How I Plan My Christmas Home Decor

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Ready to take your holiday home decor to the next level? Join me as I unveil my personal playbook for a cozy, magical Christmas. From trimming my trees to wrapping my presents I’m sharing all of my tips and tricks for how I get my home ready for Christmas. If you want to make your holiday home decorating easier and less stressful, this post is for you!

staircase and christmas tree decorated for christmas.

The countdown to Christmas is officially on, and if you’re anything like me, you’re probably already daydreaming about how to sprinkle that festive magic all over your home. But, let’s be real—decking the halls can sometimes feel like climbing a mountain, especially when you’re not sure where to start. Don’t you worry, though; I’ve got you covered! This year, I’m taking you behind the scenes and spilling the (hot cocoa) beans on my holiday home decorating process. From the first bauble on the tree to that final ribbon on a present, I’m sharing everything I’ve learned over the years to make the decorating experience fun, easy, and oh-so-pretty.

Now, grab a cozy blanket and your favorite warm drink, and let’s jump into some Christmas decor. Because honestly, the festive season is way too short to be stressing over tinsel and fairy lights!

Want an even deeper dive? Sign-up for my FREE email series that will guide you through all my best steps for creating a magical Christmas and festive holiday season. Join HERE.

entryway looking into a living room decorated for Christmas.

Christmas Idea and Recipe Resource List

Before we get into this post, I also wanted to share this Christmas resource list. I have been blogging for 14 years and have dozens of helpful posts for you. I have put together a collection of the best be

Decor

Recipes

Before I get into details, please know that what I’m sharing is not a bunch of hard and fast “rules” I follow every year or the way things always unfold. Sometimes inspiration will strike mid-season and take me completely off course (for better or for worse!). However, in general, my Christmas decor planning process goes something like this.

festive christmas decor with christmas tree, mushroom ornament, marshmallow wreath, mantel decor.

Consider Your Color Palette

When I’m designing anything, nine times out of ten, the first thing I think about is color. This is the case when I’m planning a room design, party, or tablescape.

However, when it comes to Christmas decor, thoughts of color and thoughts of my Christmas trees usually go hand-in-hand. This means that during the fall, I try to be especially open to inspiration that might help me come up with a color scheme. I know it may sound crazy, but I sort of have a conversation about this in my head.

If you’ve been following IBC for a while, you might remember the year I was inspired by gradients and the colors of the rainbow. That led me to make this Rainbow Gradient Christmas Tree. Another year I LOVED a dress Adele wore at a live performance, and that inspired this gold and green tree. Last year I found green velvet chairs for my living room, which inspired me to go green. That decision prompted me to go mostly red in my family room.

white, green, and gold Christmas tree.
colorful rainbow ball garland on banister.
Gradient Rainbow Christmas Tree decorated in glass ornaments.

Plan Decor Themes

In general, I try not to get too “themey.” But there are times when a loose “theme” can help with the decorating process.

For example, I often go with reds in my family room. I choose that color because I used it in the space previous years, and I loved how it looked and wanted something similar this year.

In 2022 I focused on a handmade holiday theme. I made my Christmas Tree ornaments (frosted clay mushrooms, rustic anise wreaths, embroidery hoop ornaments, clay christmas ornamants) and my tree garlands (popcorn garland, wallpaper paper chain).

decorated christmas tree with popcorn garland and red ornaments.

Another example is my living room decor from a few years ago. I had the theme of the Emerald City in mind. You wouldn’t think of the magical city in Oz when you looked at that room, but that’s what guided many of my decisions. I hope that makes sense.

Having a color scheme or theme helps me resist all of the pretty distractions I find as I’m decorating. There are too many temptations this time of year, and if I want a cohesive look, I know I can’t have all of them at the same time in one place.

flocked christmas tree decorated with greens and golds.

Christmas Decor and Theme Ideas

I thought it might be helpful to give you a look at how my past Christmas decor came together. (This was from 2020.) I no longer do full home tours as they always felt a bit overwhelming. Now when I share, I break things up room by room. Not only does that make thing easier for me, I hope it’s a bit easier for you to digest.

With that being said, here are some notable links to give you a look at my most recent holiday decoration.

Gingerbread-Inspired Christmas Tree decorated with gingerbread cookies.
Blue, Green, and White Living Room Christmas Tree decor with fire in fireplace.

Wrapping Paper Plan

Another area where a theme helps is in selecting wrapping paper. I realize this makes me sound like a loon, but here’s the deal. I like wrapping paper. I like it so much that I want it ALL. Having a theme lets me narrow my focus when I’m out shopping. It also helps to create a coordinated look under the tree. This might not be important to everyone, but for someone like me who takes lots of pictures of his home and wants an area to be aesthetically pleasing, it’s important.

When I was in my apartment two years ago, I went with deep teal, gray, and white as my theme. Last Christmas I used mainly plaid/tartan and buffalo check papers.

Yes, it’s sort of weird, but it suits my sensibilities.

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Plaid-Inspired Printable Christmas Gift Tags on christmas gifts.

Handmade Gift Tags

In recent years I’ve also been trying to hand make a new gift tag every year. This matching my wrapping paper and the recipe of my Christmas decor. Some take a bit more time, others are quick printables. If you’d like to do the same, feel free to use a few of my ideas or download my free printables.

Abstract Holiday Gift Tags with ribbon and a pair of scissors.

Take Inventory of Your Christmas Decor

With those three things in the back of my mind, I take inventory of what I have. I store my Christmas items in totes in my attic. Before decorating begins, I bring down the totes and look at what I’m working with. Since I’m a blogger, I change my decor every year, so I have plenty of decorations in storage. After taking inventory, I pack up things I won’t need or use this year and then either donate them or put them back in the attic. This keeps me from feeling overwhelmed by all the stuff.

As you can imagine, I do love shopping for holiday decor, so I also hit up some of my favorite places for holiday decor.

They include but are not limited to:

staircase decorated for chrsitasm with garland and stockings.

Tree Decorating Tips

This section is slightly out of place in this post, but a number of you have been asking about this, so I wanted to include it. (I am going to try and put together a full post on this topic, but I wanted to give you some information right away.)

Red and White Christmas Tree with presents underneath.

As with the rest of my decor, when decorating my trees, I start with a general theme or color scheme. In recent years it’s been a color scheme. Once I have that, I review my inventory and start shopping, if needed. I check out the stores listed above and see what strikes me. (You can see a round-up of some of my past trees here if you need a little inspiration.)

Once I have most of what I need, it’s time to trim the tree.

The Order I Follow

  • Set up and fluff tree.
  • Add lights, if not pre-lit. (All of my current trees are pre-lit.)
  • Add ribbon. (Please see my tutorial here.)
  • Add large or heavy ornaments*.
  • Add smaller ornaments*.
  • String garlands.
  • Add the tree topper.

*Tips for Adding Ornaments

  • For the most part, I use ornament hooks. My current favorites are these from Amazon. They are small so they disappear. I’m not a fan of decorative hooks because they tend to take attention away from the ornaments.
  • I do wire heavy, delicate, or sentimental ornaments to the branch with floral wire.
  • I like a layered look with ornaments, so I tuck some into the tree and hang some on the tips of branches.
  • I use only glass ornaments.
A Nostalgia-Inspired Christmas Tree with vintage touches and gift wrapped underneath.

Just Start

At this point, I’m always feeling slightly overwhelmed and freaking out a bit. As someone who puts his decor on display to the world via the internet, I’m prone to panic: “Is this the year I’m going to miss the mark? What if my ideas suck? What if my creative well has dried up?”

When I start feeling this way, my go-to rule is: “Just Start.” I pick something I’m comfortable with or know is going to be a “win” for me and start there. This builds my confidence, and in no time I’m up and running! I still have my moments of doubt, but in general, it’s good from there.

For example, I recently posted my Christmas Kitchen Tour. This was the first time I was decorating this space for the holidays, so the misgivings and fear of failure rolled in. It only took hanging two wreaths on the windows, and then the ball started rolling! The rest of the space came together pretty smoothly and without a lot of second-guessing.

Another tip is to just try things. When I was decorating my kitchen, initially I had my Santa mug collection on shelves in the dining room. They looked good there. However, I decided to try them in my pantry, and that’s when the magic happened. They look fantastic in there! So try and try again until YOU love it!

Festive and Beautiful Christmas Kitchen pantry with vintage stanza mugs.
Modern Christmas Tree with frosty monochromatic decor.

Final Notes

I wanted to make a few more comments about my Christmas decor before wrapping things up.

  • Most years I do not switch out furniture or paint walls as part of my holiday decorating. I limit my decor to seasonal items and soft goods such as pillows and throws.
  • If you have sentimental ornaments or decorative items that don’t match your theme or color scheme, use them anyway. Treasure them. Family, friends, and memories are what’s most important during the holidays (and all through the year).
  • This list is intended as a guide. You do not have to do any of these things to have a beautiful and happy holiday season. Do what works for you. My friend Kate of Centsational Style just wrote a brilliant post about this topic. If you’re feeling stressed, I encourage you to read it.
christmas present with plaid paper and large wood tag.

Wrap Up: Merry Christmas!

And that’s it, my friends. If I’ve missed something or you have questions, please leave them in the comments below. I’ll do my best to answer your questions and update this post as needed.

Remember, the holiday season is all about warmth, love, and cherishing moments with our loved ones. While a beautifully decorated home can set the mood, it’s the laughter, memories, and the joy of being together that truly makes the season special.

Looking for more Christmas decor and inspiration? Then check my Christmas page. It has everything you’ll need. I hope this information helps you create your happy place for the holidays!

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106 Comments

  1. Love your blog and what you have accomplished in remodeling your home. Thank you for the great decorating info. Wishing you much happiness and love this holiday season. 🎄

  2. This post came at the perfect time for me! I’m having Christmas “alphabet soup” brain at the moment as I try to decide what decorating direction I’m going in this year. My wonderful husband has young onset Dementia and I’m struggling with how much will be too much for him. I LOVE Christmas decorating and NEED that continuity and stability of traditions and holiday sparkle in my life. You know, the big sigh ……Ahhhhhhhh……. when you are overwhelmed and those wonderful lights and cozy decor just take you to a better place. Thank you for sharing your tips and inspirational photos.

    1. I certainly hope that this post was helpful and that you’re able to stir up a little holiday cheer and magic for you and your husband. Love to you both!

      xo Michael

  3. Thank you Michael this post is helpful and very informative and I will be using it. I’m one that has to have a theme for my wrapping paper. I love everything to match. I passed this on to my daughter. She called me asking what “our” theme was going to be this year. I let her pick since she is hosting. We are going kitchy llamas and cactus bold reds and greens. I’ve been working on yarn pom poms for the packages to match the llamas headdress.

  4. So much beautiful inspiration here! I’ve collected Santa’s…ornaments, standing Santa’s, etc… for 40 years. Santa’s are the souvenir I purchaser on every vacation. If you’re not a Santa in my house, you get a Santa hat plopped on your head (watch out hubby and dogs!). The challenge is to use them in new and refreshing ways each year. My resolve this year is to not pull out every single decoration I own. It’s a bit panicky to know December 1 is Thanksgiving weekend, I have guests for Thanksgiving weekend, AND I’m having a retirement party for a friend on Dec 14.

    1. This is great!! Having a collection is such a wonderful idea for holiday decorating. And yes – Thanksgiving is late this year which is always a challenge.

      xo Michael

  5. Thank you for this. I think planning in this way will keep me focused and from not wanting to buy as much. Often I buy what I like and don’t end up using most because it either isn’t as cohesive as I thought it would be or I realize I already have things that I like better. Then I have chaos of retuning stuff.

    Another mantra for you to consider in addition to “just start” is to trust your gut. You are very talented and have such a wealth of versatility in your vision. It’s really amazing to witness.

    1. Yes!! I’m guilty of overbuying too. Having a plan / theme really helps to curb this.

      And yes, I definitely need to learn to trust my gut more. I appreciate that thought. Thank you!

      xo Michael

  6. I have never related to someone more in my life! You are such an inspiration! Thank you for being you. Cannot wait to see your end result this year!

  7. Michael-

    You are the Christmas Tree Decorating Master. No one and I mean no one does trees as well as you do. Every one of them is simply beautiful. When you were a little kid did you help to decorate the tree or did you find your passion for it when you got older? It sure is a talent that you do with great style.

    1. Diane!! You are the BEST! Thank you so much! Yes. I always helped at home with the tree. I also worked in a gift shop throughout high school and decorated trees there. I also owned a gift shop.with my B&B and decorated at least 6-8 trees there every year. So, I guess … lots of experience!

      xo Michael

  8. Hi Micheal,
    I so enjoy following your blog. You are spot on with this Christmas post! I get so overwhelmed hauling out ALL the things every year. I am making a pledge to not repeat this habit this time around! I do have a question for you though. Could you provide advice on decorating a flocked tree? I purchased one last year after pining for one for a long time. Lo and behold, I found it extremely difficult to decorate! My ornaments seem to just fade into the tree! I attempted a chartreuse and aqua color scheme last year but it still seemed subpar. Any suggestions?
    XO,
    Michelle.

    1. Thank you, Michelle! You’re right about flocked trees. I think this is something that just happens. In general, I think people need a lot more ornaments than you think you do, especially if you want to make any impact on a flocked tree. Without seeing it, I’d say more ornaments.

      xo Michael

  9. As always, your Christmas decor blows it out of the water! I actually get giddy scrolllng (trolling) thru each shot! I think one of my all time faves is the garland w/ the ornaments in your last house! I can appreciate how much time that must’ve taken putting that all together! Love this years’ red themed tree in the living room – along w/ that unusual fireplace! Love it!

  10. I love the pom pom (maybe felted wool) garland on the last tree! Where did you get it from, or perhaps you strung hot yourself? Thanks!
    PS Loving the posts

  11. Thanks for the excellent advice! It’s just what I needed to prime the pump this year. I hope you can feel all the love being sent your way. (You get what you give!)

  12. Michael, your words cheer me. I appreciate how much more pressure you have than us “normal people,” and my hat is off to you. If I lived near you I would come over to help decorate, and we could eat broccoli cheese dip, and revel in all your cool decorations and your beautiful house.

  13. Thank you for being real and saying that you get anxious about your creative choices and how things will turn out. I think we all feel that to some degree- but I’m sure having a decor blog makes you really feel it. Ever since we inherited my grandmothers vintage ornaments and Christmas decor (we have a similar tree to the one in your pantry!) it’s made the process for me purely sentimental and traditional and less about creating some big Holiday decor statement. I change out ribbon etc. but always have those key pieces to use- wouldn’t be Christmas without the sentiment. You do a great job of combining tradition with an artistic and modern flair.

    1. Yes! I think sentiment, tradition, and nostalgia are so important! There are certain pieces of decor and ornaments I used EVERY year no matter what my theme.

      xo Michael

  14. It does seem overwhelming, and in the beginning I feel a little humbuggy! But as the process starts, I embrace the obligations, the work, the stress and find the joy of Christmas. It’s there, I just have to look for it.

  15. I love seeing your Christmas decor and am really looking forward to the full magilla when you have finished. One question on the order of decorating the tree. You mentioned that you string the garland after hanging the ornaments. I’ve always done the garland first and then the ornaments. Isn’t it difficult to guide the garland around all those ornaments?

    1. Thank you so much! So, when I say garland I mean the smaller, typically beaded kind, if you garland is thicker or fluffy, I would put that on before or after the ribbon. Hopefully that helps to clarify.

      xo Michael

  16. Over the past few years as my nieces have gotten married and asked me for advice on their first Christmas trees, I steer them right to your website. I tell them nobody does Christmas trees better than Michael. Your trees are perfection from top to bottom. How could anyone not be inspired. I really look forward to seeing your trees and decorations every year. Thank you

  17. This is so great! I love that you only use glass ornaments – they are so pretty and classic. I have my childhood ornaments that I put on a tree in the kitchen but our big tree in the living room is slowly going to all glass. Love your page – thanks for making the world a more beautiful place!