Holiday decor is a great way to bring warmth and cheer to your listings this year. Designer Antoinette Fargo offers tips for tablescapes and holiday trimmings that will win over homebuyers.

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This post was updated Nov. 22, 2023.

Staging a home can make a big impact. Often when you think about staging a new listing, you think in terms of depersonalization and decluttering. And while minimizing decorative elements and personal items is one way of helping buyers to envision themselves in a space, the holiday season presents something of an exception to this rule.

When buyers walk into a space that’s devoid of any holiday cheer, they may be put off by it and feel that it’s lacking warmth. Worse yet, it may make it more difficult for them to picture themselves in the home, especially during the holidays.

Whether you’re showing a vacant and staged home or working with your homeowner clients on the way that they’ll position their home for showings, consider adding in some holiday elements to warm up the space. While you’ll want to avoid over-the-top or overly personal decorations, beautiful and tasteful holiday elements may make all the difference in inviting buyers to enter into the spirit of your latest listing.

Here are four places to focus as you decorate your listing for the holiday season.

The front door and front porch

Alexander Spatari via Getty Images

Of course, curb appeal is essential at any time of year, and never more so than during the holiday season. Your client may have already decorated their porch for the fall season with pumpkins and other autumn decor. Make sure that they’ve gotten rid of any Halloween decorations so that the porch reads “fall” all the way through Thanksgiving. 

After Thanksgiving, have them go ahead and pop up that Christmas wreath and, perhaps, some garland for the stair or porch railings. Avoid overly complicated or flashy decorations and don’t go all out with outdoor lights. 

If the home is vacant and you’re staging it, choose a lush evergreen wreath, full garland, and color-coordinated bows. These will be simple, tasteful and read “holiday” without requiring a tremendous amount of time or money. Use an over-the-door hanger so that you don’t damage the door’s finish.

The dining room tablescape

Kristen Prahl via Getty Images

So much of what we associate with the holidays is based around food and shared meals. Whether the home is occupied or not, the dining room should evoke the warmth and abundance of the season through an attractive tablescape.

A beautiful table doesn’t require the finest china and silver. Even plain white dishes can be beautiful when the table is attractively arranged and decorated. The idea is to go for a feeling of abundance, varied textures and warmth. 

Consider one of the following tablescape concepts:

  • For a simple and natural centerpiece, put the emphasis on the season with small pumpkins, gourds and leaves during November and evergreen branches during December.
  • Emphasize light and shine with plenty of glassware, metallics, and other light-reflecting elements. Consider a centerpiece of flocked greenery that shimmers or a tower of faux “sugared” fruits.
  • Don’t be afraid to lean into the home’s setting. If the home is in a coastal area, evoke the location with baskets, seagrass chargers and colors that are associated with the beach — blues and beiges rather than red and green.
  • If you’re looking for a floral centerpiece, consider a series of amaryllises, paperwhites, small poinsettias or mini-evergreens down the length of the table rather than one large central arrangement.
  • When showing the home or hosting an open house, light plenty of candles in the dining room for even more glow and ambiance. Make sure the chandelier is lit as well so that its light is reflected by the tablescape.
  • Don’t limit your decoration to the table itself. If there’s a sideboard or buffet in the dining room, deck it out it in a similar style.

The fireplace mantel

DmitriiSimakov via Getty Images

If the home has a fireplace, play it up by decorating it for each season, as well. Help potential buyers envision themselves and their families gathered around the fire for cozy evenings. Make sure that the mantel is free of soot and consider arranging the room so that the fireplace becomes the focal point.

If there’s a television mounted above the fireplace, make sure that any wires or audio-visual devices are hidden away with garland or other decorative elements. If the home is vacant, consider decorating the mantel, purchasing stockings to hang in front of the fireplace during December and setting up a tree with some gift-wrapped “presents” nearby.

Outdoor spaces

Shangarey via Getty Images

As the temperatures drop, you and your listing clients may consider outdoor spaces an afterthought. However, incorporating porches, patios, sunrooms and terraces into the holiday theme is a great way to get them noticed and make them feel like a more cohesive part of the home’s design.

Consider adding a small firepit to an outdoor patio, along with some holiday-themed cushions and cozy throw blankets. Add wreaths to the French doors leading out to the terrace and wrap the deck railing with garland. 

By drawing attention to the outdoor spaces in this way, you’ll ensure that they make an impression on potential buyers, even if it’s too cold to use them during the winter months. If your listing is in a warm climate, it goes without saying that you’ll want to emphasize its year-round utility and make it part of your staging strategy.

Antoinette Fargo is the president and creative director of Antoinette Designs.

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