5 Tips for Perfecting Your Holiday Home Decor from Designer Anne-Marie Barton

Published October 4, 2017

For Salt Lake City-based designer Anne-Marie Barton, holiday decorating is about creating a space that conjures fond memories and sets the scene for new ones. “The holidays are the time to enjoy the magic,” she says. “Traditional holiday decor stirs memories and reminds your family that this is the most special time of the year.”

Here, Barton offers her best tips for creating a holiday home that’s festive, warm and inviting, plus a few things you can do now to prep for the season. 

See more of Anne-Marie Barton’s tips for creating a happy home on her TDN TV series “Gracious Living.”

Start Early.

It’s true that the holiday season seems to start earlier every year, but in some regards, Barton says, the early preparations are warranted. “Now is the time to start cleaning the carpets and your most-used upholstery pieces like sofas and chairs. But most importantly: it’s also a good idea to begin clearing the clutter through your home,” she says. “Creating a backdrop of calm will help when adding in more layers that come along during the holidays.”

Photos of a home Barton designed for a client embody her holiday decorating style.

Set the Scene for Entertaining.

If you plan to host a crowd at any point during the holiday season, you might want to rethink the layout of some of your gathering spaces. “Your furniture placement is not sacred,” says Barton. “Feel free to move things around in your home. I am often caught begging my children and husband to help carry chairs or tables to the basement so there is room for all of the festivities.”

Get Creative.

Barton doesn’t restrict her holiday trimmings to traditional spots like the mantle or the Christmas tree, opting instead to scatter them throughout the house. For example, she says, “In my dining room, I hang my favorite holiday ornaments from the chandelier with a beautiful silk ribbon, and I love putting linen seat covers on the host chairs to add warmth and holiday pattern.”

Few surfaces go untouched. “I love to close the lid of our piano and set up my collection of trees or nativity scene there. I spread out a layer of white cotton, and then I weave in strands of tiny LED wire lights to lay in and around the trees.” 

Enhance the Ambience.

A festive home is about more than just the decor. It’s about creating an ambience that feels cheerful and inviting. A few of Barton’s favorite special touches: “I find myself lighting large iron lanterns outside by my front door just to start the warm feelings from the minute you walk in, or setting a pretty smelling candle and small decoration in the powder baths.”

One must-have: Music. “Turn on the tunes!” says Barton. “If you don’t have speakers installed already, find a wonderful bluetooth speaker system as soon as possible. Nothing will fill the walls of your home with warmth and love more than music. At this point my children have the holiday playlist memorized. In and of itself, familiar music creates the feeling of traditions.” 

Finally, Barton has a firm stance on choosing the right Christmas lights to enhance your home’s holiday atmosphere. “By all means, steer clear of the LED light strands!” she says. “I prefer the soft glow and less intensity of the incandescent.”

Embrace Simplicity.

If you’re not one to go overboard with holiday-themed decor, that’s OK, too, says Barton. Her go-to for adding simple but lovely seasonal flair: Flowers and candles. “Flowers during the holidays are an easy way to add decor. I turn toward white lilies or greenery and the traditional poinsettias,” she says, “and I usually start the holiday season with a good supply of cream colored candles in varying sizes since they can be used in most any area in my home.”

Make it Personal.

Barton’s best advice for creating a holiday home: let the spirit of the season, family tradition, and fond memories drive your decor. “I have a collection of Christmas photos from years’ past that are displayed in beautifully selected photo albums that have a holiday theme,” she says. “I pull out family photos that the children and grandparents cuddle up to while flipping the pages both laughing and crying.” 

Barton’s family also pays special tribute to their lost loved ones. “Our family has what we call our dream tree, which is filled with fond memories of the daughter we lost years ago. In front of our tree always sits her white cowboy boots. The tree is full of meaningful ornaments with themes of angels, stars and music which filled our daughter’s life. Filling the holidays with memories is what brings the most joy to the season.”