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



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.

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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  1. I love your posts like this. And your wrapping-paper enthusiasm isn’t silly–your attention to detail is what makes you so great! Thanks for all the wonderful tips.

  2. This post couldn’t come at a more perfect time for me. I can appreciate the overwhelmed feeling of wanting it all when I see everything that’s available this time of year on line & in the stores. I end up with a mix of very pretty things then have trouble putting them all together when decorating. This year I’m going to use your advice & pick a theme first, then weed through what I already have & put the rest away to remove the temptation to use it all!

  3. How do you keep your cats from messing with everything? 🙈 Last year was our first with cats and they climbed our tree constantly, broke some ornaments, etc. They were kittens, so I’m hoping this season will be better now that they’re grown. If you have any tips though, I’d love to hear them! Thank you!
    P.S. Everything you do is stunning. 😍

    1. Tracy, I have been lucky and have never had a problem with my cats messing with my tree, ornaments, or decor in general. Sorry I don’t have any tips. If they are climbing up the middle of the tree, maybe block it with something underneath? Try a tree collar?

      xo Michael

  4. We are going to print this out and put into our Christmas planning binder. We love following you all year long. You have some of the best recipes and we have tried many of them. They are approved by five teenagers too by the way! Thank you for always providing wonderful content! We are fully decorated for fall and Halloween but next week, watch out! Christmas comes alive in most of the home! Then after Thanksgiving the whole home is fully decked out in Chrismtas!

  5. Great tips! I’ve read this post at least twice!

    Your comment about wrapping paper makes perfect sense, but I have to share a story with you about my neighbor. She LOVES wrapping paper! Sometimes she has to hide new purchases from her husband. She doesn’t coordinate the way you do; she has her own quirky system. For instance, one year, when her daughter first got her license, she bought her some accessories for her car. Since the car was red, the wrapping paper, ribbon, and even the pen she used to write the tag all had to be red as well! We wrap presents together every year. It’s always fun and entertaining!

  6. I know it has to be so much pressure to reinvent the wheel each year so your design is fresh and exciting… but your taste is so classic and so very inviting that it’s truly timeless and inspiring… Christmas is a time of nostalgia coupled with beauty … and sometimes a twist on old ways and traditions… every room in your house, and every styling you do, shines through with so much class… and love. You’re just what we need this year…. because, especially this year, “we need a little Christmas, right this every minute!” (Auntie Mame!)… that scene in Auntie Mame embodies how we are all feeling this year… watch it again and you’ll see what I mean… thanks Micheal … you are so very talented.

  7. I feel sad when I am not able to get around to checking my emails daily. However, when I do check them and see an email diy email from you, I get all excited because I know you don’t disappoint. I love this post. You gave many helpful ideas I plan to use in my Christmas decorations plans. Thanks for never disappointing! Happy holidays

  8. You miss the mark? Can’t even imagine that…but if you did for some strange reason, I’d still be here! 😊 That green tree will always be one of my very favorites! Can’t wait to see this year! I used your dining table as my inspiration last year. Thank you for all of the endless inspiration! ❤️ 💚

  9. Talented friend,

    Since I’m fairly new to your blog, discovering the Emerald City Tree caught my attention. I grew up in the actual Emerald City…can you guess where? I’m heading to your recommended sites to create my own.

    Loving your extraordinary talent,
    Diney on Camano Is.