Whether you’re still pulling your old holiday decorations out of storage or you had your lights up before Thanksgiving (too early, dude, too early), now's a good time to examine what you have and whether your home spreads holiday cheer or looks like a ghost from Christmas past.

Is your home looking festive and modern, or a bit too ... Griswolds?


If it's the latter, you might be in need of an update before those holiday parties kick into gear. Not sure how to pull it off? Brace yourself, because we asked a design pro to give us the latest Intel on what's hot in holiday decor right now.

1. Modern marquees

Not sure how big to go with outside decor? Here’s a hint: It shouldn’t involve an air pump.

“The big, outdoor air-filled yard Santas and snow globes have seen better days," says Leigh Meadows-McAlpin, an interior designer with Dwelling in Charleston, SC. "Yes, they may be fun for the kiddos, but they've definitely lost a bit of originality. Been there, done that.”

Christmas past:

Inflatable holiday decor

Christmas future:


Instead, opt for a marquee sign perched inside the window or just off the front porch. Available in dozens of phrases, colors, and designs ("Wish" in red, pictured below, from Etsy designer TLNFunctionalArt, $220), these simple signs are a modern take on holiday lights and decor.

Marquee lights

2. Tasteful pine

Love those holiday garlands? Green (pine green that is) is definitely still in, but those clearly fake plastic pine needles adorned with oversized, gaudy ornaments and bows have seen their day.

Christmas past: 

Oversized holiday garland

Christmas future: 

For a more modern, rustic feel, look for garlands made from smaller, natural-looking pine needles. And then be careful where you place the garland. Shorter branches will work better wrapped around a staircase or mantel, while longer branches will have a draped effect. (Cordless soft pine garland, pictured below, from Grandin Road, $69 to $99.)

modern garland

3. Understated and elegant tchotchkes

Does Christmas look like it threw up in your house, with endless pools of store-bought holiday tchotchkes—snowman soap dispensers, too many tiny reindeer, or a full-on fake gingerbread village? While we'll admit some of that holiday clutter can be cute, none of it is exactly modern.

Christmas past:

dancing snowman

Christmas future:

Maybe you have deep love for tchotchkes. That's OK—your house doesn't need to be a trinket-free zone. Instead, look for figurines and trinkets made by local artists. Having a one-of-a-kind piece will help keep your holiday decor fresh and unique.


“Look for items that are handmade," Meadows-McAlpin says. "They are always more interesting than something mass-produced. It doesn't need to be expensive, but supporting artists, makers, and craftsmen is a good thing and provides you with original decor that is uniquely yours.” (Christmas terrarium, pictured below, from Etsy artist Waen, $90)

Christmas Terrarium

4. Rustic or nature-inspired decor

Turning your home into a winter wonderland is a classic holiday decorating trick that hasn't gone out of style yet, but it does need some updating. This year, skip the spray-painted pine cones, giant wreaths, and poinsettia-heavy floral arrangements for something simpler.

Christmas past:

LED poinsettia display

Christmas future:


“We've all seen the classic silver- or gold-painted pine cones, but take that concept a step further and consider the possibilities: feather wreaths or trees, small bundles of white birch fire logs tied with ribbon, or dried branches in a large vase,” Meadows-McAlpin says. (White birch votive candles pictured below from World Market, $19.99 to $34.99)

white birch candles

5. Nostalgic touches

Just because you're updating, it doesn't mean you have to throw out everything. I can’t remember a holiday growing up that wasn’t filled with snowmen. My mother loves them, and I do too. While they’re not exactly hip and modern, I always manage to snag a couple whenever she’s purging her holiday collection.

And it turns out that’s OK.

“Most of us have favorite holiday trinkets and figurines that are special to us and frequently hold treasured memories,” Meadows-McAlpin says. The key is using those less-than-hip treasures sparingly.

Christmas past:

Tacky Christmas

Christmas future:


“Although (the traditional items) may look outdated as a group, I like to intermix them with my more current holiday items," Meadows-McAlpin says. "For example, my grandparents' old ceramic wind-up musical Christmas tree (which I adored as a child) can now sit proudly next to a modern polished silver bowl full of dried cranberries and a silver-framed childhood photo with Santa. Each item enhances the look of the others and is a beautiful mix of old with new.”

2010 Christmas Decor