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Prepping your home for the holidays isn't just about putting up decorations. Prepare your house so visitors who either stay for the evening or for a few nights feel welcome and safe. (Getty Images)

Maybe it's the sparse foliage or the colder weather, but decorating for fall and winter holidays seems so much more important – and more inviting – than any other time of year. With frequent family gatherings during Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas, among other holidays, creating a cheerful, gracious atmosphere for guests is de rigueur.

Whether you'll be decorating on a dime or are ready to call in the pros, here are five tips for making your home safe, inviting and delightful during the holiday season:

  • Hire professional decorators.
  • Make your own decorations.
  • Keep safety in mind.
  • Make guests feel welcome.
  • Remember your pets.

Outsource Your Holiday Chores

For magnificent holiday decor with minimal effort, tapping into professional decorators is a wonderful time-saver during the busiest, most stressful time of year. While some contractors work exclusively outdoors, creating lighting extravaganzas to rival that of Clark Griswold in "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation," many full-service holiday decorators offer extensive interior and exterior services encompassing stoops, stairwells, fireplaces, Christmas trees, dining tables and more.

Check your local business listings, homeowners association and personal network for recommendations, and be sure to ask all the right questions before signing up. For example, what exactly does the quote include? How long does installation take? What items are you buying and what components are you renting during the installation? If fresh foliage will be used, how should it be cared for and how long should it be expected to last? What are your options if anything begins to wilt or sag unexpectedly? Does the contracted price include post-holiday undecorating, and if so, how do you go about scheduling the removal?

[Read: 10 Tips for Making Your Home Instagram-Worthy.]

Make Merry While Saving Money

If the expense of a professional decorator is out of reach, fantastic holiday decor is easily achievable on a small budget. In fact, handmade decorations often last longer, have a warmer appeal and provide an excellent opportunity to get creative while spending time with family and friends.

Garlands are a marvelous way to make gorgeous tree trimmings on the cheap. Gather up old buttons, beads, sequins and ribbon, or add in traditional organic elements like popcorn and cranberries, and let your imagination run wild. Bunting, bows, and banners for all variety of holidays, plus wrapping paper and ribbons, can be found on the cheap online, at dollar stores or post-holiday sales.

An upfront investment on exceptional quality, say for well-made keepsake ornaments, stockings, menorahs and nativity sets, can last for years to come rather than ending up on the curb come New Year's Day.

[See: The Best Free Interior Design Apps]

Be Sensible About Safety


Whether you take a hands-off or a hands-on approach to holiday decorating, safety should always be your No. 1 consideration. Between jack-o'-lanterns, Christmas trees, holiday cooking and Hanukkah candles, the fall and winter months can be a dangerous time for residential fires. U.S. fire departments respond to nearly 1,000 incidents each year from Christmas trees and decorations alone, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Be mindful of all open flames and fireplaces, keeping them well clear of kids, pets and flammable decorations.

Even better, choose battery-operated candles wherever possible. Double-check all twinkle lights to make sure cords are in good order, and supervise all holiday cooking. Lastly, check those smoke alarms and ensure your family has an evacuation plan in order should something go wrong.

Of course, safety extends far beyond fire prevention. Keep doors and windows locked, alarm systems on and gifts out of sight to help prevent thefts. Keep small kids away from choking hazards, and for those of you in colder climates, clear snow and ice from walkways and stairs.

Make Guests Feel Welcome

A beautifully arranged guest room can do wonders to lift the moods of travel-weary friends and family.

Take a five-senses approach to decorating guest accommodations: High thread-count linens, fluffy towels, and thick comforters tend to the sense of touch, while candles, soaps and fresh flowers provide an inviting aroma. Consider including plenty of reading materials and noise-canceling headphones for jet-lagged visitors. And who can resist a plate of fresh-baked cookies, a bowl of in-season fruit and a small coffee pot or electric tea kettle?

Don't forget to add little conveniences like space for hanging clothes, a suitcase stand, a selection of toiletries and a handwritten welcome note with the Wi-Fi password and agenda, if any. Even if your accommodations are more pull-out couch than a private guest suite, you can still deliver a gracious welcome with a small side table and gift basket devoted to the items above.

[Read: 5 Reasons to Embrace the Winter Home-Selling Season]

Don't Forget Your Fur Family

Pets often need special care and attention during the holidays, especially if they're not used to a bit of hustle and bustle. Make sure cats and dogs have a safe and quiet place to retreat if you're expecting guests or trick-or-treaters, and be aware of the many toxic plants that are common during the holiday season, including poinsettia, holly and mistletoe.

Whether as a climbing post or a tug-of-war partner, a Christmas tree is often irresistible to our four-legged-friends, so ensure that trees are securely anchored and supervised at all times. Advise family members and houseguests to avoid handing out human-food treats to furry beggars, monitor all open flames, and avoid tinsel (a serious digestive hazard) in pet-friendly homes entirely.

Often equally joyous and stressful, the holidays can be a heady, busy time. But they're also when our warmest, most long-lasting memories of home and family are created. With a little bit of thoughtful planning and a whole lot of patience, the holidays can be merry, bright and safe for all.


10 Interior Design Trends for 2020

It may be time to update your decor.

A marble beige painting and a sunburst golden mirror on a gray wall with molding in a stylish living room interior with a velvet, powder pink sofa and retro furniture

(Getty Images)

You may not be moving into a new house in 2020, but you can make your home feel new again by taking stock of each room and updating the design. You may want to make your living room more functional by finding a better furniture layout, brighten up a guest bedroom with new paint or go big with a full renovation of your kitchen for a more modern style. To make any design changes a success, however, you’ll want to know what styles will become more popular in 2020 and what fads are on their way out. Here are 10 interior design trends to consider in 2020.

Updated on Dec. 6, 2019: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

Zen dens break up floor plans.

Zen dens break up floor plans.

Hygge, Zuhause, Entspannung, Muenchen, Bayern, Deutschland

(Getty Images)

Open floor plans may be here to stay, but many homeowners are interested in creating a room that lets you separate yourself from the goings-on in the rest of the house. For some people, open floor plans are "too open,” says Tim Bakke, publishing director of online home and design plan company The Plan Collection, based in Scarsdale, New York. “If you have the TV on in the living room, everyone in the kitchen and the dining room is hearing it and seeing it.” Bakke says separate, closed-off living spaces called “zen dens,” are ideal for reading a book or having a more private conversation, and he thinks they’ll gain popularity in the coming year. “It’s not splitting up the house, but you have someplace where you can kind of get away from it,” Bakke says.

Master suites expand.

Master suites expand.

(Getty Images)

As wellness gains emphasis, more homeowners are looking at spaces where they’ll most likely benefit. As a result, master bedrooms and bathrooms are getting more love. “Maybe a little bit of square footage is taken away from other parts of the house and put into the master suite,” Bakke says. Whether it’s to expand the bathroom and add a soaking tub or to make room for a sitting area in the bedroom, homeowners are considering their bedrooms as a space where they can spend more time beyond sleeping and getting ready for the day.

Inside and outside continue to blend.

Inside and outside continue to blend.

Friends having fun at dinner party in backyard.

(Getty Images)

Outdoor living has been gaining popularity over the last few years, and designers continue to see blurring the line between outdoor and indoor as a desire among homeowners. Gena Kirk, vice president of design for homebuilding company KB Home, based in Los Angeles, describes successful interpretations of the trend as “extending the great room into the backyard,” which not only makes entertaining easier, but also allows you to relax on comfortable seating on the patio when the weather is nice. For homes that experience colder seasons, a fire pit, outdoor fireplace or outdoor heaters allow for snuggling under a blanket while still enjoying the outdoor living space when the weather is chilly.

Organic elements are here to stay.

Organic elements are here to stay.

modern table scene restaurant urban style

(Getty Images)

Indoor plants have made a resurgence in recent years because they add life to a space. Meanwhile organic elements are expanding into furniture and decor as designers incorporate more natural wood tables, natural fiber rugs, coral, dried flowers and branches into decor. While these items are no longer living, they offer a connection to nature and the outdoors. Keep an eye out for sisal, jute or seagrass rugs, which can be found at major retailers like Home Depot, Ikea and Wayfair. While it’s easy to find faux coral tabletop decor, you need to read product descriptions carefully to find real coral for purchase.

Wallpaper and texture provide depth.

Wallpaper and texture provide depth.

Contemporary  lounge / living room with sofa and ornaments in front of large window with curtains

(Getty Images)

Rather than sticking to traditional eggshell wall finishes and basic cotton throw pillows, design experts are looking to patterns and textures to make rooms feel more dynamic and personal. Interior designers particularly encourage wallpaper in a half bathroom, where you can have a bit more fun without overwhelming the space. Wallpaper is making a comeback in other parts of the house as well. Barbara Kavovit, CEO and founder of Evergreen Construction in New York City, says wallpapering a room makes a great do-it-yourself project, requiring little skill – just the patience to do it right. You can also experiment with texture on walls, whether it means creating a faux stucco look with plaster and paint or incorporating upholstered panels or reclaimed wood.

Velvet becomes a staple.

Velvet becomes a staple.

Europe, UK, England, London, Belgravia: View Of Hand-Made Custom Fabric Couch With African Hardwood Flooring

(Getty Images)

Velvet is becoming a preferred furniture fabric over microfiber or leather, since it offers a soft texture that looks luxurious in bright, bold colors. Expect to see more bedding accessories and throw pillows in velvet, which can provide additional texture in a bedroom or living room. This trend isn’t just for winter, either – if it's the right color and paired with other textures and materials, velvet works in a room year-round. Light pink or mustard velvet pairs well with just about any color.

Blue is the color to incorporate.

Blue is the color to incorporate.

Modern interior of living room with armchairs on white flooring and dark blue wall

(Getty Images)

Both Pantone and paint company Sherwin Williams have announced that their colors of the year for 2020 are dark shades of blue: "classic blue" for Pantone and "naval" for Sherwin Williams. Dark and navy blues can serve as neutral colors for a room and pair well with lighter colors, bold jewel tones and even metallics for an art deco look. Lighter blues and greens are also popping up more in furniture, decor and paint palettes, which can make for a soft look or a bold statement in different combinations. As a wall color, navy creates a darker setting, leaving room to play around with lighter neutrals and pops of color in the decor. It can also be used as an accent in a lighter room.

Say goodbye to gray.

Say goodbye to gray.

London, England.

(Getty Images)

If you’ve been watching HGTV renovation shows or have toured homes at just about any point over the last decade, you know that gray has been the go-to neutral for walls, furniture and even home exteriors. But over the last couple of years, other neutrals have been threatening gray’s domination of the color market. “Those very cool grays – they’re dying. They’ve been dying. Everything’s starting to warm up,” Kirk says. Interior designers are seeing a return to shades of brown and beige, as well as navy, to offer a warmer palette. Don’t be afraid of looking outdated if you use gray in your color scheme for a room, but if your entire house is painted in the same gray shade, it’s time to add some variation.

Computer rooms are out; charging stations are in.

Computer rooms are out; charging stations are in.

Men connected charger to tablet computer after four digital devices already charging

(Getty Images)

If you’re still dedicating part of your kitchen to house the family desktop computer or it has its own designated room, rethink that space. With everyone using laptops, tablets and smart phones to browse the internet, do homework and pay bills, there’s no need to take up space with a bulky desktop that no one’s using. A family computer room can be converted into the "zen den" your house has been missing, a guest bedroom or another space your family would use more. But there’s still something you can do for the family electronics: “Phone, tablets – all those things need to be charged,” Bakke says. He recommends creating a charging station with enough outlets to plug in multiple devices, located in a common drop zone where people enter and exit the house like the mud room.

Minimalism moves over.

Minimalism moves over.

Living room with high ceilings and architectural featuresLiving room with high ceilings and architectural features

(Getty Images)

People still like clean lines, but these days designers are seeing more homeowners embrace eclectic decor styles, with modern vases and bowls as well as imperfect antiques that add variety. While a simplistic, uncluttered look is still popular, designers and homeowners now look to "incorporate focal points with an older piece," says Jim DiGiacomo, board member for Olde Good Things, an architectural salvage store based in New York City. Flea markets and antique stores are prime shopping targets. The opportunity to find one-of-a-kind pieces has expanded online as well, as eBay, Etsy and more specialized stores like Olde Good Things offer extensive online inventories, allowing you to find vintage prints, vases and even architectural gems like mantels, doors and ceiling tiles to incorporate in a room remodel or new home design.

Interior design trends to keep an eye out for in 2020 include:

Interior design trends to keep an eye out for in 2020 include:

Interior decor photographs of stylish luxury bohemian style home

(Getty Images)

  • Zen dens break up open floor plans.
  • Master suites expand.
  • Inside and outside continue to blend.
  • Organic elements are here to stay.
  • Wallpaper and texture provide depth.
  • Velvet becomes a staple.
  • Blue is the color to incorporate.
  • Say goodbye to gray.
  • Computer rooms are out; charging stations are in.
  • Minimalism moves over.

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Tags: real estate, housing, home improvements, renting, holidays


Lisa Larson is a licensed associate real estate broker for Warburg Realty in New York City. Ranking as a Top 5 broker firm-wide for each of the past four years, including Warburg Realty's No. 1 Top Producer in 2017, her strong command of the market has led her to sell an average of $50 million in residential sales per year.

Larson has appeared in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Real Deal and other top-tier outlets for her industry insights and expertise. Recognized among her peers for her eye for design, she has bought, renovated and sold apartments and homes in New York City, San Francisco, Chicago and Nantucket, providing her an acute insight into the needs of buyers and sellers alike.

Lisa holds a Master's degree in History and was a member of the Division I cross-country and track teams at the University of California, Berkeley. Larson also remains actively involved with various charitable foundations, neighborhood associations and at both of her children's schools, and serves as a director on the board of the USA Track & Field Association.

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