If there's a sameness in holiday decorating, it stems from too much harmony. Spaces exude a sheen of newness, and colors blend into predictable. And a season all about warmth and vibrancy can seem cool and sterile. The antidote is to embrace contrast in creating seasonal displays. We asked designers about the best way to take popular seasonal trends in an unexpected direction.

Twist on traditional

"Our inspiration was nature, and the traditional holiday look and feel for winter," said Beth Kreienkamp, director of visual display for Ashley Furniture HomeStore. She incorporated birch candles, a red lantern and a traditional wreath to complement the rustic aesthetic of the table. The table runner is simply a cut of burlap, with a scarf used as an overlay.

Linda Williams, designer with Dau Furniture, says that decorating with fruits, berries and twigs is a popular look for the holiday season. For a simple but elegant centerpiece, she suggested using a narrow vase and pulling together a large mass of baby's breath in tight bunch. "It looks like a big snowflake and has a snowy look," she said.

Repurposing vintage jewelry to make ornaments or napkin holders adds authenticity to this style. Or incorporate antique toys, such as old wooden blocks or trains, to add a retro element.

Sweet Christmas

"Christmas brings back memories, and we were looking for fun things to do with colors," Kreienkamp said. They focused on candy, specifically nostalgic candy. The table runner is actually a bath rug, and the tree branch used to hang the ornaments can be found in nature. The holiday tree incorporates some of the candy boxes used in the specialty buckets created by the Sugar Shack in Kirkwood, Mo. The lime green of the throw pillows is a contemporary hue that still conveys a festive holiday mood. The table and ornaments feature such a sensory overload of bright, intense color that the entire table becomes the centerpiece.

This color-saturated display is a rebellion to the pared-down, monochromatic look popular in contemporary design. The element of vintage candy adds whimsy to help pull off a bold color scheme, while the jeweled accessories give the table setting a holiday flair.

Hip Hanukkah

"We wanted to hip up Hanukkah," said Ellen Alvey, accessory buyer for Ashley. "It's very tradition-oriented, and we wanted to modernize it." She decided to pull in European modern design with organic, natural elements. "I liked the contrast between sharp, clean edges of modern and the organic lines," she said. Each chair is adorned with a blue ribbon tied to a pine cone on the end.

"The deep blue is very straight and structured against the white leather," she said. She mixed gold and silver of varying finishes in the ornaments, which hang from a repurposed cardboard tube.

Monochromatic sparkle

Holiday glitter, shimmer and shine are expected, but consider pairing them with classic neutrals to create visual contrast. The mantel was a thrift store find, and the deer antlers are part of Kreienkamp's husband's hunting trophy collection.

"We know that sparkle is what captures everyone's eye during the holidays," Kreienkamp said. They started with neutral decor and basic wooden tables and began adding glitz. The shine of crystal candelabras is highlighted against the worn mantel and weathered finish on the sunburst mirror. A faux fur throw, used as a tree skirt, softens the rustic aesthetic. The monochromatic backdrop gives the silver and crystal accessories a chance to pop.