Here in the SB office, we’ve been having a friendly debate over when it’s an appropriate time for our holiday decorations to make their highly anticipated yearly debut. There’s just something so enchanting about the holiday season — we look forward to it from the time we tear down the tree to the time we put it back up the following year. In fact, many of us are drawn in even before the tryptophan from the Thanksgiving turkey has hit. We wait with bated breath for the tubs to come down from the attic, each one filled to the brim with nostalgic holiday tchotchkes, jeweled ornaments and special memorabilia. Tree skirts and stockings and wreaths, oh my! And then there’s the tree. Or, if you’re genuinely a fanatic, the trees. One SB staffer put her own Christmas tree up on Halloween, causing some of us to consider the age-old question: “When is it too early to start getting into the magic of the holiday season?”
Thankfully, designer, TV host and DIY expert Monica Mangin stepped up to the plate to address our debate and shed some light on the answers to a few other nagging Christmas questions. She’s the home expert on “Live! With Kelly,” and Nate Berkus even calls her his favorite DIY-er, so we know we are in good hands!
Tell us, when is it too early to put up the tree and start decorating for Christmas?
I get asked this all the time and let me tell you why I’m not the right judge — because I’m Team Christmas in July! So, I’m not an impartial judge on this one. The real answer is, is there really any “wrong” time to get into the holiday spirit? I say, “no.” It’s really what’s right for you. For most people, it’s going to be the day after Thanksgiving. And if you’re going to choose to do it the day after Thanksgiving, I say just remember, it doesn’t have to all happen at once. It’s not like instant Christmas. It can be something where you take your time — like, you start with your outdoor lights, then you bring your tree in. I think the moment you bring your tree into your home, that’s when the magic of the season comes in.
Remember that you can keep adding all the accents and touches that feel right to you throughout the season. That kind of takes off some of the pressure. I know that doesn’t settle the debate, but I really would say Christmas in July!
What are some simple home touches you suggest for creating more cozy spaces this Christmas?
When we’re talking about finishing touches, a lot of people think it’s all of the little elements. But really, I would say that if you take a step back and think about the theme for your home, that’s really where it’s at. Choosing a theme and then having it run through — from your large scale items like your tree and your lights and your garlands, all the way down to your small-scale accessories. I don’t suggest it because your home needs to look like a magazine but because it helps give your home a cohesive feel and kind of gets rid of the chaos. We bring so much stuff into our homes during the holidays, that if you do choose a theme and stick with it, it will kind of give you a little breath as you’re going about your decorating.
What DIY elements would you recommend adding to our tablescape to make it feel more magical?
I love a good tablescape! I think the one element you always want to have in a tablescape is a natural element, so something from the outdoors. Bring the outdoors in. Go out into your yard and take some clippings of bushes and branches and tie them up — make that your centerpiece. I think that having the natural elements really brings life into it, and it makes it not feel so stale. You don’t want your centerpiece and your tablescape to feel stuffy; you want there to be a bit of life in it. So, I always say go outside and bring the outdoors in.
And now for the controversial Christmas tree questions: White lights or colored lights?
Okay, I was Team White Lights for a very long time. But I just decorated seven Christmas trees about a week ago (I used all products from Lowe’s), and I used all artificial trees that had the option of being color or white — same tree. The issue I had with white lights for a while is that the LED lights had a very blue tint to them, which I didn’t love. And now the LED lights have that warm white. So it depends on the look. One tree that we did — it was this cute buffalo check tree — it looked just as good with white lights or color, so we just kind of went back and forth.
I guess that brings us to … fake tree or real?
Personally, I am a real tree girl. I love the experience of going and getting it. But I do both! I get one real tree, and we go out and have the great experience, and then I have a couple of artificial trees. I mean, I really love Christmas, so we decorate a couple of them throughout the house. Those additional ones are always my artificial trees.
Flocked or not flocked?
Oh, flocked! Flocked trees are our white trees that look like they have faux snow on them. I think they look so good with a strong pop of color against them. I did a flocked tree with red ornaments, and it popped so nicely. And I also did a modern flocked tree where I used all copper and black ornaments — it was so chic! I feel like I have this new obsession with artificial trees, and I want every single style, so I’m planning to take advantage of the fact that they’re going to be 20% off around Black Friday, and I’m going to grow my collection.
Is tree tinsel classic or overkill?
Tree tinsel shouldn’t happen. It’s like glitter — it’s the herpes of crafting. The herpes of Christmas. Let’s not do that.
What is the best advice you’ve ever been given regarding holiday decorating?
It’s not one size fits all. Make your decor for the year reflect where your family is at currently. For me right now, I have four kids that are young. My life is chaotic, so a sophisticated decor wouldn’t work for us. I’m going with Lowe’s whimsical wonderland — it’s bright, it’s colorful, it’s loud. And guess what? It works for our family right now. Have your decor reflect you. There’s this really great ceramic vintage tree that’s going to be part of our decor this year. I was like, “Oh my gosh, my grandmother had one of these growing up!” So it has this super nostalgic element that totally fit into the fun, bright theme we are going with.
What are three things you can’t live without during the holidays?
Peanut butter chocolate Kiss cookies — I need those regularly during the holidays. A live Christmas tree, because I think the smell is magical. And cheesy as it is, I would say my family, because Christmas morning is literally my favorite day of the year.
Do you have any stress-free tips to “wow” our guests who might be visiting over the holidays?
I think when you’re thinking of having guests visiting, whether it’s for an hour or a week, really think about the spaces they’re going to be in, in your home. So you’re going to spend a ton of time in the kitchen — think about maybe some updates that you need to make ahead of time. It doesn’t have to be huge, large-scale appliances; maybe you want to invest in some smaller gadgets. I’m obsessed with my air fryer right now!
And also think about other rooms they are going to be using a lot. Like the powder room — our guest bathroom is the one that everyone is going to see. I think the easiest, most impactful thing you can do is a fresh coat of paint, so maybe consider painting that space. Right now, for guest bathroom spaces, I’m kind of obsessed with matte black. I think it’s dramatic; it adds a lot of sophistication. I would think about the kitchen and the guest bathroom; I think those are very safe spaces to begin.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Embrace the season! Start decorating now! Because guys, I’ve already been decorating since July — catch up!
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