Nothing cozies up a home like the accouterments of Christmas — a towering tree dripping baubles and bows; a mantel heaped with greenery; tables topped with candles and poinsettias.
Boxes come out of storage when it's time to deck the halls (and the walls and the stairs and the stoop). And soon, Santa and snowmen and angels and reindeer peer from every corner.
For most homeowners, the look is similar each year. After all, it takes a while — years, really — to accumulate enough pieces to transform a living area into a holiday wonderland.
And why shouldn't the look be the same? Do Christmas motifs really change all that much from year to year?
Actually, yes, say area florists and decorators. Like hairstyles and designer fashions, Christmas decor goes through fads.
"The way we tend to do ours is a slow evolution," says Kevin Roberts, a designer at Trees n Trends, a home decor store in Cleveland, Tennessee. "The reason why is nobody can afford to redo their Christmas tree every year."
So if you liked farmhouse-inspired cotton sprigs and vintage red trucks hauling Christmas trees last year, you can expect to see more of the same this year.
"All of that is still here," Roberts says of the store's 2018 Christmas inventory. "Those are definitely two huge sellers."
But there are always variations on a theme, and not all themes work together. Still, whatever you're starting with, understand that you don't have to change everything out at once, he says.
"You can't go wrong with red and green and berries and pine cones," Roberts says. "You always hit 'Christmas' with that."
The ratio of colors is what makes the difference, he explains. "One year, maybe you go more red than white. The next year, more white than red. It's the same two colors but the different amounts will give it a different feeling."
Here's what Roberts and other area experts say are some of the decorating trends we can expect to see this holiday season.
If you really want to update the look of your decor this year, change your tree.
"For the past couple of years, the really big thing has been flocked trees," says Brandon Carruth, part of the decorating team at The Great Christmas Shop, the seasonal variation of The Great Backyard Place, formerly The Pool Place, in Chattanooga.
"Brighter, bolder reds really pop on those trees," says Carruth, who has been part of the volunteer team to decorate the White House for the past two years.
Icy trees are another new alternative, he says. Unlike the mounds of "snow" found on flocked trees, the branches of these artificial trees range from lightly frosted tips to branches that appear to be encased in crystal.
Either way, substituting a white tree as the backdrop can give your existing decor a whole new look.
"Bright colors really pop against the white branches," says Liza Greever, owner of Fox & Fern Botanical Styling in downtown Chattanooga, "but soft metallics can work just as well" for a monochromatic standout.
You can never go wrong with red at Christmas, but this season you'll be seeing less red and white in candy cane stripes and more red and black in buffalo plaids.
The checkered, lumberjack plaid has been a staple of rugged outdoorsiness since it originated in the Scottish Highlands in the 1600s. But now, the dramatic design is warming up the indoors as well.
"When we were at market (the wholesale shopping market in Atlanta), every showroom had some buffalo plaid in it," says Eddie Moore, owner of Eddie's Garden Center & Florist in Henagar, Alabama. "If it wasn't the featured thing, it was a tree that had a little buffalo plaid or a plush animal that would have a band of buffalo-plaid ribbon."
Moore has filled Christmas at Eddie's, his annual showcase of 200-plus lavishly decorated trees, with the brawny motif, including table runners with touches of fur. A key feature is a log bed bedecked in buffalo-plaid linens surrounded by trees decorated with buffalo plaid, cardinals and snow. The look reads "lodge," but Moore says it's not entirely rustic.
The trees at the entrance have gold accents and some of the buffalo-plaid birdhouses he has used for accents have a smattering of gold on the roofs.
"They're still Christmasy, and they have the berries and the Christmas greenery on top of them," he says, "but the glitzy, glittery stuff is kind of a step up from being so cabiny." (More on that later.)
The color story is the same at Trees n Trends, where Roberts says he's seeing "a lot of buffalo plaids mixed with cardinals and snowmen." Such additions soften the ruggedness of the look, he says, and make it "a little more whimsical."
Along with the move away from rustic comes "a more classic kind of clean look with mixed metallics," Greever says.
"Silver and gold are both in," she says.
You also can find platinum, bronze, copper and champagne colors in the mix. Accents may be bright and shiny or burnished and muted, depending on personal preference.
For a similar effect, consider mercury glass — vintage, if you have it, or its modern reproductions. The process adds a liquid silvering solution to double-walled glass, giving vases, votive cups, gazing balls and ornaments a reflective quality that is beautifully enhanced by the twinkle of lights.
The advance of buffalo plaid may explain the retreat of another popular fabric. While down-home country decor — cotton wreaths, tree-laden pickup trucks and natural berries — is still going strong, one longtime farmhouse staple seems to be on the decline.
"We're seeing a lot less burlap," says Greever.
Her floral design studio specializes in weddings and special events, but wedding trends mirror general trends in decorating. Burlap, she says, is exiting stage left in all decor.
Understated simplicity is still in favor, but the look is more elevated — meaning: more linen, less burlap.
The look is "more of an elegant rustic, if there's any rustic at all," Greever says.
Linen has long been a staple for Joe Jumper, owner of The Clay Pot, a floral design studio in North Chattanooga that handles elements of decor for weddings and special events.
Lately, he's pairing linens with touches of lush velvet. "It's a dressier, elegant look," he says.
In his designs, Jumper regularly relies on natural elements — everything from fruits to pine cones to greenery — often nestled in repurposed pieces from around the house, such as serving bowls, plates and soup tureens.
"We always lean more toward classics rather than getting too themed," he says. "We use a lot of magnolia a lot of boxwoods. We do a lot of greens and pine cones. I love to do fruits in arrangements — maybe an orange citrus tree with boxwood and greenery. It's a twist on [Colonial] Williamsburg, but more updated."
Moore also favors natural elements, such as pine cones and greenery. These add-ins are easy enough to find naturally in rural Henagar, he says, but "all the big-box stores have bundles of greenery you can buy." He especially recommends these aromatic additions for anyone who uses an artificial tree.
The trend toward neutrals in home decor is being replicated in Christmas decor as well, with some homeowners leaning toward cream and silver accents that blend with the whites and grays of walls, floors and furniture.
But there's always room to add color, says Roberts.
"It's like a pair of khaki pants," he says.
Previous seasons have added soft baby blues to the mix, though more recently the look has trended toward dramatic burgundies, bronzes and rust colors, he says.
Carruth and Greever say they're seeing a tonal shift to greens.
"Different shades of matte greens," says Carruth.
"Rich greens," says Greever. "Deep, rich green colors."