I grew up in the Washington, D.C., suburbs of Virginia and each year, we had a long-needled white pine Christmas tree with colorful lights and handmade ornaments. Outside, our house was all aglow, as well, with big, fat, bright bulbs wrapped around trees, shrubs, bushes and more trees. Seriously, the more the better. Our house was down a long, private driveway off a cul-de-sac, so the lights really were for our eyes only. My mom would muse about how many more lights we’d have if our house was one that people could actually drive by …
We would take purposeful drives to look at lights, and the ones I always found myself drawn to were the opposite of what we had. I marveled at homes outlined so perfectly with their elegant, white lights. The homes with just one candle light in each window sill. The homes with their Christmas tree next to the front windows shining with their white light sophistication. Oh, to have a house with white lights!
As an adult, when I finally bought my own tree and put on my own lights, they were white, and my tree was as beautiful as I had always imagined it would be. And yet, as my kids started to grow up, I was struck by the sense of nostalgia that the holidays bring; when I would see a tree with multicolored lights, it surprised me how much I missed them. How could this be?! I fought it for years — I was a white lights girl! — but I missed the homey quality and bit of chaotic charm that the colorful lights can bring.
So my answer was that I got two trees. One for multicolored lights, the big tree, with most of our ornaments. Then, the smaller tree, which sat atop a table, strung with white lights and adorned with all of our Santa-themed ornaments. This satisfied both of my yearnings. This year, though, we decided to go with just one tree, and we went with multicolored lights without a giving it a second thought. To me, they are just home. My past. My comfort.
Talking about Christmas tree light preferences with friends made it clear: there is a definite divide. You have very loyal #teamwhitelights people and #teammulticoloredlights people! We called up some of Nashville’s most notable interior designers and asked them their preferences. Here is what they had to say:
Roger Higgins of R. Higgins Interiors — “I personally love white lights. I just think it’s is so much prettier, but I do appreciate a vintage feel with the multicolored lights in a mix of large and small bulbs. It can be so appealing and a break from the norm and the expected. I think my white light preference dates back to my childhood. Our family Christmas tree fell over on me when I was young, and those giant multicolored bulbs really burned! I have had a strong distaste for them ever since.”
Julie Brown and Amber Thomas of Providence Interiors — “We are definitely in the white lights camp. Count us in for the #teamwhitelights! All of us at Providence Interiors use white lights today. Some of us converted to white lights in the ’80s and ’90s; some of us have always used white lights. We all agree, white lights work great with the neutral, soft tones we love — metallics, creamy ivory, soft blues and soft greens. White lights seam to reflect a peaceful, silent and holy night and make the carols ring true.”
Beth Haley of Beth Haley Design — “I love the simplicity and subtle nature of white lights. Their sparkle highlights whatever they adorn, highlighting the objects themselves. Even used alone they create a magical aura suggesting a pause to the viewer. The viewer slows down to notice what is lit. The emphasis is on what is displayed, rather then the lights. Colored lights draw attention on themselves creating a feeling that may or may not exist with the object alone. White allows the object to shine and sparkle on its own accord. Feelings are open to the viewer. Colored lights create a feeling based on their color alone. As with most things in design, lighting is about feeling and especially tiny-light lighting. Make your choices based on feelings you want to evoke.”
Chad James of Chad James Group — “My personal favorite for the tree in my home is multicolor. There’s a certain nostalgia with colored lights and Christmas for me. They remind me of very happy times spent with family and friends.”
Mark Simmons of Mark Simmons Interiors — “We typically use white lights on ours, although a couple of times we mixed just a few of the large old-fashioned colored lights into our tree with lots of the mini lights and loved the way that looked. This year, we have done something different for us and got a flocked tree and decorated it with white lights and all gold and silver ornaments.”
Kathleen Evers of K Evers Interiors — “My preference depends on the style/color of the room and type of holiday ornaments that are used. I use white lights on my living room tree because I’ve got gold, silver, white and blush ornaments. White does better with cooler tones and metallic sparkly themed trees. I use white lights in more formal settings or when using unusual colors like aqua or lime green.
“Colored lights are better on more casual trees or where red/green ornaments are used. I have colored lights on my great room tree, because I use burgundy/gold ribbon with lots of traditional glass ornaments that have been given as gifts over the years. I include my children’s handmade grade school ornaments for a sentimental touch.”
Sara Ray of Sara Ray Interiors — “From an interior design standpoint, I prefer white lights on a Christmas tree. White lights with a warm glow, not the cool white (almost blue) color that some LEDs give off. I love having the colors come from other sources, like ribbons, ornaments, accessories and accent pieces. I’m a minimalist by nature, so white lights seem to go along with that aesthetic.
“Now, from a mom standpoint, it’s a different story! I let my 2-year-old and 5-year-old sons choose the tree this year, and they selected a multicolored, lit flocked tree. I was mortified! It actually turned out fine, and I like it more than I thought I would. Multicolored lights make sense for kids. They also make sense for trees adorned with bright, kid-crafted ornaments. I wouldn’t give up using those ornaments for anything. So my opinion is, if you can have two trees, do an adult tree and a kid tree, and you’ll make everyone happy!”
Julie Couch of Julie Couch Interiors — “It’s absolutely true that white is my favorite color in all things! White lights feel magical to me, and they are one of the only things I can’t imagine having too many of! They elegantly illuminate both interiors and exteriors, regardless of scale or style, and are equally as beautiful mixed with vibrant colors or soft neutrals.”
Dana Goodman of Dana Goodman Interiors — “My preference in lights has changed about like my preference of hairstyles and lipstick! In the past, I was all about the “designer” tree look, which could be described as all-white lights, gold, silver and crystal-clear ornaments. Pearls and gold baubles and beads strung from top to bottom. My angel was certainly dressed in the gilded look as well. It was all oh-so-sparkly!!
“As of late, I have returned to the nostalgic, multicolored lights — the more the better, and size doesn’t matter! It’s all about the Christmas memories and the spectrum of colors reflecting on our family vintage ornaments that creates a sense of peace and meaning to my soul. Just for the record … I am neutral when it comes to the blinking lights or not. LOL!”