Every year, there are a raft of Christmas films we watch over the course of December in preparation for the festivities at the end of the month. It’s a Wonderful Life, Elf, A Christmas Story, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation – I could go on but you get the idea because you probably watch them all too. And capturing our imagination with these films are the houses themselves – incredible displays of Christmas decor in the homes of the characters. Yes, Americans tend to go OTT about a lot of things (and yes, as an ex-pat, I can speak for myself here too) and Christmas is no exception. Traditionally, the decor is abundant, taking over mantles, stairwells and into each room – twinkling lights and garlands of pine and baubles on every available surface, creating a festive display that would even get Scrooge in the mood for a little gift-giving and a celebratory egg nog.
So how do you get this look in your own home and create a festive wonderland? Well, I’m going to talk you through some of the key elements of a Traditional American Christmas today to help you attain the kind of decor that spreads an American style cheer.
First up, the tree. You will need as big a tree as you can fit in your home and if you have a double height room, even better – use the space you have! Go 8′, 9′ or larger. When decorating, cover every square inch of the tree with decor – oh no, this is not a time for minimalism.
I found this guide helpful in decorating my own tree to know how many ornaments you’ll need to create that festive American look – yes, you are going to need a lot!
To decorate your tree, start first with choosing the fullest tree you can find if you are going with a real tree. The more symmetrically perfect and full, the better. Obviously using a fake tree means that symmetry is already created for you so fluff the branches to ensure maximum fullness. Wrap the bottom of the tree with a tree skirt and start with lighting, then wrap smaller garlands around, followed by larger garlands. Varying the size of your ornaments really gives a tree impact, so use the largest ornaments first and then fill in any spaces with smaller ornaments. For the American film look, stick to traditional colours of reds, greens and golds. Top your tree with a large festive tree topper to complete the look.
Of course, your decorating does not stop with the tree. The key to this look is that more is always more! So next up, let’s look at your Christmas mantle. A large garland decorated in the same way as the tree (wrapped with lights, garland and baubles), brings a traditional look to your fireplace. And don’t forget to hang the stockings!
If you have a banister in your home, don’t forget about wrapping a garland around the balustrades to pull the look through there too. Hang ornaments from the branches and wrap with fairy lights.
Your dining room should also get the treatment. If you can fit a tree in the space, there’s no reason why you have to limit yourself to a single tree. Pull the colours and decor of the room into your tree decorations and top the table with a bounty of winter flowers.
For a more contemporary take (or if you don’t have the space for a tree), decorate your table with pine cuttings and cranberries.
Adding decorative pieces around the home is also key to this look. You may want to remove some of your every day accessories and pack them away to make room for baubles and decor. You can always bring them back once the festivities have ended.
Bedrooms, kitchens, home offices and hallways need to also get in on the act. Consider putting small trees in the kids’ rooms and hanging wreaths and garlands in the kitchen too.
And of course, finally, don’t neglect the front of your house. Boughs of pine and mistletoe, ribbon, some mini trees and pots of poinsettia are all it takes to welcome your guests to a beautifully decorated home. And now that we’ve got your decorating and styling for Christmas all done, all we need is some snow to complete the perfect American style Christmas!
May all your seasons be Merry & Bright!