Add Some Zing to your Holiday Decor

Floral Designer and Accessories Specialist Mary Mazzeffi gives us some ideas, tips, and tricks to add some zing to this year’s holiday decor.


Last month, Chicago native Mary Lalagos Mazzeffi, pro accessories specialist and floral designer extraordinaire, led a workshop on holiday decor at Toms-Price furniture store in Wheaton, IL. In two sold-out workshops, Mary showed guests how to add some sparkle and creativity to their holidays — and it’s easier to do than you think . We shared some of her brilliant Thanksgiving decor ideas, now it’s time to get ready for the show stopper –  Christmas!


Mary Mazzeffi

Mary Mazzeffi has more than 30 years experience in the floral industry, and her magnificent designs have graced countless weddings, corporate events, and fundraisers. Mary is skilled in working with fresh flowers and plants, as well as silks. Christmas is her favorite holidays, and she is a sought-after Christmas decor specialist, decorating some of the Chicago area’s most beautiful homes. She channeled her creativity into merchandising, and accessorizing, conceiving gorgeous displays for several stores, including Toms-Price and Nona Jo’s. She’s been conducting holiday demos for many years.

Mary has some really big news — but we can’t share it for a few more days. Here’s a hint — it has to do with Christmas decorating! We can’t wait to spill the beans, so check back on this site for the big scoop! This will confirm just how awesome she is!


Holiday Decor 2015

At the Toms-Price seminar, Mary Mazzeffi presented ideas on how to achieve an abundant holiday display, and how to transform your dining room (and home) into one glistening with holiday charm and sparkle. She showed us some tips and tricks for Christmas decor, that with some planning and preparation are pretty easy to create and set up — that achieve maximum effect.


Video highlights of Holiday Decor Workshop

Add some zing to your Christmas

Mary presented some really fun and creative ideas that really take your holiday decor up a few notches. They aren’t hard to do, and the items are easily found in our homes, yards, Christmas collections, and nearby stores. We just have to repurpose them and think about them in new ways.


What’s your theme?

Make your holiday decor look polished and professional with a unifying theme that you carry throughout your home, and even outside.

Think about:

  • Colors
  • Style: elegant, whimsical, rustic, etc.


Mary’s Pro Tip: A wintry theme without Santa and elves can be left up even after Christmas!


Engage the senses

For beautiful and memorable holiday decor, Mary says to engage all the senses.

  • Sight: don’t be afraid to use color. OK to mix silver and gold. Use different elements to attract attention.
  • Touch and sight: use different textures for depth and interest.
  • Smell: use fresh pine, sage, cinnamon (inside only).
  • Hearing: don’t forget the festive music!
  • Taste: Your delicious holiday menu will do the trick!


Outdoor preview

Mary says, don’t forget the outside of your home when you decorate. This is a preview to what people will see inside your home. It should be complementary — meaning it should all work together — and welcoming.

This whimsical design is super cute!
This whimsical design is super cute!

Here are some of Mary’s ideas for creating an outdoor display (planter):

  • Use a plastic, fiberglass, or cast iron planter. These won’t crack outside in the cold.
  • Use wooden souvlaki skewers to hold items up and in place.
  • Think outside the box: use items like grape vine garland, curly willow.
  • Use pine branches cut from your tree.
  • Use birch bark or other branches.
  • Spray paint branches to go with your theme, for extra panache.
  • Use pine cones and other natural materials.
  • Festive bows and ribbons bring it all together.
  • Don’t be afraid to use garland.
  • Fake berries, holly make it festive.
  • Display can be elegant or whimsical, depending on your style.


Festive Table

Mary demonstrated some ideas for decorating a holiday table. Using layering techniques, she gave the setting dimension and interest. She also used items of different heights to draw the eye up, so people may appreciate all the elements.


Mary’s pro tip: Not everything has to be symmetrical. Be creative, put things on angles, use your imagination.

Place items in groups of odd numbers, like 3 or 5 pieces.



You don’t have to use a traditional tablecloth. Use a couple of runners on your bare table — show the beautiful wood! Place the runners at different angles for interest.



While you may have one standout piece in the center, bring in other elements to fill in the center of the table. Use pine branches; decorative items like reindeer, Christmas trees, etc. of different heights, sizes, and materials; put a small sleigh in the center and place your centerpiece on top; use logs. Make little lanterns by making decorative shades and place on top of wine glasses (use different heights around the table) and place a battery operated candle inside so you don’t have to deal with lighting it, worry about drips, or it burning out during your party. Use small logs, branches, and more.


Build your place setting

  • Charger: Don’t think you have to settle for the regular old charger. Be creative. You’ll flex your brain, and create a conversation starter. Mary created a charger by tying four birch bark branches together. If you can’t find birch bark, you can always spray paint branches you find outside. Cut them to be able to accommodate your dinner plates nestled in the center.
  • Place your plate on top of the charger.
  • Layer on some beautiful magnolia leaves, showing some on the brown side and some on the green side.
  • Place a sliced log on top.
  • Add more magnolia leaves, but smaller than the ones on the bottom.
  • Do you give your guests a little party favor? Here’s a great place to put it! Wrap an empty toilet paper roll with burlap. Stuff it with an instant lottery ticket, some chocolates, or another candy. Tie the ends of the burlap with a pretty ribbon, so it looks like a big candy itself.
  • Place cards: Many stores now have little black cards that look like chalkboards. Write a name or initial, and using a toothpick or other small stick, put it through the burlap of the party favor and place on top of the place setting.


How this for something different?
Check out this cool place setting! So fun!

Chair ties

Don’t forget your chairs! Decorate the backs of all chairs, or just the captain’s chairs, for a little extra panache. Some ideas:

  • Use a table runner as the tie.
  • Add ribbons in the colors of your theme.
  • Add pine cones, pine branches or other rustic elements.
  • Use ornaments (not breakable).



The one on the left is simpler, utilizing branches, ornaments, and ribbon. The one on the left uses berries, magnolia leaves, and more.
Check out these chair ties! The one on the left is simpler, utilizing branches, ornaments, and ribbon. The one on the left uses a burlap table runner as the tie, berries, magnolia leaves, and more.



Rest of the house decorating tips

  • Don’t forget the chandelier. Bring the entire room together by bringing elements from the table and around the room, like bows, and festive garland.
  • Add a little “pop” to your china cabinet. Place some some garland, and some other decorations, like trees, Santa, reindeer, elves, or other theme on top, as well as inside. Bring some holiday color inside the china cabinet.
  • Create a display on your buffet. Use some of those signs painted on pieces of wood that are so popular now, garland, lights, tree branches, pine branches, ornaments, and decor items you might already have a collection of, like snowmen, reindeer, Santa, elves, etc.
  • Plan ahead. Make a list, be organized and prepare some items in advance, then assemble everything a little at a time. For your table, get everything ready and set it the night before the big gathering.



Now for the fun part — decorating the tree. Don’t get stressed about this. There are no “rules” per se, just go with your own personal style or what you like. Look at photos online for ideas. Visit a store like Hobby Lobby or Michael’s for more ideas.


tree insets
Use different items to create interest: spray-painted branches, berry picks, burlap bows, different types of ribbons and garland. Love the reindeer!


Mary’s pro tips:

  • Fluff your tree properly so it looks full. Move some branches up, some down, some more on an angle.
  • Use 100 lights for every foot. So if your tree is 8 feet tall, use 800 lights.
  • When you purchase ribbons, always buy extra because styles are often discontinued. you’ll need at least 50 ft. for a 7-8 ft. tree.
  • Buy a remote for the tree. You plug it into the outlet, then plug your lights into it. This way you don’t have to try to squeeze around the tree every time you want to turn it on or off.
  • When placing lights on the tree, go in and out of the branches, so you see more of the sparkle and less of the cord.
  • Invest in a Light Keeper Pro. It costs about $20 at the hardware store. Should your lights go out, this will add a surge to the lights and get them to work again. Great for pre-lit trees.
  • Use ribbons for garland, bows, picks, and more to add interest. If you only use ornaments and lights, the ornaments will actually be “lost” and you won’t’ be able to appreciate them, as much.
  • Use 12-18 picks. You can buy them at Hobby Lobby, Michaels or similar store.
  • Use different ornaments, but only about 12 of one kind of ornament.
  • Grapevine garland looks nice. Wet it, soak it for one hour and drain it. Uncoil it, and then let it dry a bit before you use it. This makes it soft and easier to work with.
  • When using ribbons, tie them to branches by twisting vertically (works for artificial trees; for fresh, use some pipe cleaner ties).
  • Paper ribbon works too. Go across and diagonally.
  • Tree branches from your yard can be spray painted and used for a topper.
  • Save bows and branches throughout the years and reuse.



Mary shows the completed tree. Beautiful!
Mary shows the completed tree. Beautiful!


Don’t let it overwhelm you!

These are some great tips, but don’t let them overwhelm you. Unpack your Christmas decorations, and start grouping like items. Look in your yard, think about what you can do. Remember, you are the designer, and your style is unique. Don’t be afraid to try something new and have a little fun. Make a list of items you want to add. Make a plan. This is all about making everything merry and festive, not to stress you out. Have fun with it!


Merry Decorating!

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