A Wintery Woodland Inspired Holiday Home

Several Christmas trees, freshly scented greenery and other natural elements turn this home into a woodland wonder.

A blanket of snow creates a charming scene in Kristen Whitby's backyard.
Snow blankets Kristen’s Idaho home. With lovely wreaths hanging on the shed doors, Christmas cheer can touch about everything!

With dazzling arrays of lights and decorations, the Christmas tree is the statement piece of many a living room during the holidays. But for Kristen Whitby—blogger, stylist and interior designer behind Ella Claire Inspired—quite a few Christmas trees twinkle throughout her Idaho home.

They shimmer in her children’s playroom, the master bedroom and, of course, the family room. They even brighten the children’s bedrooms, where mini faux saplings glisten in anticipation of Santa’s arrival. Here’s how Kristen decorates her home with personal flair for the holidays.

A flocked Christmas tree gives the bedroom a cozy woodland feel.
Bare wood furniture appears throughout the house, but nowhere more cozily than in the home’s master bedroom. Plush duvet covers pair well with the woodland elements. Completing the look, pictures of singing birds and faux furs help create the room’s woodland charm. Adding natural elements like these, Kristen says, makes Christmas decorating fun and simple.

Woodland Charm

Kristen’s trees offer an enchanted, woodland feel at Christmas, a look she has admired ever since she can remember. As a child, she used to visit homes illuminated with similar charms. And even though she selects faux trees for their longevity—she likes to keep her trees up somewhat beyond the new year—she prefers homey and classic elements.

The faux Christmas tree will last a long time and the fresh garland provides a lovely scent.
In her Christmas decor, Kristen choses to have the best of both worlds. Rich, fresh scent from her natural garlands and longevity from her faux trees.

“Faux trees can get too fancy sometimes, but natural elements help tone it down,” Kristen says. When first crafting her look, she was quick to juxtapose vintage mercury-glass ornaments with red berries. Kirsten says natural elements help harmonize the neutrals and whites of the family room.

“My trees evolved over the years. The red berries matched and coordinated well with my red pillows.” Tying the family room together, pops of red pepper the entire room, from the couches to the Christmas dinner display. “The feeling of Christmas is added with the color red,” she says.

Gingerbread houses are nestled in apothecary jars like snow globe scenes for the tabletop.
Gingerbread houses are nestled in apothecary jars like snow globe scenes for the tabletop.
The kid's room features a patriotic tree
This patriotic tree glitters in the children’s playroom. Vintage accents give it a timeless charm.

Christmas Arrangements

Sprinklings of red berries also add texture to the space and charm to nearly every bough. “It’s like a giant flower arrangement,” Kristen says of her Christmas trees. Like bouquets, the trees change depending on the extra pieces added. “I like to balance the interest with different heights that change from year to year.” Even changing the ribbon can affect the feel of a tree. “Plus, it’s an inexpensive way to redecorate.”

A special tree full of children’s toys is the sweetest and most endearing in her collection. Guests always ask how she is able to keep her trees, especially this one, free from tiny hands. But Kristen insists that everyone should enjoy the festive cheer, especially her three children. “My daughter likes to decorate her own tree. Then, she’ll take it all down and redecorate it, adding new things just for fun,” she laughs.

Shelves hold boxes for storage
Kristen purchased boxes and made a few visual adjustments to get the look here. The sideboard below makes a gift wrap station.

Family Time

Kristen says everyone wanting a similar look should try to keep things simple. “I like using textures and different layers of white.” Having a neutral background, she says, is a great way to save on holiday splendor. Adding pops of color and switching things in and out can be done quite easily with her aesthetic.

Holiday porch with antique sled and chalkboard sign
Beautiful script in chalk captures the spirit of Christmas. An antique sled and upcycled cabinet door stand at attention while greeting guests at the front door.

Try to ready your home well in advance, she suggests. That way, you will have time to play around with texture and color. If you decorate your tree like you would arrange a bouquet of flowers, you will then have time to achieve the perfect Christmas arrangement, making sure the various heights are dynamic and balanced. “Use recipes and decorations that you love, but don’t overthink your holiday entertaining. Really try to enjoy the season with your friends and family.”



Should You Buy a Real Tree or a Fake Tree?

Here are the ins and outs you need to know to make the best decision this year for you and your family.  

Blogger Shonee Smith of Hawthorne and Main chose flocked branches for a wintery ambiance. Once decorated with lights, ornaments and other accents, it can be difficult to tell by sight whether a tree is real or fake.

Set up and Storage

Live trees can be a pain to bring home, get through the front door and set up. Faux trees, however, are convenient to set up. They usually come in sections that are easy to assemble, and you can often get pre-lit models that save you from untangling all those lights every year. If you don’t have much storage space, though, you may want to go with a live tree, as you’ll have to store a faux tree for the other 11 months of the year.

Cost

A high-quality faux tree can be expensive, ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. You’ll spend less on a live tree, only $100–$200, but over the years, those $100 purchases will add up. Most artificial trees last 5–7 years, so depending on the quality of the artificial tree, live trees may still be more cost effective in the long run.

Mess and Smell

Real trees are messy as they die and drop their needles, a problem you won’t have with a faux tree. Artificial tree don’t shed or require maintenance. The smell is also a consideration—if you get sniffles every year when you bring in a real tree, you may be allergic to pines. On the other hand, a real tree brings that heavenly pine scent that faux trees lack.

Environment

It seems like cutting down thousands of evergreens each year would be bad for the environment, but many argue the opposite. Faux trees contain synthetic materials that have a higher environmental footprint than live trees. Also, because of the demand for Christmas trees, the US has approximately 350 million Christmas trees growing on tree farms, which provides additional habitats for animals and agricultural growth in the US.

 

Victoria Van Vlear is the editor for American Farmhouse Style Magazine, where this article was originally published. For more home-grown inspiration, follow on Facebook and Instagram.

 



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Simply Seasonal: A French Country Christmas

Cindy Blackenburg combines French antiques with natural elements for an elegant Christmas theme

Cindy Blackenburg's family room is decorated for Christmas
The family room’s neutral color palette is an ideal backdrop for the colorful Christmas décor. A silver tray holds a grouping of holiday items, including a terrarium full of bottle brush trees, a French statue if the holy family and an arrangement of fresh flowers

Christmas is a time of celebration and family, so avoid the stress and make decorating your home simple and effective. For this French country home in Aurora, Missouri, homeowner Cindy Blackenburg of the blog Edith and Evelyn Vintage uses natural elements and dresses up her year-round décor to create the spirit of Christmas. “I don’t purchase a lot for Christmas,” she says. “I use what I already have.” The result is both simple and elegant—the perfect Christmas combination.

French Fantastique

Many of Cindy’s antique and vintage collections originate from France, giving her home a romantic, French feel during Christmas. “I’ve always collected old religious antiques and nativity sheep, and I use them in my Christmas vignettes throughout the house,” says Cindy.

The wrought iron staircase in the foyer is decorated with greenery, tied with gold ribbons and topped with ornaments.

In the family room, an old repainted French provincial cabinet is filled with Cindy’s collection of French religious statues, including Jesus, lambs and sheep. Rather than remove her collection during the holidays, Cindy incorporates a wreath and moss balls into the display to give it a festive look.

The foyer holds a large statue of an angel that came from a church in St. Louis. She is also a year-round piece, but Cindy gives her a long candlestick to hold and places a crown on her head during the holidays. “She was missing her wings at the auction, but my husband found a company that sold metal wings and fixed them to her back,” says Cindy.

Her sheep can be found in almost every vignette of the house, including the birdbath-turned-manger for the baby Jesus in the foyer, where they can be seen among the clippings of evergreen.

A simple faux garland lines the headboard in the master bedroom, and an architectural crown rests on the side table. Vintage mirrors hand on the wall to emulate the arch of the headboard.
Hydrangea blossoms mingle in the pine tree’s branches with fluffy faux snow and glittery vintage baubles.

Outdoor Décor

Another key component to Cindy’s look is her use of natural elements in her holiday setup. She incorporates pinecones, dried hydrangeas, moss balls and evergreen clippings into every room of the house to spread Christmas cheer without breaking the bank. “I love to go to home improvement stores,” says Cindy. “They give out evergreen clippings to make wreaths and garlands.” With this simple trick, she can hang greenery from mirrors and several surfaces, often adding lights for a festive look.

This idea also extends to the Christmas trees throughout the home. It was said in Cindy’s family that if you found a tree with a bird’s nest, it would bring you luck for the following year. “I never have a Christmas tree where there’s not a bird’s nest tucked in there,” she says.

Traditional Meets Contemporary

Though the trees have similar natural elements, they vary in color palette from room to room. “I stay pretty neutral with blues, lavender and pale sage green in my home,” says Cindy. This allows her to have a red and green tree palette in one room and a gold and pastel palette in another.

Her tree in the family room is filled with red and gold ornaments, and a plaid ribbon bow tops it off. “We had a huge basket of really large pinecones, so we stuck them in with the ornaments,” says Cindy. The flocked tree in the master bedroom, however, has a wintry look, with dried hydrangeas, gold ornaments and sparkly snowflakes. To keep the trees as focal points, Cindy kept the presents neutral, using white boxes and ribbon that matches the tree they’re under.

 

Cindy made a large paid bow for her tree topper and tied the gifts below with the same ribbon to coordinate.

Cindy’s tips for achieving a simple yet elegant Christmas interior.

  • Steal stuff from your yard. Depending on where you live, you may have an abundance of Christmas décor right outside your door. “Go to the woods and gather up natural elements, like dried flowers and branches,” says Cindy.
  • Shop home improvement stores. Most stores will hand out free evergreen clippings that you can use on your mantel, staircase or mirrors.
  • Elevate what you already have. Instead of hitting the stores right away, see what you can do to dress up your current décor pieces. Adding small accents like candles, wreaths and bottlebrush trees will be a less time-consuming and more cost-effective way to decorate for Christmas than buying all new festive décor.