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If you haven’t done so already, it’s time to pull out your collection of holiday décor – the bundles of tangled lights and boxes of ornaments and accessories that have been around longer than you can remember – and adorn your home for the season. This can be daunting I know unless you keep yourself on track and stick to a simple theme.

Accents can be frosty snow with clear sparkle, glittery silver, shimmery gold such as this ornament.

With that in mind, following are some simple decorating tips that can help add a festive flair to your holiday season:

  • Make it fun. Create a party among friends and family and invite them over for cocktails and hors d’oeuvre – let everyone have a hand in transforming your home.
  • Decide on three key elements: a sparkle factor, a color scheme and a theme. Sparkle accents can be frosty snow with clear sparkle, glittery silver, shimmery gold or a colorful sparkle. Next decide on two or three main colors. Lastly, dream up a theme such as “Winter in Montana” or “A Children’s Fantasy” or whatever strikes your fancy. Making these three key decisions in advance will help keep you on track.
  • The front door is an important focal point and, of course, sets the stage. Don’t hesitate to go all out with a beautiful wreath, ribbons, pinecones, garlands and more. This year we are planning to search for small- to medium-sized pinecones and spray them with white glitter. Incorporating pinecones into the bows adds a real sense of depth and a wonderful pine fragrance. In addition, drape a fresh cedar garland around the front door frame and intertwine it with twinkling white lights. When making your wreath be sure to add ribbons and small white lights. And don’t forget to hang mistletoe above the front door for extra fun.
  • Use the ribbon in your front door wreath as a continuing theme throughout your home. For example, last year we glued a 3” wide green and red plain ribbon to a 4” red velvet ribbon. We made up yards and yards of this double layered ribbon, so we had lots on hand as we decorated our home.
  • A wonderful aroma adds to the festive holiday feel. Place scented candles and plenty of potpourri throughout your home. Use lots of candles as they always infuse warmth and sparkle – key holiday elements.
  • Since candles can sometimes be expensive, gather and melt half-way burned candles of the same and re-make them into new holiday candles. I take square milk cartons, fill them with ice and then pour the melted hot wax into the cartons on top of the ice to create interest. Then tape off an inch or more at the base of the candle. Coat with white glue and roll the square candles in gold or silver glitter. Don’t forget to add the wick before you fill the cartons with ice!

Fresh flowers are an important element of your décor at any time of the year, but especially during the holiday season.


  • Fresh flowers add so much to any interior – especially during the holiday season. Create beautiful arrangements and centerpieces with roses, poinsettias, white chrysanthemums, tuber roses lilies and more. Always, always arrange with fresh evergreen, pinecones and shiny ornaments from last year’s Christmas tree.
  • Start a collection – e.g. nutcrackers, distinctive candles or Santa figurines and add to it each year. This will create family traditions and memories and enhance your holiday décor. For example, nestle nutcrackers in and among a garland atop your fireplace. Add twinkle lights or battery-operated candles for extra sparkle and shimmer.

A collection, such as nutcrackers or other figurines, adds interest to holiday décor. (Courtesy of The Grand Del Mar)


  • Ask those who will gather around your tree this season to write on a card a wish for themselves and for others. Put the cards into two colors of envelopes – one for each type of wish. In addition to ornaments, hang the colorful envelopes on the tree. Make sure each guest will be able to open one each of the colored envelopes. For an even more festive touch, reuse the front of old holiday cards and glue to the front of the colored envelopes.

Over the holidays, people tend to go all out with décor and accessories. I think this is wonderful – decorate for the season and have fun with it! But again, do stick to a singular theme and color scheme. While you want your home to be fun and festive, you don’t want to overwhelm.


Ornaments aren’t only for the tree. Try putting an assortment in a bowl or adding to evergreen and garland. (Courtesy of The Grand Del Mar)

What are your favorite holiday traditions, shops and/or decorating tips?  During the holidays, I love to shop at Dandelion on Potrero and Sue Fisher King on Sacramento – both in San Francisco.

I would love to hear from you!  Take pictures please, and post to my Facebook page.



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With the holidays nearing, it’s fun to imagine cozying up by a crackling fire on a chilly winter evening.

And while fireplaces are not as popular as they were years ago – when central heat was nonexistent – I do believe that a home without a fireplace is missing an important element.

Whether you opt for a traditional, contemporary or transitional style, a fireplace is the natural focal point of any room and should always make a dramatic statement.

The lobby of the historic Grande Colonial in La Jolla has a fireplace which reflects the hotel’s distinctive Colonial Revival style.

A key component of a fireplace is the “surround” – the material surrounding it which ensures its safety and enhances its design and beauty. The surround is an important architectural element which should always complement your color palette and décor.

Redoing a fireplace surround is a fairly simple upgrade that can make a tremendous difference to the overall look of your room. There are many options from which to choose, among them:

  • Wood: A rich wood surround can lend a historic touch and withstand the test of time. Options can include walnut, ebony or maple. Depending on the décor, you can paint the wood a glossy or satin white.
  • Tile: This can range from a delicate mosaic to vibrant Portuguese glazed tiles to glass to ceramics.
  • Brick: For an antique appearance, use repurposed bricks or try painting them a crisp white.
  • Traditional stone: This look offers a dramatic, rustic motif. A sampling of options includes river rock, sandstone, flagstone and more.
  • Hand-carved cast stone: This alternative is not always so simple, but unfailingly beautiful. To infuse a warm, residential feel, we installed a series of cast stone fireplaces – hand-carved by a multigenerational family in a small Italian town – throughout The Grand Del Mar, a luxury resort just north of San Diego.

The lobby of The Grand Del Mar resort in San Diego features a beautiful fireplace of hand carved stone

Other beautiful fireplace surround alternatives include marble or granite, for an elegant traditional look; or stainless steel or concrete, if you prefer a sleek contemporary motif.

Additional design considerations include the hearth, which is actually the fireplace floor and typically extends into the room and is comprised of sturdy, fireproof materials such as brick, stone or cement. A raised hearth is set up off the ground, as opposed to a flush hearth, which is even with the floor. If you choose to install a raised hearth for extra seating, it should sit between 18” and 22” high.

A sophisticated living room in a Chicago Townhome showcases a simple yet elegant fireplace.

Also important is the mantel, which some homeowners choose to eliminate for a more modern look. The mantel can be the same – or a complementing material – as your surround.

And don’t forget the fireplace tools, which should be functional but can infuse a decorative accent. For accessories, I love shopping at The Hearthstone in Corona Del Mar, Calif.

This living room at Kootenai Estates in Montana features a rustic fireplace with a stone façade.

Whatever style fireplace you choose, it will surely add an elegant – and warm – focal point to your home. I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas on fireplace styles, accents and materials.



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