Garland and an Ikea frame adorn a door

Photo: James Merrell

New York event designer David Stark says, "During the holidays, people assume that if you have a door, you put a wreath on it." Instead, he printed out a cheeky image from the clip-art CD-ROM Old Fashioned Christmas Illustrations and displayed it in an ornate Ikea frame.

No need to garland the entire door; here, asymmetry, combined with a tassel of ornaments, makes for a surprising focal point.
Transform holiday cards into a work of art.

Photo: James Merrell

Take advantage of unexpected opportunities to build visual interest: From the arms of this chandelier, Stark hung a range of ornaments, including black orbs and spheres. "It's a dramatic and mysterious color," he says, "and it feels fresh because you rarely see it at Christmas."

Liberate your holiday cards from the mantel and transform them into an eye-catching work of art. Stark created this elegant bulletin board by wrapping an inexpensive sheet of solid insulation material in pink dupioni silk. Then, he pinned on cards in the shape of a tree and added beads and ornaments for dimension.

To establish a coherent motif, repeat elements throughout. The ornaments that accentuate the banister's garland echo those adorning the front door, chandelier and tree.

"Because we all keep gifts around until it's time to open them, they might as well look beautiful," says Stark, who makes presents part of his overall design by wrapping them in paper that coordinates with the decorating scheme. These boxes, artfully arranged on the floor and atop a Brocade Home chair, continue Stark's pink-and-black palette.
Decorative mantel and Christmas tree

Photo: James Merrell

Don't be afraid to use a mirror as a frame. This one, from, is decorated with acrylic cameos by Liscious. A bit of double-sided tape holds them in place.

Arrangements of holiday cards and ornaments—not flowers—sit atop the mantel. Stark fashioned these graphic "bouquets" by fitting Umbra's wire picture holders into candlesticks from Rosanna Inc.

Normally, the mantel might host an evergreen garland. Here it looks even more festive festooned with glass beads from Jamali Garden. "The fireplace is an opportunity to do something creative," Stark says. Stage the gifts inside it, and you won't clutter the room.

"The cards you receive can also serve as ornaments for your tree," says Stark, who simply propped a Jezebel card among the branches. "Vintage doesn't have to be dusty and old. In this Victorian design, it feels very chic and glamorous."
Contemporary holiday decorations

Photo: James Merrell

"We reinterpreted the concept of mistletoe in a scale that feels contemporary," Stark says. He strung together plastic holiday balls and softened the arrangement with silver faux foliage.

Create an object that's typically natural, such as a wreath, out of handmade Mylar flowers and leaves so that you can reuse it year after year.

A holiday tree doesn't have to be in that canonical conical shape (or reside in the living room). These topiaries put a modern spin on a classic garden style. Stark attached glass and plastic balls to a spiraling wire armature and then wove through marabou-feather boas to gently mimic snow.

An overturned cast-iron flowerpot becomes a pedestal for the urn, adding height to the arrangement.
Modern mantel with silver accents

Photo: James Merrell

To make this tableau modern, Stark bypassed the old-fashioned evergreen in favor of these sleek mirrored representations from Jamali Garden. "They're boiled down to the basic geometry of what a holiday tree is," he explains, adding that he varied their heights by cutting them down to size with an X-Acto knife.

"We thought it'd be fun to use the fireplace to add a wink to the overall design," Stark says. The fire is cut from Mylar and the logs are silver ornaments. "It doesn't all have to be so serious."

Fight the temptation to put too much variety in your decorations. This scene's loveliness is due in large part to the simple repetition of these flowers, made from Mylar and silver wrapping paper, foil baking cups, buttons and beads.
Silver and blue holiday decorations

Photo: James Merrell

It's more arresting to organize islands of color than to disperse it throughout the decorations. The large balls on the chandelier, plus the surreal blue deer and gifts, create a column of blue in an otherwise silvery landscape.

Bring the snowman inside. "We kept the details of ours very simple," says Stark of these three Styrofoam balls adorned with silver ornaments. "He doesn't have eyes, a nose, or a scarf."

Stark spray-painted a hunting decoy deer from Wing Supply, stuck on rhinestones for eyes, and glued a mirror to its back to make an occasional table for displaying gifts. A Tibetan wool rug from BDDW anchors the arrangement.

Letting this shiny, metallic garland reach all the way to the floor conjures the illusion of a longer and more sweeping staircase. "In my mind," Stark says, "it's the kind of garland Marilyn Monroe would have had in her house."