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. Hi Michael, I basically love everything you do, but Christmas is where you really shine!! I look to you for inspiration every year and find it hard to believe you could ever miss the mark! Hope you have a wonderful and happy holiday season!! P.S. I have been known to plan an entire decorating scheme around a roll of wrapping paper! 🙂

  2. In addition to being an outstanding decorator, you are also an excellent educator. Thank you for presenting such thoughtful, well-written blog posts that are easy to follow and filled with excellent links. You have become my number 1, 2 and 3 resource!

  3. Michael – I love your post and read every one. I especially love this one because we have loss several family members around Christmas and it makes it hard to celebrate. Thank you.

  4. I am downsizing from a 9 foot to a 7.5-foot tree this year and feeling a little panicked, this was so helpful. I did get the same Balsam Hill tree, that I love, but worrying about how to pick and choose what ornaments to use. I have a lot! They may be an understatement. I’m going to use your advice and start with those that are my favorite or sentimental to me. I can’t wait to see what you design this year. Happy tree trimming.

  5. I love reading your thought process in decorating for Christmas. I too start with a color theme and work around that. Of course, I dont feel the same pressure as you since my home wont be featured in a magazine or blog.
    Back in late September, I was in Hobby Lobby looking at the Christmas ribbon that had just been stocked and nothing seemed to speak to me. Last year, I did a non-traditional copper, cream and deep teal color theme and used mini Moscow mule mugs on my tree and bar cart and loved it! It wasn’t until I moved across the store where they stocked their regular ribbon that I found a color scheme I loved. A plaid, tartan ribbon with red, white and light turquoise. I picked up three spools of the ribbon for my garland and wreaths and walked back over to the Christmas section and found some light red and white peppermint ornaments that paired well with the ribbon.

  6. You are hands down my absolute favorite for Christmas styling/decor inspiration! It boggles my mind that you might have moments of doubt, because I always wait with baited breath for your beautiful images and scenes. You are the Christmas guru!!! 🙂 Can’t wait to see what this year brings! Thanks for being so fabulous each and every Christmas season.

  7. I always love seeing what you come up with. I did a green and gold the year after I saw yours. I’m always thinking this time of year what color I should do. Although, I told myself I am not buying anything this year and will use a different color combo with the stuff I have. Ha!! We’ll see if that sticks. Because I have the color Orange (I have a white tree) in my head, or Navy Blue that I can’t get out of my head. Yikes!

  8. Thanks for this post on your thinking process for decorating….you are the King of Christmas!! It seems like I just love every holiday post you do, and then you do a new one and I love it too! I decorate for Christmas mostly with reds and greens, as those hues are prominent in my home. I also have been collecting vintage looking Santas for awhile and like to incorporate those. You really had me in the wrapping section….I would buy it all if I didn’t reign myself in!!! Where do you buy your beautiful ribbons you use to for your packages? Thanks for all the inspiration–all year round.

  9. YES Michael!
    I am not a blogger, but I look to y’all for inspiration and I love this timing of THIS post! Here we are a week from Halloween (I have been decorated for Halloween for 5 weeks already, it’s my FAV!) and I am planning Christmas and winter decor.
    Please let us start a petition that wrapping paper must match your decor! Love your blog!

  10. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one that feels somewhat anxious about upcoming decor (and I don’t even post anything online!). I vowed this year to not think about things so much and just “do.” I’m also a wrapping paper coordinater; people look at me like I have two heads when I mention it… oh well!

  11. I always love seeing your trees. My fav was the gold & green. I told myself I was not buying anything new this year. So, I think I’m going to try the gradient tree. 🙂

  12. I chuckled when I got to the wrapping paper section. Hallmark closed in State College PA. My daughter-in-law loves their coordinating and double sided papers. I’m making a Thanksgiving basket to take to dinner there and decided to add paper for her. So Friday I’m in DuBois photographing papers and texting until we find the perfect 4 papers! I also change out trees every year. Love change! Love Inspired by Charm!

    1. Oh no!! I love Hallmark papers too! Be sure to check TJ Maxx and HomeGoods! They have great paper and you can’t beat their prices.

      xo Michael