Home For The Holidays

By Sharon Naylor

October 29, 2015 6 min read

During the holidays, a gorgeous Christmas lights display can take your breath away. Strings of tiny lights create a sense of magic and holiday joy when arranged elegantly and masterfully on an indoor Christmas tree or outdoor evergreen, and great care is taken for those truly stunning Christmas tree lights that you see during holiday home tours and in department stores. These intricate light displays are works of art, and it's no wonder that so many companies and private homeowners hire professional decorators to plan their holiday light decor.

Tricia Foley, author of "White Christmas," shares some of her top tips for choosing and displaying Christmas lights tastefully, joyfully and with great artistry to illuminate your holidays during this season of light and celebration.

*Choosing Your Size of Bulbs

"There are lots of bigger, old-fashioned bulbs in solids and multicolor," Foley says, mentioning the holiday trend of displaying retro-style holiday decor as a theme that hearkens back to long-ago days of the 1940s through the 1970s, the kinds of bulbs you may have seen on your grandparents' Christmas trees. Heirloom ornaments are also all the rage, each with a story to tell and wonderful family memory to evoke. Pair these old-fashioned ornaments with old-fashioned, larger bulbs to create a unified look that brings the warmth of shining memories into your home.

For a more modern look, small bulbs on string lights range from tiny to super-tiny, for pretty pops of color or white glow made all the prettier en masse.

Foley points to today's trend of fun-themed lights shaped like chili peppers or ornaments, and says these creative light choices are perfect for family holiday decorating. Classic motifs such as stars are quite easy to continue as an annual theme. You'll always be able to find star-shaped ornaments, and your kids can join you in looking for the stars during holiday shopping trips.

*Choosing Your Color of Bulbs

"I prefer one color, usually white or clear for me," says Foley. "I have an all-white house and just love the sparkle of them." An all-white color scheme is the essence of elegance, with the lights resembling tiny bits of ice shimmering in the sunlight or moonlight. White lights also pair well with candlelight in your home holiday decor, creating one vista of pure white lights when you walk into a room.

If you prefer lights to have some color, consider a monochromatic color scheme such as all pink lights or all blue lights. "I did a tree in a beach house on Long Island for a friend last year with all blue lights and seashells. It was magical and perfect for that house. Different house styles need their own decorating styles," says Foley, encouraging you to think about your home's own signature style when you're planning your holiday decor and light choices. As with this beach house, all blue lights can pair with the blue of an ocean or lake in your setting, perhaps in view through your windows. Foley says that blue looks gorgeous with greenery.

All-pink lights create a feminine tree style, pairing well with Victorian-style ornaments and garland, and uniformly purple lights pair well with an urban-chic, modern style.

Some people use their lights to pay tribute to a sports team. This is an option for those super-fans out there who have plenty of team logo ornaments and plan to enjoy nights watching late-season football games by the Christmas tree. A decorating scheme coordinated to team colors may bring out the joys of NFL fandom in your house, filling it with excitement throughout the season. A sports-themed tree shows off your passion, and your lights make each ornament and element of your tree stand out.

And then there's multi-colored lights. It may emulate the same color scheme you've always had on your trees throughout generations, an old-fashioned color scheme that gets new life through the brightness of LED lights. Foley says, "While our little village puts on multi-colored light strands across Main Street every year, and while I love the old-fashioned look of it, that look can be a bit much in a house or apartment."

*Choosing Your Amount of Lights

A tree awash with lights just looks more impressive than a tree strung with single lines of lights encircling the tree a foot apart. "One can layer light strings in toward the trunk for depth, with some strands in close to the tree trunk, other strands in the middle, and then at the ends. It's a great look, using a method that most professional tree trimmers use," says Foley

Simply put: The more lights the better!

*Lighting Other Elements

"Add lights to wreaths, doorways, down stair rails with greenery, and use lights to surrounding window frames," says Foley. "I also like clear LED lights in more modern settings, set in glass cylinders or running down the table with branches and berries."

Better Homes and Gardens Christmas specialist Ann Blevins reminds you to stay safe, using only lights with the UL (Underwriters Laboratories) label, and to also be sure you're using lights designed specifically for outdoor use if you'll set them outside.

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