New Brunswick

6 hip, last-minute holiday decor ideas (that don't cost much)

Saint John-based interior designer Kim Jacobsen of Kim Jakobsen Design offers 6 affordable, non-labour intensive tips for achieving chic holiday decor.

Saint John interior designer Kim Jacobsen dishes some simple tips for decking the halls

The futuristic anti-tree was created by Geof Ramsay by suspending monochromatic bulbs from clear fishing line in the outline of a Christmas tree. (Photo by Brock Jorgensen)

If you've been hauling out the same bedraggled tinsel garlands and hand-painted Santa Claus figurines since the early '80s, it might be time to rethink your approach.

Even those who've managed to delay decorating until this week can have a Pinterest-worthy home for the holidays — provided they consult these tips from Saint John-based pro interior designer Kim Jacobsen.

Interior designer Kim Jacobsen said the good news is that Christmas decor “can now go in whatever direction you want" - not just the traditional reds and greens. (Photo by Julia Wright)

Best of all? They're simple and cheap — or, in some cases, free.

1. Au naturel

The great thing about living in a province that's still 85 per cent forest is the ease with which aspiring interior decorators can forage for natural Christmas greenery.

The best boughs are cedar, fire and hemlock. Spruce — identifiable by its needles attached individually to the branches, as opposed to in bunches — is something you "probably don't want in your house," Jacobsen said, since the cut boughs tend to have an odour.

Cedar, fir, and birch can be foraged from the backyard - and have a indoor life of 10 days to two weeks, according to Jacobsen. (Photo by Kim Jacobsen)

Boughs have a life of 10 days to two weeks indoors — so time your gathering appropriately, or keep their ends submerged in in water, à la cut flowers, in the garage.  

You can also scrap the greenery in favour of "a nice birch tree to [desired] height and then hang a few of your favourite ornaments on it," said Jacobsen, who suggests standing the sapling in a garden-centre-issue 10-gallon pot stabilized with sand, rocks or craft store spray-foam.

Another free, made-in-New-Brunswick decor option? Bright-red mountain ash berries, which grow wild throughout the province and are "great for outdoor decorating," she said.

2. Heavy metal

It seems Silver and Gold is a classic Christmas track for a reason. This season, Jacobsen said, try a mix of metallic tones, including (but not limited to) silver, gold, copper and platinum.

"You think you can't mix metals — but if it's done properly, you don't have to choose," said Jacobsen, who suggests spray-painting or repurposing old Christmas bulbs throughout the house.

An artful mixture of metallic tones, said Jacobsen, can look chic compared to wall-to-wall silver or gold. (Photo by Kim Jacobsen)

Many of her clients are also asking for black-and-white and other non-traditional colour schemes.

"The traditional red is not such a popular thing," Jacobsen said.

3. Seasonal chic

Good news for last-minute decorators: with a little bit of planning, it won't be necessary to rush out and take down the decorations while nursing a Boxing Day Bailey's hangover/emerging from the annual turkey coma.

Wintry, as opposed to Christmas-y, decorations like greenery or a tasteful glass vase filled with white LED lights can stay part of your decor well into February. "Use what you've already got," she suggests.

Wintry decor items, like this little guy, don't have to be specifically Christmas-y. (Photo by Kim Jacobsen)

To make the transition into 2017, "just take the Christmas bulbs down," Jacobsen said, "and keep the rest of the decorations up."

4. Lit up

Lighting is probably the most dramatic way to take a space from flat to festive. Fortunately for those of us still sorting out the tangled knots of Christmases past, "you don't need to have an extension cord taped across the floor anymore," Jacobsen said.

Not all bulbs, however, are created equal. LED lights are energy-efficient and often come equipped with battery packs that "allow you to escape ugly cords altogether," she said.

LED lights are energy-efficient and can come equipped with battery packs that eliminate ugly cords, according to designer Kim Jacobsen. (Wikipedia)

Those who have Clark Griswold-like luck with Christmas lights, take note: putting a string of LEDS in chic vases interspersed with Christmas bulbs, with a bit of greenery around the base, can be just as festive as immaculate lines that take hours to hang.

5. Tree-free

Folks are increasingly eschewing a tree altogether, opting instead for whimsical, sculptural takes on the traditional tannenbaum that are a) hypoallergenic and b) won't shed needles all over the carpet.

Jacobsen points to this futuristic anti-tree created by fellow designer Geof Ramsay, created by suspending monochromatic bulbs from clear fishing line in a Christmas tree outline.

A surreal floating "tree" Geof Ramsay created this holiday season for Revolution Strategy. (Photo by Brock Jorgensen)

"People are making them out of driftwood or books stacked in a tree formation with lights around it," she said. "It could even just be a decal on a wall."

Non-trees can be "more work upfront," she said, "but that can be a fun challenge, to spend the day making it — and also making great memories together."

6. Less is more

Here's one that folks who have accumulated a lot of Christmas decorations over the years can forget.

"If you have one really nice piece, don't put garlands all over it," Jacobsen said.

A home dripping with decorations might have the heartwarming kitsch factor, but "your eye doesn't know where to look," said Jacobsen, "and that can detract from that one, beautiful piece. So don't overdo it."

Pine cones. Natural wood. Simple. (Photo by Kim Jacobsen)

If you want to decorate every room in the house, she suggested "picking one thing to focus on in each room, instead of saturating every wall."

The bottom line? Don't feel trammelled by tradition. Christmas decor "can now go in whatever direction you want," Jacobsen said. "Whatever your beliefs, or your tastes are, it's however you want your Christmas to be."