Designer Joanne Fitzgerald’s Fresh & Fun Approach to Holiday Decorating

Carmen NatschkeDesign the Holidays


Holiday decorating is one of the most enjoyable parts of the holiday season for me. It gives us an opportunity to refresh our homes with light, sparkle and scent. It can be approached as a family or community event and doesn’t have to be difficult, time consuming or expensive.

My favorite holiday decorating is really very simple. For me, bringing candlelight, beaded garland and colorful live plants into the common areas of your home are all it takes to make your home feel warm, welcoming and festive.

I discovered beaded garland a few years ago and have had a wonderful time playing with it every year since. The website Decorating Studio has a wide variety of beaded garlands that can be used to playfully dress light fixtures, candelabras, centerpieces and holiday accessories like live, evergreen garland and wreaths.

clip_image002Contemporary and warm-toned kitchen designed by Joanne.

This kitchen is a large space that has numerous opportunities to change things up for the holiday season. I would start with candle clusters using tall candlestick holders of glass or mercury glass like the Addison Candle Holders from Pottery Barn. Pair those with colorful scented candles of cranberry or spice (Candles4Less has a huge selection) and cluster the ensemble in the corner or on the high shelf and intertwine the beaded garland all about – it doesn’t have to be neat because the beads will lend a festive sparkle however they’re arranged! It’s even nice to remove art or objects that you normally have decorating your kitchen because when you bring them back out after the holidays, it feels fresh again!

I just love Amaryllis plants and Paperwhites. Amaryllis are so exotic and dramatic, and Paperwhites are fragrant and graceful. I prefer linear arrangements of say, three plants in identical, simple planters like square glass or metalart. Line these up on your countertop or bar for focus and drama.

My goal is to make my holiday decorations sophisticated rather than cliché, so despite their sturdy pedigree, I eschew the old standards like holly and pine cones. Instead, place a large glass bowl of pomegranates and oranges on the kitchen table and wrap the light fixtures with beaded garland to catch the light. Try to use no more than two colors – say white and red, or silver and green so that the effect is not garish, but quietly festive.

I’ve also really enjoyed making a Victorian gingerbread house every year with my children. It’s an all-day exercise that makes the house smell great and that the whole family can contribute in. Use silver candy beads to decorate the house and use it as a centerpiece on the dining room table. I bought my cast iron house mold from Williams and Sonoma years ago.

In my opinion, less is more when it comes to holiday decorating, so the subtle touches of sparkle, color and scent enhance rather than overwhelm.

Happy Holidays!

About Joanne Fitzgerald

LCutter_1787_152 Joanne Fitzgerald, founder and owner of Gatega Interior Design, brings a lifetime understanding of art and design to each project so that color, light, texture, scale, and pattern all work in harmony with each other, ultimately creating spaces that are interesting, inviting and supremely comfortable. Her approach is not to brand each project with her signature style, but to create each space as a reflection of the client: their culture, their lifestyle.

Joanne has a diverse educational background, having begun by studying engineering and eventually graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. Her technical training, combined with extensive experience in and a deep appreciation of the decorative arts has enabled her to bring to each project a broad understanding of form and function. After working for several area architecture and interior architecture firms she started her own, award winning design business in 1996.