Interior Designer Suzanne Tucker’s Dos And Donts Of Holiday Decorating

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Suzanne Tucker
Suzanne Tucker

Photo Credit: Michael Skott

Editor’s note: For the past four years, interior and textile designer, Suzanne Tucker, has chaired one of the most important event’s of the season, the San Francisco Fall Art & Antiques Show. With a sold-out preview gala, fascinating seminars, and stunning vendors, this year’s show was a roaring success. Since Tucker knows a thing or two about decorating, we asked her to share her secrets for holiday decor. Here’s what she recommends.

Do decorate the door with greens. A wreath, a tied bunch of laurels, or mistletoe tied with satin ribbon says welcome and sets the holiday mood.

Don’t use faux fragrances. Go for real vs. faux to permeate your home. Drape pine, spruce and juniper garlands on stairs, around doorways, and over mantles and dot with kumquats or tangerines and cinnamon sticks. Or order from Flowers Claire Marie who does the most luscious combos.

Her holiday tablescape
Her holiday tablescape

Photo Credit: Suzanne Tucker

Do keep the fires burning. Mix dried orange (or lemon) peels into the kindling. The oil in the skin fuels the flames and they release less creosote than traditional paper. It will keep your chimneys cleaner in the process and leave your home smelling like roasted oranges, delicious! For those without a fireplace or on our “spare the air” days, a wood burning aroma with a favorite pine or cedar scented candle does the trick.

Don’t use scented candles at the dinner table.

Do splurge on a really good scented candle for the powder room. My favorites are the holiday editions from Cire Trudon or their Odalisque scent.

Tucker's home last Christmas
Tucker’s home last Christmas

Photo Credit: @suzanne_tucker

Don’t hide the mementos. Decorate with sentimentality—family pieces and hand-crafted ornaments. There’s a new generation who will grow up hearing stories about a beautiful store called Gump’s that existed for 150 years and had the most beautiful Christmas ornaments!

Do be party ready. Keep several bottles of champagne chilling, cocktails napkins, nuts, and nibbles at the ready, and download your favorite mix of tunes.

Tucker's table last Christmas Eve
Tucker’s table last Christmas Eve

Photo Credit: @suzanne_tucker

Don’t succumb to the cliché poinsettia. They are poisonous to pets! Instead, use kangaroo paws for a dose of captivating texture and glorious color.

Don’t forget to plant your narcissus and amaryllis bulbs early. Keep them outside to grow straight and stronger (feeding them with a 1-10 gin to water ratio) and bring them inside when they start to open.

A holiday vignette
A holiday vignette

Photo Credit: Suzanne Tucker

Do use heirlooms—granny’s linens, family silver, best dishes. Why have it if you don’t use it?! If you don’t have it, start collecting and set your table with a color theme, use only candlelight, and make it fun and whimsical. English “crackers” are de rigueur at our table with everyone wearing the obligatory paper crowns.

Don’t underestimate the importance of family and friends and giving unto others. British poet Edith Sitwell said it best: “Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.”

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