Designer Jaque Bethke shares her strategies for creating high-impact holiday decor.

Explore new ways to use old decorations. "Don't be afraid to step outside your comfort zone," said designer Jaque Bethke of Pure Design Environments of Eden Prairie. "The holidays are busy, and it's easier to do what you've always done." But repurposing tired decorations adds to the fun and festivity of the season. "Take everything out and think about how you could use it differently," she said. "Maybe you make a wreath out of your kids' ornaments. That's the magic of Christmas. It's all about family and tradition. But it still needs to make you smile."

Add unexpected materials and motifs. Why limit yourself to Santas, angels and bells? For the McGraths' holiday decor, Bethke incorporated a variety of nontraditional elements including playing cards, peacock feathers, zebras and Mardi Gras masks. Just about any object that you like looking at can become part of your holiday decor. "Make it joyful with little unexpected things you wouldn't normally do," she said. "It adds to the holiday spirit."

Layer your tree with old and new. You don't have to choose between a stylish tree with a color scheme and a homey tree with vintage family ornaments. You can have both, said Bethke, by designing a tree that makes an impact while still showcasing heirlooms that evoke memories. Her method is to work in layers. "Set the tree. Next put in the foliage, the flowers or branches — all the things you stick in. Then hang the ornaments" (the larger ones that establish your color palette). Weave in ribbon or garland that complements that palette, she said. Then look for spots where you can tuck in vintage keepsakes. "The family heirlooms are the last layer."

Kim Palmer