Seven Secrets to Divine Decorating this Holiday Season

Seven Secrets to Divine Decorating this Holiday Season

SCAD’s Paula Wallace shares her December design pro-tips

The holiday season is always such a magical time of year, and adding to the festivities are all of the special decorations that add another layer of fun to the home throughout the season. It’s easy to get overwhelmed at outfitting a space for the holidays, but it can actually be quite fun to deck the halls with family and friends. Here, SCAD’s President and Founder Paula Wallace shares her seven tips on how to decorate like a pro this December.

Celebrate childhood cheer

First and foremost: HAVE FUN! Summon your inner child and incorporate elements of play throughout your décor: giant pinwheels, trophies, vintage tin toys, sweet treats. The holidays are a time to reconnect with and rekindle our sense of whimsy and delight. Embrace playfulness in all you do. It's time to make merry!

Mix your Greens

Interior design pro-tip: All greens go together. Mother Nature fearlessly mingles verdant shades and so should you. Don’t stop at the tree! Bring even more of the great outdoors inside with garlands, ferns, and florals. Pluck magnolia leaves and holly sprigs from your yard or make a tree skirt from moss and lichen. Go green.

Go over the top

More is more… and less is so often a bore. Take a leaf out of fashion icon Iris Apfel’s book and layer your décor. Mix textures and shapes. Combine patterns and prints. Interweave traditional with modern for an unexpected showstopper. Embrace the impromptu soul of jazz as you outfit your home with scarves pulled from your closet, plus paper fans and gleaming ornaments that play well together in your winter wonderland.

Level up

As the great Nick Jonas crooned, "Levels, levels, levels!" Design your space to lead the eye: up, down, around. Avoid the tragic faux pas of flatness. Drape garlands from ceiling to floor. Hang ribbons from chandeliers to draw attention upward. Place presents around your parlor. (Give me all the ribbons and bows! I love creating whimsical elements that tie in to the holiday gifting theme.)

Think outside the bauble

A few years ago, First Lady Michelle Obama invited SCAD to design the “Blue Room” Christmas tree. Our Bees created rosette-styled prize ribbons, hand-painted pennants, and embroidered wool ornaments fashioned in the shape of natural resources from sea to shining sea. Adorn your own tree similarly, with non-traditional artifacts: family photos, miniature stuffed animals, toy trains, a small gift or two, along with a plethora of patterns (polka dots! chevron! houndstooth!).

Bring the inside out

Patios and porches are perfect places to host your holiday soirée—so don’t forget to deck your deck. Get your garden gnomes into the spirit by adding holiday scarves and hats. Showcase your whimsy, and welcome your guests into your holiday wonderland from the moment they walk up your front steps.

Reflect and refract

Double the dazzle with reflective surfaces. Swap out glass and ceramic vases for something shinier and more chic, like silver platters. I especially love using vintage trophies and loving cups as triumphant vessels for holiday decorations. Add thrifted mirrors behind your vignettes for maximum impact. These reflective surfaces multiply the merry.


Festooning your holiday home should be fun, fun, fun. Embrace play and have the happiest of holidays, from my husband, my creative collaborator Glenn, me—and all of us at SCAD!