Tennessee homeowner Genia Gilchrist shares her tips for decorating a Southern home for the holidays.
Christmas is Genia Gilchrist’s favorite time of year. The owner of the Nashville store Gilchrist-Gilchrist finds creative ways to incorporate vintage items with fresh greenery, sparkly ornaments, and special decorations. She shares her simple tips for adding Southern touches to old and new holiday icons.
Genia’s holiday spirit starts at the front entry, where she plants small spruce trees in white urns and embellishes them with magnolia clippings. Placing an urn on either side of the porch creates a welcoming and well-defined space with a seasonal touch. Draw visitors to the door with a boxwood wreath framed by a garland of spruce, cedar, and boxwood.
When it comes to lighting her 9-foot Colorado spruce Christmas tree, Genia applies the philosophy that “more is better.” She
adds depth to the tree by stringing every inch with white lights and embellishes the illuminated base by mixing metallic silver,
gold, and white mercury-glass balls with other vintage ornaments in whites and creams.
Southern Icon: Keepsake Ornaments
We Southerners treasure tradition, and the holidays are a great time to pull out passed-down heirlooms for display. Trimming the tree becomes a family event when ornaments remind you of special people and past Christmases shared together.
Genia skirts tradition when dressing up her tree’s base. Her vintage petticoat-turned-tree skirt was a gift from a dear friend, and she wanted to incorporate it into her home decor. She easily took the skirt apart at the seam and laid it around the base of the tree for a feminine, personal touch.
’Tis the season to play up great finds like this vintage window frame and table. Genia dresses up the frame with a boxwood wreath, a group of bottlebrush trees, and a few fresh magnolia leaves. She accents the Christmas spirit by grouping shiny mercury-glass pieces.
In Genia’s family room, ordinary items receive special holiday accents. Even a simple clamshell feels festive when filled
with shiny gold and silver ornaments and a large sprig of magnolia. Genia replaces sprigs every two to three weeks to keep
her decorations fresh.
Southern Icon: Magnolia Leaves
Take clippings from your own trees, or purchase a few from a nursery to layer throughout garlands, centerpieces, wreaths, and more. Magnolia leaves add a Southern touch and give holiday greenery a full, fresh look.
To make sure everyone’s tastes are satisfied, Genia fills a jar in the family room with delicious Christmas cookies. Putting
the cookies in a clear glass jar allows the treats to take center stage. Tuck few sprigs of seeded eucalyptus into the display
to complete the holiday look.
Test Kitchen Favorite: Check out our Slice-and-Bake Shortbread Cookies for a delicious treat to fill your cookie jar. Four easy variations give you plenty of options. Store-bought cookies look great on display, but we can’t pass up the aroma of freshly baked goodies.
Much holiday preparation takes place in the kitchen, so Genia creates a cozy atmosphere for visitors by hanging a boxwood
wreath on each window. Placing decorations in groups of three creates unity in any space.
Style Secret: Add a pop of color and heighten the anticipation of Christmas morning by stacking a few wrapped presents in unconventional spaces, away from the tree.
Each year, Genia picks a signature accent color and buys different types and textures of ribbons in that color. She combines
all of the ribbons for bows on window wreaths in the dining room and kitchen. The textures play off one another without appearing
Style Secret: Unify your holiday theme by using the same type of ribbon as that used on wreaths when wrapping presents. Your combination will look effortless, and you’ll save time on purchasing materials for presents.
Clear glass stands allow you to stack decorations but don’t distract from the display. In her kitchen, Genia stacks footed dessert stands to hold her favorite hot chocolate-ready Santa mugs.
Add holiday hints to rooms that don’t usually get the full gamut of Christmas decorations. A few bottlebrush trees of various sizes give a seasonal touch when grouped on small shelves.
Every year, Genia finds a new festive Santa for her collection―a family tradition started when her daughter, Shenia, was born more than 25 years ago. Instead of spreading small trinkets around the house, group them together on a table or sideboard for impact. They’ll create a seasonal accent, and the stories of the individual pieces will serve as great conversation starters.
Garlands shouldn’t be confined to front doors and banisters. No piece is forgotten in Genia’s home, as even the furniture
gets a festive dressing. She frames an armoire, shelves, and other furniture with fragrant spruce, cedar, and boxwood garlands
for instant holiday appeal.
Southern Source We Love: The Garland Farm
Indoors or out, we love the smell of fresh, fragrant evergreens. The Garland Farm supplies just about any type of fresh garland, from simple strings to mixed combinations; thegarlandfarm.com or 877-327-9010.
This time of year, Genia incorporates vintage bottlebrush trees and reindeer into her year-round mercury-glass display on the mantel. She tucks in sprigs of greenery and seeded eucalyptus for a few hints of holiday color and scent.
A silver tray serves as the base for a perfect pairing of candles and mercury-glass ornaments. Set these trays just about
anywhere―Genia displays hers on an oversize ottoman―and allow the candlelight to reflect in the mercury glass for a touch
of warmth and romance.
Care Tip: Submerging mercury glass in water may cause unwanted peeling. Wipe pieces with a damp rag to keep the sparkle without stripping off the mercury.
Mercury glass looks great year-round, but its shimmer and sheen make it perfect for the holidays. Follow Genia’s tips to ensure
you’re getting the best products in your price range.