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Winter and Disaster Prep

An Expert’s Guide to Safe and Stylish Holiday Decorating

Photo: Courtesy of: Joanna Kosinska

Meg Caswell

Interior Designer, Fifth and Castle

Decorating for the holidays is delightful, but unfortunately it can also be dangerous. Here are some seasonal design tips that will let you keep safety in mind as you merrily deck your halls.

As a general rule, always read the directions before you place your products. I know, it’s total bore — who wants to read a pamphlet while they’re jammin’ to Mariah Carey Christmas tunes and perfectly placing mistletoe? — but this step can save you from electrical fires and other mishaps.

Bring the outdoors in​​​​​​​

When you bring the outdoors in, use elements you already have available. Do a floral garland for a change. Magnolia leaves provide a lot of depth and texture — just check for bugs when placing your pretties. When picking your plants or flowers, consider something other than poisonous poinsettias, particularly if you have pets that are awaiting Santa’s arrival, too. Amaryllis, hydrangeas, paperwhites, ornamental peppers and orchids are all beautiful alternatives.

Keep the fire in the fireplace

Mirrors are a festive feature for the holidays, and the safe and reflective surface is a perfect spot for candles. But if using candles, make sure to keep them away from flammable objects like curtains. As a candle alternative, consider dipping pinecones in scented wax or tucking cinnamon in your garland for a beautiful and fragrant textured effect.

Your natural tree will stay prettier for longer — and will be less flammable — if you water it frequently. Don’t put your tree too close to a source of heat and hang heavy, breakable ornaments on the bottom of the tree (unless you have kids).

For beauty and safety, make sure to always use a fire screen when burning a fire in the fireplace. Don’t toss extra or discarded wrapping paper in the fireplace.

Building a theme

Always layer your decor safely and securely and always read directions before using products. Be careful not to ingest artificial snow and spray sparkles that can cause irritation to your lungs.

Play up the already established color scheme of your home. If you have light green and light blue, use bold greens and blues or keep a soft palette for an ethereal look. If you want a bolder pattern, plaids are perfect for the holidays. You can even make your mailbox merry. Try establishing your theme on your front door and carrying it through the entire house. Go through your mom’s old box of holiday decor — vintage is in.

Let there be light

Check lighting labels because indoor lights and extension cords should only be used inside, while outdoor is marked differently — this rule also applies extension cords. Always use surge protectors.

When decorating outside, watch for power cords and make sure your ladder is on a level surface. And don’t do it by yourself, get someone to help you. Use safety clips instead of nails or metal to attach lights outdoors. Make sure your outlet is a ground fault circuit interrupter and check wattage labels, only using what is recommended. Always unplug lights before changing bulbs. These steps will ensure that, when the snowflakes start to fall, no sparks will be flying.

Meg Caswell, Interior Designer, Fifth and Castle, [email protected]

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