Inspiring Holiday Decorating

P. Allen puts finishing touches on his tree.

By P. Allen Smith :: Photography by Mark Fonville



Though I’m an advocate for “bringing the outdoors in” year-round, the holidays are the best time to celebrate that idea. It’s a brighter and more festive time of year, a time for molding live greenery into wreaths, garlands and centerpieces, and then, the pièce de résistance, bringing home a large, fresh evergreen to dress in lights, ornaments and ribbons.


The sharp, familiar aroma of freshly cut trees has always filled me with holiday spirit, and, to me, those evergreens are a blank canvas filled with potential. Each year is a chance to start anew with decorations. However, if you’re stuck in a rut when it comes to decorations and want to go above and beyond this year, here are three things I always keep in mind when decorating for the holidays:



Now is the time to be creative. Look around for colors that catch your attention from familiar items, such as your favorite fruit or artwork, for decorating inspiration.

1.  Find your inspiration:

The right inspiration can set your mind turning. For me, it’s usually a pattern or a color or something I admire in nature. One year, it was a swatch of ribbon that spoke to me. Another year it was the deep chartreuse coloring on a pear from my garden. Take that inspiration and carry it through your design. Find spin-offs and complementary colors and see where your imagination leads. If you always return to your original inspiration, you can’t go wrong.

2.  Have a unifying theme:

Once you’re inspired, it helps to have a repeating theme throughout to tie it all together. One Christmas, I was drawn to the color orange. I liked orange because it was bright, grabbed the attention and added some whimsy. When decorating the tree with orange ribbons and ornaments, I also lined the mantelpiece with fresh clementines. In other rooms, I filled silver bowls with them to draw the eye and to offer fresh snacks for guests.

3.  Do something unexpected:

Yes, the holidays are about tradition, but it’s always more fun with a few surprises. Try spray painting a pinecone deep red or silver, or stuffing a stocking with boughs of holly. Use fresh herbs to make a wreath. Add a few big, bold ornaments to your garland. Repurpose your silver mint julep cups for an arrangement of greenery and holly. The options are endless!

Once you start, it’s easy to go overboard. But when it comes to holiday decorations, the only real rules are to have fun and make it feel special! If you’d like to see these practices in person or find even more holiday inspiration, take a holiday tour of Moss Mountain Farm.


Wreaths add a holiday feel to any room in the home. They also provide another creative opportunity.

Wreaths add a holiday feel to any room in the home. They also provide another creative opportunity.




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