving in holiday-appropriate pieces.

Toss a seasonally themed fancy throw over the arm of a chair or sofa. A luxurious velvet or brocade lends black-tie formality but still suggests comfort. A pillow with a holiday needlepoint motif lends a festive note - pretty angels, perhaps, in pink or blue robes on 16-inch-square pillows framed in gold and cream chenille and bordered in fringe, $80 each at Neiman Marcus.

Photos or Christmas cards may assume an artistic presence, morphing into wall art on special wire holders. Pottery Barn sells two: One is 6 feet tall and may be mounted horizontally or vertically to take advantage of a narrow strip of wall. It holds nearly 60 cards. Another is a bent wire piece shaped like a tree. They sell for $39 each.

Change or add to a collection of candles, which can lend an especially dreamy glow this time of year. A Venetian glass candleholder in a modern shape, a suggestion of an angel with wings and praying hands whose gown flares at the base, is an elegant conversation piece. The source is Vietri, an importer of Italian-crafted products.

In a home's entry, on a side table in the living or family room or an end table in a bedroom, you might consider a jeweled tree standing like topiary on a turned support. Neiman Marcus has an exclusive on brass trees dipped in silver and encrusted with Austrian crystals. They come in four sizes from 12 1/2 inches to 19 1/2 inches and range from $300 to $475.

Or choose a meticulously decorated Father Christmas, richly appointed with presents, garlands, trees or fanciful scepters. There are robe designs to complement your own home's style, everything from denim that's metal studded and trimmed in faux fur to one whose ivory velvet robe is embellished with coral branches and holds a staff of simulated ocean coral enhanced by faux pearls, tapping into one of the more popular design themes this year.

Decorative linens might keep the spirit going in the kitchen and powder room. Orvis' holiday gift book features a beautiful set of pure cotton hem-stitched hand towels embroidered with a garland of holly and ribbons. The towels (a set of three is $39) can be personalized with a single initial or monogram for an extra $5.

And visitors surely will chuckle at a pair of white guest towels edged in scarlet ball fringe, one spelling out "naughty" and the other "nice" in red. The set is $25 from Gump's.

Other dazzling materials might include a table skirt, one you might easily make yourself. Choose a sequined or glittery fabric, enough to cover a table. A no-sew option is to cut it to size (allowing for a little puddle), drape it over the tabletop and turn under the raw edges. Check out wearable velvet or embellished scarves, which might double as runners or throws for small tables.

You can hang weatherproof ornaments from garlands on fences outdoors or fill window boxes with evergreens and ornaments.

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