Last Minute Holiday Décor Tips with Zip



By Judy Carmack Bross



If you cannot tell one year from the next in your holiday photos except for that your children got older, or if every decoration has its hallowed place each season and you’d love just a little more sparkle and perhaps ideas for an intimate dinner’s New Year’s Eve centerpiece, try a few sensational and simple suggestions from Jody Elting of Designs by Jody, Inc. in Lake Bluff and Luke Carroll of Green Inc. in Chicago.

In addition, Marc Waters from Bunches (A Flower Shop) arranged centerpieces with an interchangeable plan for Classic Chicago readers. He promises anyone can do them—and have results that look like the work of a photo stylist.


A Christmas tree decorated beautifully by Jody Elting of Designs by Jody, Inc.


If you always view the holidays as family time, you can’t go wrong, Jody says. She feels that the sparkly lights can help bring out the best in all and actually get your heart rate going. She often enlists the help of the little children in the family when she is decorating a client’s home for the holidays—she says it adds to the fun, and they often ask very intelligent questions about design.


Another festive design by Jody Elting. 


Jody suggests that for a last-minute boost to your holiday décor, add paperwhites, fruits, and even peonies that are arriving daily from New Zealand.

Mix pink cyclamens with red plants for a beautiful palette, or experiment with lady slipper orchids, fern, and deep burgundy flowers in their own arrangement. Even poinsettias come in surprising new colors. I love the pink ones with white edges called marble. This year, gold and silver seem to often supplant the red and velvet tradition in popularity.

Luke agrees:


Luke Carroll of Green Inc. shows how a variety of colors makes an eye-catching centerpiece.


Combining colors that compliment one another is always nice, and flowers which combine well in nature, such as tulips, peonies, and amaryllis give you a fullness that rolls on the eyes. The burgundy ruffled peony is great for parties or dramatic gifts.

Gifts are always lovely to give and receive as they can add an energy and exchange which feels good. Many clients combine three amaryllis plants into one gift and use red dogwood stakes or boxwood to decorate, and then send them to friends.

Using different varieties of flowers in combination also adds a richness; parrot tulips, variegated double tulips and peonies, and lush roses combine well; adding depth using different textures and colors. Cut amaryllis are in season from the Netherlands and come in amazing colors: chartreuse green, burgundy stripe over ivory-green petal, blood red, peach, flesh, cognac which is greenish tan with burgundy edges, hot pink, spider types with pointed, petals.  We use many of these in our arrangements for parties paired with peonies and hydrangeas or alone in a vase with amaryllis by themselves. 

As potted plants, large poinsettias in white are used to decorate larger homes and used on the floor near fireplaces. Monet poinsettias with are pinkish with dots of red over ivory and are pretty as stand-alone gifts for tables.


A stunning bouquet from Green Inc.


Colorful table arrangements done by Green Inc.


But for New Year’s Eve, both Jody and Luke recommend a crisp white. Jody offered:

In addition to a nice champagne and good music, put floating gardenias in a silver bowl and maybe some caviar beside it. As you move into January, planting spring bulbs like paperwhites and hyacinths in containers and watching them bloom gives a hint of better temperatures to come.

We asked Luke about choosing flowers for the dead of winter.

Tulips, hyacinths, and cut amaryllis are very strong from the Netherlands all winter and into spring.  Flowering quince from the West coast becomes available in February and pairs well with cut amaryllis in stark, fresh arrangements of blooming pink quince and apple blush pink and white amaryllis for instance. 

Like with cooking or with fabric, using great materials is the essence of making something beautiful.


Another bouquet created by Green Inc.


Although Jody fills many clients’ treasured tureens and recently used numerous traditional, silver containers for a client’s holiday tea, she feels that wooden boxes and birch bark containers are very complimentary to holiday flowers as well.

Here’s to Mark Waters for walking us through a new holiday design we can try right now!


Mark Waters of Bunches (A Flower Shop) suggests making a succulent garden with candles and a few seasonal touches.


My customers tell me they like simple, organic concepts that don’t take much time or look like they fussed too much. They also like affordable, reusable, and eco-friendly. So, here in the store, we set up displays, and they can buy parts of any look to build at home.

This is a succulent garden that includes candles and a few seasonal touches like pine cones and cinnamon sticks that can be removed at any time. It can function as a casual centerpiece, substitute for a fireplace in a small apartment by creating ambient light on a coffee table, or it can be placed near a bathtub for light to read by for twenty minutes of spa wellness. 


A table top.


Next up is the table top. Garlands are quite the thing these days, and this is the easiest time of year to use them. In this example, I simply took a piece of mixed evergreen garland and added a few touches of seeded eucalyptus, some orchid blossoms, succulents, green berries, and green apples into which I carved enough room for candles to be inserted. It’s the Tarte Tatin of flower arrangements. Just turn it out on the table, move it around to fit the space, and if you have to, dust with powdered sugar!


Mark Waters further instructs that garlands can be fitted with a different set of components.


In fact here’s the same garland fitted with a different set of components. It can be done for alternating tables or different holidays like Christmas and New Year’s. I used small votive cups here for the berries and candles, but jelly jars with cranberries would work equally well, and those items might already be in the cupboard. 


Simple touches, such as cinnamon sticks and pine on a napkin, make great table designs. 


Lastly, if a more intimate scale is in order, here are some simple touches that make each person feel special. I love cinnamon sticks, and with a sprig of pine, they dance beautifully together on top of a napkin. Combine that with a tiny arrangement at each place setting, and everyone gets the royal treatment.  More than anything, I think we all constantly search for new ways to make our guests feel welcome and put them at ease. Of course, it never hurts for the nice visuals to be followed by the pop of a bottle of bubbly in the background. Happy Holidays!


Photo credit:

Designs by Jody, Inc.

Green Inc.

Bunches (A Flower Shop)