Whether hosting guests for dinner or an extended stay, sprinkle personal decorating touches throughout the house to create a festive home for the holidays.
Set the stage at the front door and carry it through the house, experts say.
"Personally, I like to use gold, silver and white together rather than the expected red and green scheme," said interior designer Kelley Proxmire, a member of the Washington Design Center Hall of Fame.
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Proxmire encourages the use of organic elements found in the yard.
"Start with natural elements on the exterior of your home when possible, such as magnolias and pines," she said. "Incorporate those elements in greenery such as wreaths on the door and, if you have a transom, above it."
Inspired by "old Williamsburg charm," Proxmire used faux fruit to dress up the entry door for one client. She accented garland on the handrails with real leaves. To create a classic Christmas scene, she suggested wreaths in windows, poinsettias on the porch and topiaries dotted with lights.
Using natural elements in holiday arrangements is easier these days, with battery-operated candles that can be incorporated among plants and flowers without fear of igniting a fire.
"Just tuck away some of these lights, either votive or pillar size, into a collection of holiday greens and see them acquire a holiday glow," she said
There is no need to break the budget to provide holiday spirit for guests. Proxmire recommended using what's on hand, including tree ornaments.
"Place them on a small tray with fresh-cut greens and display them as a 'collection of holiday memories' to create and en masse effect," she said.
Barbara Lee, owner of Lee Design & Interiors in Old Town Alexandria, loves to arrange ornaments on mantels and tables. She uses inexpensive nickel-plated rings you can purchase at home improvement stores as anchors to keep the ornaments from rolling away.
"I just lay these rings all around and put all kinds of ornaments of different colors and different sizes," Lee said. "And they don't fall."
Ornament arrangements are ideal for people who have limited space or live alone and would rather not fuss with a tree. Lee said in homes without a fireplace, use a buffet or table, and add some branches, to create a festive feeling.
Lee suggested adding a splash of holiday flair to the guest bath or bedroom as well. For the bath, she said she likes using wide ribbon around towels hanging from a rack, instead of purchasing holiday-themed linens.
"Or take a stack of hand towels and tie them with a ribbon," she said. "It gives you a little festivity without going overboard and buying towels embroidered with a Santa that you'll never use again."
Lee said she transforms throw pillows into holiday decor by wrapping them in velvet ribbon. "You can leave them on a bed or a chair," she said. "It's kind of a simple thing you can do without going really crazy."