The holidays are rapidly approaching, and if you’re like us, there are still a few loose ends (or should we say ribbons?) to tie up. 

Holiday cards ready to go? Well, those may turn into "Happy New Year" cards. Gift for the dog? Bought it in October. Gift for the mother-in-law? Calling hubby for ideas right now...

As for decorating, we’re guessing you already have a wreath hanging on the door and lights twinkling in the yard. But this is Christmas in Texas, and we need to think bigger.

For ideas, we chatted with Houston-based interior designer Marie Flanigan about her best decorating and entertaining tips. From filling your home with holiday aromas to unique place settings, Flanigan has no shortage of advice to share.

What aspect of your design style comes out during the holidays?

I love a very calming environment, and that carries into my holiday décor because I love fresh and inspired-by-nature décor. I love mixing faux and real to bring in longevity and natural smells. It’s a fun time of year to really amp up the festive color, and I love introducing a vibrant pop of red.

We’re less than a week away from Christmas. What are some quick decorating touches people can add to their homes?

I love having on-hand cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and fresh oranges that you can put on the stove and heat up with some water. Before you have guests over, it’s an easy way to fill your home with the holiday scent.

Wreaths are such a beautiful accent. I love centering wreaths on a series of windows. Just go to the store and get a very simple fir wreath and tie a simple ribbon on it and hook it on a clear 3M hook on the window. It’s a simple, beautiful look.

Real or faux tree? 

I currently have two faux trees, but I use real garland and real wreaths because I love the accent. I have young kids, so to me it’s fun to have more than one tree. We love to have a family tree with all the family ornaments—we have a glass taco from one of our family vacations. And on the other tree we have all the nice ornaments. My parents did that, too, and I have the best memories from childhood of sitting there and playing with ornaments like toys.

What decorating touches can we implement on a tight budget that will still impress guests?

Candles can be an inexpensive touch. I love spreading a fresh garland down the table intermixed with candles. Take out a family heirloom. Pull out your china, and use silver candlesticks as holiday décor. Throw some holly branches in—and pomegranates and pears, you could even use that as a place setting. Paint somebody’s name on a card. We’ve been doing acrylic name cards that you can set in front of the pear or on top of the plate.

How can we plan ahead so guests are entertained and we still enjoy ourselves while hosting?

By having stuff on-hand. I love having brie in the refrigerator during the holidays. Crème brûlée nuts are so beautiful, and they’re crowd pleasers. I always like having a nice red wine or champagne you can greet guests with. And nonalcoholic versions, like a chai latte—I love serving that. It’s a nice change from coffee.

What about decorating for New Year’s Eve?

I love to bring out gold accents, whether that’s adding to the Christmas décor or through the table-serving pieces, like antique brass mixed with different place settings. I love to make it more fun by incorporating black accents like a black velvet table runner.

A beautiful thing you can do on a budget for New Year’s Eve are large balloons, which are trending right now. Tie on a piece of fresh evergreen to the balloon, and you can line the ceiling with those. You can have mixed metallic fringe coming down from the balloon, and you can have it drape all the way to the ground. It completely changes the environment.

My husband and I always love to have a signature cocktail drink, so having the perfect cup for the drink is fun. Having a material that is fun and authentic to touch is a festive way to entertain.

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