You may have grown up seeing nothing but red and green holiday decorations. These days, however, there's no single scheme that's considered suitable. One home can be trimmed like Santa's workshop, while another showcases a sophisticated palette of silver, copper and robin's egg blue.

When a team of designers and florists decked two North Oaks homes for the annual holiday tour, they created vastly different holiday looks -- simply modern and merry old England.

Designer Christina Lynn Miller arranged metallic pine cones and a sleek snow-white reindeer atop a piano to bring a festive spirit to a multi-level ultra-modern house.

"In a home with an open layout, stay away from frilly over-the-top over-decorated rooms," said Miller, who has an interior design business in White Bear Lake. "Only use three colors and keep it simple and sophisticated."

Just down the road inside an English country manor, designer Diane Kane and florist John Cunningham tucked earthy pheasant feathers and pomegranates into a garland draped across a stone fireplace mantel.

Her advice: "Pull holiday design themes from the style and personality of the room you're decorating," said Kane of Pomegranate Designs in Woodbury. "The dark rustic brown ceiling beams, wrought-iron light fixtures and English hunting scene in the tableware inspired my holiday motif."

For the event, designers and florists brought in most of the holiday trimmings, which were sold at the North Oaks Guild annual fundraiser. But homeowner Linda Pederson hung her own burgundy and antique gold ornaments, which she had collected over the years, on her living room Christmas tree.

"For the holidays, people like their home to look aesthetically pleasing with coordinating decorations," said Kane. "But remember to include accents that are sentimental to you and your family."


Here are some holiday decorating tips from the experts:

• Repeat elements such as colors, shapes and textures throughout a room. Kane tucked pheasant feathers in mantel garland and in a centerpiece on a nearby table. Miller repeated sparkly snowflake ornaments and plum-colored balls in several vignettes.

• For a professional looking tree, choose a theme, but limit the number of different elements (such as birds, poinsettias, snowflakes, etc.).

• When choosing holiday-themed accessories, "simpler is better," said Rhonda McElroy from Traditions in St. Paul. "Only use a few statement pieces, such as a bouquet of dried hydrangeas and roses."

• Mix textures, such as smooth and matte finishes, for visual interest in arrangements.

• Juxtapose rustic items (feathers, pine cones, spruce garlands) with sleek ones (mercury glass spheres, burgundy ribbon).

• Try battery-operated candles and lights. There's more style choices, they're safer than flame candles and some have an automatic shut-off. Plus, a lit garland can be draped and wrapped anywhere because no outlet is required.

• Add dimension to your decor by twisting together three different artificial garlands (such as pine, cedar and one with silver foliage), then wrap the garland around a mirror or drape it across a mantel, said Deb Walczak of Nesting in White Bear Lake.

• In a contemporary-style home, try a tall, slender tree strung with lights and trimmed with only a few decorative picks and ornaments.

• Soften silver finishes with touches of antique gold.

• For a finishing touch, place small ball ornaments (all in one color) inside glassware in a china cabinet.

Lynn Underwood • 612-673-7619