Holiday Décor: Tips from the Professionals


The holidays are upon us and, no matter which holiday you celebrate this season, the Twin Cities has a plethora of retailers with items for your decorating needs. Covering a wide base of heritages and holiday traditions, these retailers offer up their own wares as well as decorating tips for incorporating already-owned pieces with something new this season.

Photo by Hubert Bonnet

American Swedish Institute. Photo by Hubert Bonnet

At the American Swedish Institute, the key to decorating is incorporating the old with the new. Laura Cederberg, ASI’s Communications & Marketing Manager says, “The holiday season is the greatest time of the year to celebrate heritage while building new contemporary traditions with family and friends. Mix heirloom and modern pieces to celebrate where you’ve been and where you are going together.” She suggest offsetting patterns with a clean, simple line for a sophisticated look.

When designing a table setting, Cederberg says to pick place settings and dishes that will enhance the presentation of a spectacular holiday meal. Be sure to check the height of the décor: make sure the design and tablescape encourages free-flowing conversation between guests around the table.

“Swedish and Nordic design is largely inspired by the true beauty of the environment,” Cederberg says.  Décor from this region of the world focuses on the natural: use wood, silver, and paper ornaments and pieces to bring the beauty of the outside into a warm holiday celebration.

American Swedish Institute
2600 Park Ave S, Minneapolis

Note: Christmas by Design: ASI’s Christmas Rooms celebrate the holiday traditions of the Nordic countries. This year’s rooms are inspired by contemporary Nordic designers. A sixth room celebrates the influence of Scandinavian tradition on local Minnesota designers. On view at the American Swedish Institute November 15-January 11. All items pictured available at the American Swedish Institute’s Jul Shop, open November 7 – January 11.

Photo by Mike Hnida

Ten Thousand Villages. Photo by Mike Hnida

Natural textures are often found among fair trade, hand-made items. At Ten Thousand Villages, Minneapolis Store Manager Julie Cowsert recommends using these pieces both practically and for décor. She’s recommended the one-of-a-kind baskets and woven pieces be used as a bread basket, to accent a table setting, or to place ornaments and mirrored balls in for decoration. It’s about creativity, the bright colors can easily be made at home on a mantle, accent a bookcase, or as a pop of color on a windowsill.

“These pieces can very easily be blended into anybody’s décor,” Cowsert says. “We have all different colors.” Indeed, from the rustic and earthy reds, greens, and blues to vibrant jewel tones, anyone could find something to complement existing pieces in the home. But what makes 10,000 Villages’ pieces unique is just that: uniqueness. Hand-made means no one else will have the same piece—talk about a conversation starter! The pieces, coming from 34 developing countries, use materials that are very eco-friendly, made of either recycled or easily renewable resources.

“Everything is giving twice,” Cowster says. “You give a gift but you’re also giving back to the artisans who created the pieces.”

Ten Thousand Villages
Locations in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Mountain Lake, and various fairs.
Find a location at

Simba Craftware. Photo by Hubert Bonnet

Simba Craftware. Photo by Hubert Bonnet

Baskets often make their way into holiday décor in various ways. At Simba Craftware found in the Midtown Global Market, the pieces are authentic African items made by African artists. Tamara Richard, a Manager at Simba Craftware, says leaves made in Ghana from recycled glass are a great conversation starter for the front door. As the first impression guests have of your home, the front door is definitely a place to go bold with the décor.

Richard also recommends the vibrant colors of African baskets as a great option to be used as a centerpiece with local fruit or with any other arrangement in the home. In addition to home decor, Richard has also seen many of these baskets filled with items found throughout the Midtown Global Market to create amazing gifts.

A wicker basket from Kenya filled with fruit, for example, or a Ghana-produced basket filled with salsas. As a final gift idea, Richard recommends filling a basket with pistachio shortbread, a cookbook, honey, and a candle. She says, “After the gift is given, there is a built in décor item!”

Simba Craftware
920 E Lake St, Minneapolis

Macy's. Photo courtesy of Macy's

Macy’s. Photo courtesy of Macy’s

Much of the focus this year is on casual entertaining for the holidays, says Steven Bibeau, the Visual Manager at Macy’s Downtown Minneapolis. “You don’t need to spend hours getting the house ready and planning for guests. By using what you have on hand and adding festive touches, you can put together some great decorations to wow your guests.”

According to Bibeau, it’s important to have a game plan: decide when to decorate. “Errands and cooking need to be complete so you aren’t running around the day of a dinner party trying to do everything,” he says. The easiest way to create a festive mood is with lots of candles, but Bibeau warns that they should never be scented. Instead, try simmering some cider or mulled wine.

In terms of Christmas trees, the options are always endless. But Bibeau says when lighting Christmas trees, you can’t have enough lights! “Even pre-lit trees need more,” he says. “Add in pearl lights or star-shaped specialty strings for more sparkle. Always wrap lights around branches to hide the cords.” He goes further to say that if you like decorating with a themed tree, considered a smaller table-top tree elsewhere. Use it to showcase your personal, specialty and heirloom ornaments. And, in a cost-conscious home, if tastes change, don’t throw out old ornaments. Save them to use for a centerpiece or use as hangtags on presents and packages.

Under the tree is just as important to the look of the season. Bibeau suggests choosing two to three coordinating papers for gift wrapping. Tie them with a simple matching ribbon for instant elegance. What about those without enough space for a full tree? Bibeau’s thought of that, too: look into tree alternatives. For example, a clear vessel filled with branches and hanging ornaments makes for a great entry table decoration.

Downtown Minneapolis
700 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis

CB2. Photo by Hubert Bonnet

CB2. Photo by Hubert Bonnet

From the fashion runways into the holidays, metallics and modern shapes are an excellent way to add that little something extra. Rachel Horntvedt, CB2’s Assistant to the Visual Merchant, says the geometric shapes tie in nicely with traditional ball ornaments. While the shapes are very modern, the colors hark back to tradition. “It’s kind of giving that little pop,” Horntvedt says. “Because they’re done in the metals, they are still akin to the older shapes and colors so it’s just bringing an unexpected touch. The same goes for what we’re calling our ribbon drop ornaments: they have a traditional shape, but it’s done in thin sheets of copper and metal.”

The ease of incorporating new elements into the home all depends on what you’re working with to begin with. The pieces found at CB2 are following the trend of adding modern and unexpected touches to the holiday décor. Horntvedt says that five geometric ornaments, for example, randomly placed throughout the tree will add dimension and an unexpected twist. “Our pieces are all about adding in that little bit of modern or whimsy in with the traditional,” she says.”

3045 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis

Lavender Magazine

5100 Eden Ave, Suite 107 • Edina, MN 55436 • 612.436.4660

©2022 Lavender Media, Inc.