5 Tips for Avoiding a Griswold Holiday Decorating Disaster

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Although my kids and I love watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation each year, it’s also my worst professional nightmare: too much, too much, TOO MUCH!

Whether I’m decorating my own home for the holidays or styling a client’s place, I always follow 5 basic rules. The cool thing about them is they apply to every situation, no matter if you live in a studio apartment or a castle on the coast of England. Let me show you what I mean by introducing you to the “Hollys,” who own a beautiful loft filled with character in downtown Omaha. They wanted to dress their home for Christmas, but had no time to do so and no ideas on where to start.

1. Choose colors that complement your existing decor. If your walls and finishes fall within the earth tone family (which many do), then stick with natural reds and classic Christmas hues. No neon, please.

2. Find antiquey (I think I just made up a word) pieces that are cool on their own merit – no matter the time of year – and are reminiscent of the spirit of the holiday. In the loft, we found some precious antique children’s books with red leather covers and hung them on the dining room tree and the garland over the kitchen island. (This might be my favorite part of this styling project.)

3. Size matters, at least when it comes to tree selection. The scale of the interior where your tree will rest will dictate how tall and wide it should be. In the loft, we chose a tall, slender tree for the living room because there was limited floor space, but its 9-foot height takes advantage of the 12-foot ceilings.

4. Memories are an important part of the holiday season, so use personal trinkets from past Christmases that mean something to you. The Holly family has an amazing Christmas village collection, so we arranged it in an existing entry cabinet and lit it with a string of LED lights. It’s one of the first things visitors see when they enter the loft.

5. This last one is a biggie: capitalize on the space’s best feature. In the loft, the Hollys LOVE their incredible view on the world. With this in mind, we added classic European star lanterns filled with LED lights to some of the windows. Magical!

There it is, my holiday gift to you. But please feel free to keep it wrapped. If you’re a Clark Griswold type or have one in your family, enjoy the season in the way that makes you the happiest.

Happy Holidays! Until next time, I’ll be keeping an eye on design for you.

– EM


Vito Knows Flooring

Meet Vito, the newest member of the design team.

Don’t let his age (nine weeks this week) fool you – Vito knows flooring. This English Mastiff from Summersville, West Virginia, spends a lot of time on the ground, especially since he can’t climb stairs yet.

When he’s full grown, he’ll weigh as much as an adult human (between 140 and 200 pounds), so materials of substance are a big deal to Vito. So is color. He’s particularly fond of fawn, apricot and brindle (the colors of his breed) and is interested in creating his own paint line, but more on that later.

Vito’s first piece of flooring advice to share: consider vinyl plank flooring. Take a look at the following photos – one is vinyl, the other is wood. Can you tell which is which?

If you guessed the top one is wood, you’d be wrong. And if you guessed the bottom one is wood, you’d also be wrong. Ha! They’re both luxury vinyl plank flooring – really.

Gone is the time when vinyl was relegated to kitchens, bathrooms and other spaces that trap water, dirt and other gross stuff. Today’s vinyls are known for their durability, flexibility and water resistence, and they’re also easier to install. We use the term “luxury vinyl” to describe tiles or planks that mimic the look of wood or stone, including marble, slate and the the oh-so-revered travertine.

On the down side, it will show your floor’s imperfections because of how thin it is.


Give me a call, and we’ll take a trip to The Floor Club, one of my favorite design haunts and the latest entry in our Modern Omaha Directory. (Vito has to wait until he’s potty trained.) The Floor Club is a wholesale floor covering and window fashion showroom that caters to industry trade professionals only (that would be me). It’s got a vast selection of name brand products at wholesale pricing – I love taking my clients there when it’s time to talk floors:

Vivero from Armstrong Flooring

Messenia Travertine in Antiquity - I mean, come on!
Messenia Travertine in Antiquity – I mean, come on!

COREtec from US Floors

Boardwalk Oak from COREtec is one of Vito’s favorites.

Luxury vinyl sheets from Mannington Residential

Majesty "slate" in Dark Forest - dreamy!
Majesty “slate” in Dark Forest – dreamy!

Let’s go flooring!

Until next time, Vito and I will be keeping an eye on design for you.

– EM

take me for a test drive

You don’t have to be extravagantly wealthy to hire a designer (although if you are, my business line is 402.660.7703). I strongly suggest the following for any first-time clients out there: take your designer for a test drive.

You may be asking yourself at this point, “Was Elizabeth recently hit in the head with a piece of drywall?” Not at all – just think about the following:

If you’re about to begin a building or remodeling project, some of the things you’ll have to decide on up front are what finishes and fixtures you want. This may seem like a lot of fun (and it is) at first, but it can also be overwhelming once you start visiting showrooms (also fun, bring coffee and a friend and make a day of it) and see the number of options that exist in the universe.

Don’t panic, and don’t give in to second thoughts about your design sense. Instead, grab two or three samples for each item you need (flooring, tile, countertops, cabinet finish – you get the idea) that grab you, bookmark a few lighting and plumbing fixtures that caught your eye online, then call a designer and schedule an hourly consultation meeting.

If you do the initial legwork, that’s time your designer won’t have to spend pulling suggestions for you. He or she (ahem) can come to your house, review your selections and create a cohesive plan for your project. He or she can also help settle differences of opinion between couples or others with a say in how the project goes down.

Don’t worry if you don’t have options for every item you need at your initial meeting (maybe your brain simply shut down after 75 minutes of roaming through the carpet stacks). Once your plan is in place, it will be easier for you to go back and fill in the blanks, or you can ask your designer to go with you to pick out the last few items.

At the end of the day, your designer only bills you for a few hours of his/her time, and you’ve got a professionally designed space that reflects your design choices. More importantly, you’ve kept your sanity throughout the process so you can now enjoy what you’ve helped create.

Until next time, I’ll be keeping on eye on design for you.

– EM

drapery hanging dos

People - always hang the drapery rod above the actual height of the window.
People – always hang the drapery rod above the actual height of the window.

There’s nothing quite like a fabulous set of drapes to dress up a room. And there’s nothing that will kill the luxurious vibe they create faster than hanging them improperly.

Unless you’re a super patient person, you may want to leave this all-important task to a professional. If you’re up for it, though, here’s a tip I heed every time – always hang the drapery rod above the actual height of the window. ALWAYS! It:

  • Adds a modern sensibility to your home
  • Helps add visual height to your room
  • Creates the perception that your windows are larger than they are

I’m feeling rather generous today, so I’m also going to give you two other important pieces of drape-hanging advice. Ready?

If you hang your drapery wider than the actual size of your windows, it will create a larger impact. It might be just what your room needs, or it could be overpowering, so think before you drill.

The bottom of your drapes should hit the floor or be within an inch above it – NO MORE! I’m not kidding. There’s nothing worse than making your room the butt of “where’s the flood” jokes. At 6 feet in my socks, I know a little something about the importance of length in creating an overall look.

Until next time, I’ll be keeping an eye on design for you.


to match or not to match

Hey, all you out there who love good design! It’s time for another first for me – my first blog tip. Here goes…

The dilemma:

When you’re painting a room, should the trim color match the wall color?

My tip:

Trim that contrasts – either by color or stain – draws attention to the lines of your walls and ceiling. Think about this for a moment before you get all excited and run out to buy your supplies. You may not want these lines to be a detail that stands out in your room.

For a clean, modern look, match your trim and wall color.

If you want to create a modern, clean look (which is totally my thing), use the same color for both the trim and walls. I recommend a good satin paint for your walls and a semigloss in the same color for your trim. You can also go a shade lighter or darker with your trim to create another neutral background for the features you want to draw attention to, like your furniture or artwork.

Check out a few examples from the fabulous Houzz that illustrate what I’m talking about:

Bottom line – be brave, be bold, and have fun. If you don’t like the end result, you can always repaint without doing a ton of damage to your wallet.

Until next time, I’ll be keeping an eye on design for you.