Following the general trend in home décor, holiday trim and accessories this year are an eclectic mix of traditional and nontraditional colors and styles.
Remember when blue or pastel pink ornaments were the height of kitsch? Now they're mainstream, elegant options. And while red and green are popular hues, they are not married to each other. Red might be paired with ivory, or amethyst; green may partner with copper, caramel or bright white.
As for what goes on the tree or the mantel, well, that's the thing -- anything goes.
Style watchers say we're approaching the holidays with a more open mind. Households are more diverse, relaxed and less tied to old-school ways of celebrating. So it follows that ideas of what works in décor have never been more expansive.
Rethinking the traditional
"Since folks are open to re-imagining what Christmas can look like, we'll continue to see a looser interpretation of the traditional tree," says Catie Parrish, associate editor at Wayfair, the online home furnishings outlet. "We're starting to see lots of paper and cardboard tabletop trees, and people are getting inventive, creating flat Christmas trees on walls, doors and even fridges. They're even decorating them with real ornaments and garlands. For someone who craves the charm of a real tree, even an evergreen branch in a Mason jar can lend a hint of the holidays."
IKEA has a pop-up cardboard tree that comes with ornaments. At Ellesstudio.blogspot.com, you'll find simple instructions on how to turn wine corks, wooden sticks, colored paper and glitter into pretty little trees.
Some general themes this season:
"One of my favorite holiday décor themes is what we're calling 'aquatic Christmas,' " says Parrish. "It's an extension of the sea-life trend that's been hot in home décor for a few seasons. Look for octopus and mermaid ornaments, especially in glittery silver and gold finishes."
Coastal dwellers know that a beachy palette of blues, greens and whites sets the tone. A tree skirt block-printed with shells and starfish in soft blues and creams evokes a seaside Christmas.
Gump's has a collection of painted, blown-glass ornaments that include jellyfish, hermit crabs, stingrays and leopard fish. (www.gumps.com)
Find trees, wreaths and garlands crafted of shells and driftwood, as well as clear glass balls filled with soft white sand and tiny shells. (www.seasideinspired.com)
If you've got a pile of seashells on the porch, check out MarthaStewart.com for a clever way to glitter them up and hang them on the tree.
"Vintage is going to be a popular holiday theme, especially when it comes to typography," says Parrish. "Look for throwback fonts on everything from toss pillows to serving trays."
Jonathan Adler's Peace pillow has that vibe. (www.jcp.com)
And HomeGoods has decorative hanging signs done in old-fashioned type with words like "Believe." (www.homegoods.com)
Fab.com's Christmas tree offerings include kitschy yet clever cowboy boots, television sets, robots and soda pop bottles rendered in blown glass.
Clear ornaments can be filled with whatever strikes your fancy -- Urban Outfitters has sets of four. (www.urbanoutfitters.com)
And CB2 has fun little satellite, spaceship and Sputnik ornaments. (www.cb2.com)
Critters both exotic and domestic abound this season. Land of Nod has felt dog ornaments, as well as rabbits, walrus and unicorns.
Tree skirts can be made out of just about anything -- burlap, ribbons, blankets, even a real vintage skirt. Or instead of a skirt, consider a box painted to look like a gift. Ballard Designs has a resin faux bois basket. (www.ballarddesigns.com)
Peterson suggests a tree collar: "It's like a colorful little fence around the base of your tree," she says.
Crate & Barrel has one made of braided palm fiber by Mexican artisans, in cream and red. (www.crateandbarrel.com)
Some general trends:
While jewel tones and creamy palettes hold strong, red is red-hot.
"When it comes to an 'it' color for Christmas this year, it's red -- a bright, cheery red like you find on traditional Scandinavian ornaments," says Sara Peterson, editor-in-chief of HGTV Magazine. "Red may seem like an 'Oh, Duh' color trend, but there have been years when greens, blues and purples were more popular. This season, we're seeing a ton of decorations in candy red."
IKEA has a cheery collection of traditional Scandinavian ornaments including folk people, stars and goats. Land of Nod's Rising Star tree topper features curly white embroidery on crimson felt. Cranberry red candlesticks from Pier 1 take mercury glass down a different road, while beaded reindeer and snowflakes bring glamour to red velvet and satin throw pillows. (www.ikea.com, www.landofnod.com, www.pier1.com)
Grandin Road's Zoey chevron-patterned, ruby-and-white-resin urn could be used to hold a live or artificial tree, or an assortment of greens. (www.grandinroad.com)
Winter white continues to appeal to holiday decorators. With or without touches of sparkle, it is calming, elegant and chic. And don't disregard earthier colors -- think of bare birch branches hung with gold and silver stars; luxe bowls brimming with copper ornaments; or chocolate brown mohair throws.
Parrish also suggests taking stock of what you already have around the house.
"Instead of buying every holiday 'necessity,' shopping your home for existing solutions is one of the easiest ways to decorate. A throw blanket makes a cozy tree skirt. Use a scarf as a table runner. Use nature for holiday decoration -- think backyard branches, berries and pine cones," she says.
"Fill a vase or candle holder with jingle bells or peppermints. Wrap red, green or metallic ribbon around plain white pillar candles. Instead of candles, top candle stick holders with ornaments or snow globes."
Faux fur or knitted throws and pillow covers; throw pillows with snow scenes or deer, antler and deer accessories; and glittery pillows evoke the festive spirit without overt reference.
Consider scented candles, bowls of spiced goodies, seasonal music and warm, soft textures; bringing all five senses into play enhances the holiday mood.