Cozy & Bright

Whether traditional or exotic, selecting a theme adds continuity to holiday decor.

By Katie O'Connor
Photography by Anne Matheis


‘Tis the season for creating holiday magic by adding sparkle and spice all through the house. But decking the halls often relies on holiday décor collections built over many years, and making sense of all the mismatched pieces and disparate elements can sometimes make this annual ritual a bit of an overwhelming task.

But it need not be, says Clarice Wheeler, owner of Imogene’s in Wildwood, who creatively outfits her home and shop in holiday finery from top to bottom every December. With a bit of know-how, she notes, holiday decorating can be an enjoyable creative moment, one that ultimately creates a warm environment for celebrating this special time of year.

Clarice begins by choosing a theme, which helps to guide the process by suggesting colors and limiting which items in a collection to use. Last year, for example, she chose Africa as her theme, inspired by her love of and travels to the continent. Though unusual for the holidays, the concept allowed for the use of rich browns and warm tans that complement the season’s traditional reds, dark greens and glittery metallics, as well as the creative incorporation of sentimental items from both her holiday collection and her everyday life. Feathers and cheetah-print ribbon were tucked among the evergreen boughs of the foyer’s banister garland and the creamy white flowers in the dining room centerpiece, for example, while zebra ornaments hung alongside those with history on the great room’s Christmas tree.

“Your theme can include anything in your home that you truly love or that has great memories,” Clarice explains, noting that one of this year’s more than a dozen inspirational trees at Imogene’s will sport a Harley-Davidson theme. “Everybody has a lot of Christmas stuff they’ve collected over the years; as you sort through your holiday items, consider one theme and then pull out the good stuff [that relates] and use that.”

Clarice suggests using one theme throughout the house, but even if you’re opting for multiple motifs, the key to keeping things cohesive is color. “If you choose a red and green Santa theme, use those same colors in all rooms,” she says. “Don’t use reds and greens in your great room and aqua and fuchsia in your foyer. [You want] your look to flow from room to room.”

Several traditional elements make varying the theme even easier. “Green is a natural color, like grass and trees, so it goes with almost everything,” Clarice says. “Just be careful what you plop on top of it.”

To that end, choose elements for trees and garlands with an eye toward texture. Nestling shiny metallic ornaments among rough-hewn pinecones, soft feathers and glittery spheres adds interest to arrangements. And don’t forget the lights, which add cheerful depth and a warm glow to even the most creative themes. “Lights are super important,” Clarice notes. “They make such a difference.”