Ideas for Decking the Halls

Ideas for Decking the Halls

Local designers create opulent holiday designs.

Designers at Merrifield Garden Center spend almost one year creating holiday displays.

Designers at Merrifield Garden Center spend almost one year creating holiday displays. Photo courtesy of Merrifield Garden Center


This rustic holiday space incorporates branches and animals.


This traditional holiday space uses hues of red, white and green.


Gretchen Fuss, an interior designer with Tchoupitoulas Furnishings, created this holiday tree.


Amanda Mertins of Patina Polished Living advises using an urn to greet guests at the front door.

From traditional to glamorous, fresh to faux and high-end to old school, local tastemakers tell how they create dazzling holiday design extravaganzas.

Karen Velehoski and the rest of the design team at Merrifield Garden Center in Fair Oaks spend nearly a year planning and building the holiday displays that overtake each store during the Yuletide season.

In creating the holiday wonderlands, the designers assemble each space around a theme, maintaining consistency in style, color and texture. Their goal is to dream up design concepts that will inspire.

"We hope that people will get ideas for their own homes, but the first step is to focus on color," said Velehoski. "You can incorporate family heirlooms or decorations that you've had for years if you coordinate the colors. You can really use ribbons to tie the colors together easily."

For example, they designed a rustic space that draws inspiration from a snow-covered forest. “It’s decorated with things like branches, berries, birds and other outdoor animals,” said Velehoski. “And we used red, plaid ribbon to keep the outdoorsy feel."

There’s another winter scene that sparkles with décor in hues of gold, copper and platinum, and a classic display that pays homage to time-honored traditions. “It appeals to people who like greens, reds and poinsettias,” said Velehoski. “This year we incorporated a little bit of black with that red, white and green which is pretty.”

There’s even inspiration for those with a penchant for pastels. “It has an icy look,” said Velehoski. “It has an icy, frozen winter wonderland feel with snowflakes and icicles. We used a lot of pale blue, pink and a touch of silver.”

Simple, clean and fresh are words that Gretchen Fuss, an interior designer with Tchoupitoulas Furnishings in Alexandria, uses to characterize her holiday design aesthetic.

“I love the mood and ambiance of white lights.

— Gretchen Fuss, Tchoupitoulas Furnishings

"I don’t like to over do it when it comes to holiday design,” she said. “I love the mood and ambiance of white lights. It changes the feel of a room. I like candlelit rooms."

Fuss says she uses a minimalist approach to incorporating family heirlooms with new acquisitions. “I do little vignettes where I’ll have a piece, for example, that my mother once used to store ornaments in, and I’ll use that to display fresh greenery.”

The designer has even created holiday adornments of her own. “I’ve made holiday sculptures,” said Fuss. “I even made little flower-shaped sculptures that I put together to make a six-foot tall Christmas tree.”

Fuss adds white back-lighting, which shines through each flower petal, illuminating the tree.

Candles, ribbons and bows hanging on a mantle, swags of greenery and garlands draped over wall art and mirrors are what visitors who enter the spaces created by the designers of Patina Polished Living in Alexandria will see.

“… A string of lights combined with ornaments might flow down the center of a table, or shine inside a cloche combined with a winter wonderland theme,” said designer Amanda Mertins.

For an exterior space, Mertins advises using a twinkling wreath or a lit arrangement in an urn to greet guests at the front door.

Maintaining thematic consistency is a precept that designer Jenne Whitelaw, of GTM Architects in Bethesda, Md., recommends when conceiving ideas for holiday spaces. "Pick a central focal point, and echo the sentiment around the space, for both indoor and outdoor," she said. "This allows the eye to bounce around your holiday canvas, experiencing asymmetrical visual harmony and balance."

For those who prefer holiday decor in muted hues, Whitelaw suggests, "neutrals [like] winter white and pale greys, when paired with light, reflective metallics and sparkle add elegance and a sense of timeless wonder to every room."

For a touch of whimsy, Whitelaw recommends adding decorations to unexpected places. "For a surprising embellishment, how about placing ornaments around the vanity in your powder room?" asks Whitleaw. "Chandeliers are also a perfect theatre in the round for cascading trinkets and greenery.”