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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.


9 Interior Design Trends to Look Out for in 2019

It may be time to update your decor.

Modern interior living room.

(Getty Images)

An October 2018 report from the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University projected that remodeling spending is expected to grow to more than $350 billion in the third quarter of 2019. While it’s certainly an increase from the $331 billion of remodeling spending during the same period in 2018, the expectation shows a slowing in growth compared to recent years. Whether you’re renovating your home for yourself, updating your home to sell or looking to spice up a living space that you rent, you’ll see some new trends entering the interior design field this year – and others easing out of the spotlight. Here’s what to keep an eye out for in 2019.

Updated on March 8, 2019: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

Trends are getting a longer shelf life.

Trends are getting a longer shelf life.

living room or saloon interior design with big wall yellow seat or sofa and picture frames watch 3d rendering

(Getty Images)

An interior design trend, by definition, is the temporary popularity of a style, pattern, color or approach to decor. But as the cost of homes continues to climb and the cost of renovating spikes as well, trends are sticking around longer, explains Anna Starmer, U.K.-based author of “Love Color: Choosing Colors to Live With” and founder of color and trend forecasting company Luminary Colour. “The interesting thing about trends right now is that they are slowing down,” she wrote in an email. “A colour family is popular for longer than (one) season. This is down to many factors, but one of the main reasons is that people are living real lives – they do not have enough time to redecorate every (six) months.”

Well-being comes into play.

Well-being comes into play.

Hygge, Zuhause, Entspannung, Muenchen, Bayern, Deutschland

(Getty Images)

The Danish concept of Hygge – being cozy and content – has been popular in the U.S. for a couple of years, particularly in the cold winter months when people bundle up to stay warm. But Starmer suggests that the current social or political mood is also encouraging people to make their home a comfortable safe haven of sorts: “(I)t is no surprise that in recent times of uncertainties in the world, we are all starting to favour comforting shades and warming colours in the home.” That extends to softer textures in furniture, pillows and blankets, rich scents like pumpkin or citrus and a setup that encourages relaxing.

[See: Best Home Security Systems of 2019.]

Design in all spaces and sizes.

Design in all spaces and sizes.

Warm, feminine living room interior with gray armchair, beige sofa and small, woolen coffee table

(Getty Images)

Whether you’re still holding onto your dream of a tiny home or you simply can’t afford a bigger apartment, interior design is trending toward emphasizing conscious design in all spaces – not just the palatial homes of the wealthy. For example, Pottery Barn launched its small space collection, PB Apartment, in early 2018 to cater to customers who have less space to deck out. You’re also likely to see a growing number of companies offer furnishings and design aesthetics that serve more than one purpose and can be used in a variety of rooms.

Don't be afraid to be bold.

Don't be afraid to be bold.

White interior of living room with colorful pillows

(Getty Images)

Everyone’s comfort level is different, but those who are willing should feel free to embrace a bold, eclectic look at home in the coming year. HGTV star and interior designer Taniya Nayak says to go for bright accent colors, such as jewel tones and colors that contrast – think blue and orange – and don’t be afraid to layer. “I love doing paint techniques, and I love wall coverings too, but some people are really petrified of wall coverings,” says Nayak, who partners with FrogTape painter’s tape. When in doubt, make your statement by adding color with different types of wall decor (not all photos and prints), painting an accent wall or layering throw blankets and pillows in bright, contrasting colors to create a new focal point in the room.

Shades of green will pop up everywhere.

Shades of green will pop up everywhere.

Green living room

(Getty Images)

Expect interior designs to pull more inspiration from nature in the coming year, bringing lively green into the foreground. Starmer is predicting different shades of green to be more visible not just in interior design, but in fashion as well. However, she warns that you should keep texture and light in mind any time you select a color for a space. “A shade of emerald may look fabulous on a velvet-covered chair but hideous on the wall of a bathroom,” she says.

Neutrals are warming up.

Neutrals are warming up.

3d rendering illustration of living room with luxury wooden wall panel and hardwood floor. Classic interior decorated with tree fashion vases of black, gold and white ceramics. Gorgeouos texture of squares.

(Getty Images)

Gray, stark white and the gray-beige combo color “greige” have been go-to neutrals for a few years. But Starmer says neutral shades in the home are going to warm up as people look to evoke the feeling of more natural settings in the home. “Neutral and natural colours now need to be soft and warm like a favourite cashmere sweater – or the colour of a baby deer,” Starmer says. Capturing these neutrals with natural items like wood, real stones and ceramic pieces help “counteract our very unnatural lifestyles,” she says.

Floors are getting more natural.

Floors are getting more natural.

Modern interior. Render image.

(Getty Images)

In 2018, dark wood floors have been on the decline, according to Lee Crowder, design gallery and model branding manager for Darling Homes, a subsidiary of homebuilder Taylor Morrison Inc., based in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Looking forward to 2019, wood floors should continue to stay on the lighter side, but many manufacturers are noting that a matte finish is gaining popularity, which makes the floor look more natural. Recycled and engineered wood remain a more sustainable alternative to the typical wood floor, and manufacturers are even increasing the variety of tile or vinyl floors that convincingly look like real wood.

Mixed metals are officially a look.

Mixed metals are officially a look.

Modern  luxury kitchen penthouse condominium home. Modern kitchen house interior.

(Getty Images)

Finding the perfect match to existing hardware in your bathroom or kitchen can be difficult, which is part of the reason why mixed metals started trending to begin with. But now it’s not just about convenience. With the right balance, you can bring multiple metals into a room and create a rich, glamorous look. Nayak notes that metals don’t have to be restricted to fixtures, lamps and coffee table legs; opt for metallic paint colors and incorporate geometric shapes on the walls to tie metals into other parts of the room.

Trends are catering to comfort levels.

Trends are catering to comfort levels.

Open plan apartment of family living-space with wooden kitchen countertop, purple radiator, communal table with turquoise chairs and spacious living room with beige couch

(Getty Images)

Some of the looks Nayak expects to see more in the coming year vary widely, from soft, romantic pastels and textured palettes to bolder jewel tones and metals. Rather than focusing on one widely accepted trend, you have the opportunity to embrace what works for you and keep it more unique than in years past. How do you know which trend to embrace? Look at your closet. “Whatever your wardrobe says about you is very much how you should approach your design,” Nayak says. If you’re big on patterns and bright colors, the eclectic trend can make your house feel like home again. If you’re a solids-and-neutrals kind of person, working in more of a natural look at home can provide the update you want and need.

Interior design trends to keep an eye out for in 2019.

Interior design trends to keep an eye out for in 2019.

the modern living room interior.3d design concept

(Getty Images)

Interior design trends that will be big this year include:

  • Longevity of trendy pieces, colors and patterns.
  • Comforting shades and warming colors.
  • More furnishing options for smaller spaces.
  • Bold accent colors.
  • Shades of green on walls, furniture and in fashion.
  • Warmer neutral colors with less focus on gray.
  • Lighter wood floor finishes for a more natural look.
  • Mixed metals to make replacing kitchen or bathroom fixtures easier.
  • Focus on comfort in design choices.

Read More

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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