For the founder of the blog Lavin Label, decorating for Christmas is all about working with what you have.

By Caroline Rogers
November 16, 2020
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“Savannah is such a special place, and the whole city gets into a festive spirit each December,” says Monica Lavin, founder of the lifestyle blog Lavin Label. In 2018, she and her husband, Casey, moved into their downtown home, which was built in 1842 and isn’t too far from Forsyth Park. The couple fell in love with its historic charm, which really shines at this time of year. When it comes to decorating, Lavin prefers to enhance the existing decor with fresh seasonal touches. “We want our guests to feel welcome when they step inside,” she says. A sophisticated palette paired with treasured family keepsakes offers just that—the warmest of holiday greetings.

Credit: Alison Gootee; Styling: Elizabeth Demos

Curb Enthusiasm

“Because we’re on a busy street with a lot of foot traffic, we always string ribbons and garlands on the wrought iron gates out front,” she says. Exterior design is the focus of Lavin Label’s “Art of the Entry” series, which invites readers to share their curbside charm on social media.

Left: Credit: Alison Gootee; Styling: Elizabeth Demos
Right: Credit: Alison Gootee; Styling: Elizabeth Demos

Dress Up the Evergreens

The exterior and living areas are layered with evergreen swags, which are taken up a notch when combined with vibrant flowers and fresh greenery by Kim Cheney of Savannah’s August Floral & Event Design. Mild Southern winters don’t always keep wreaths and garlands looking their liveliest, so Lavin recommends adding items like ribbons, pinecones, or ornaments to the mix. “We tend to use a lot of fresh greenery indoors, but because it will inevitably dry out, we incorporate a few of those accents to make it look like new,” she says.

Left: Credit: Alison Gootee; Styling: Elizabeth Demos
Right: Credit: Alison Gootee; Styling: Elizabeth Demos

Give Old Favorites New Life

“We look for ways to maximize what we have. It isn’t necessary to buy all-new decor. You can reuse elements—like ribbons, ornaments, or potted plants—year after year to mingle with your new seasonal finds,” she says. Here, Lavin added cranberries to accent the bases of a pot and a hurricane. While poinsettias are always popular during December, Lavin says, “You can also grow paperwhites, which are great because they’re so easy to cultivate indoors.”

Natural Wonders

Pick a single common, easy-to-source element (like the pinecones used above) to sprinkle throughout the home, both inside and out.

Credit: Alison Gootee; Styling: Elizabeth Demos

Let the Tree Tell Your Story

“We have a double parlor and always try to fit in the tallest tree possible,” says Lavin. “Every year, we go to Webster’s Christmas Tree Farm in Darien, Georgia, and bring one home.” It’s adorned with ornaments collected during the family’s travels and finished off with cascading blue and red velvet ribbons.

Credit: Alison Gootee; Styling: Elizabeth Demos

Celebrate Family in Meaningful Ways

The three Christmas stockings—one for Monica, one for Casey, and one for baby Julia, who was born this year—were all crafted with care. “Casey’s grandmother always did the needlepoint for each family member’s stocking, including the ones that hang from our mantel, and now my husband’s mother is helping continue this tradition. It’s very special for everyone to receive a stocking that’s made with so much love,” says Lavin. The paintings of magnolia blossoms hanging above the fireplace were created by Savannah resin artist and acrylic painter Mary Margaret Monsees.

Left: Credit: Alison Gootee; Styling: Elizabeth Demos
Right: Credit: Alison Gootee; Styling: Elizabeth Demos

Set the Scene

“When we first moved in, we thought of this as a holiday house and looked forward to entertaining our friends and family here,” says Lavin. “I usually stick to more muted colors like greens and blues for the tablescape.” Using pieces that echo the home’s exterior, like the cool blue on the front door (painted Farrow & Ball’s Parma Gray, No. 27), Lavin also works in green and white linens, seasonal candles, red flowers, small dishes filled with cranberries, and printed menus tied with gold ribbons. “I incorporated the place mats that I use year-round but also layered other elements, like Courtland & Co. embroidered napkins and Juliska dinnerware,” she says.

Credit: Alison Gootee; Styling: Elizabeth Demos

Show Your Cards

“We’re always looking for new ways to display our Christmas cards. This year, I draped greenery above the sink in our galley kitchen and used mini clips to hang holiday greetings so we can see them every day. Many people no longer have refrigerators that will allow them to attach things with magnets, and this is one way we can enjoy them in a space that wouldn’t otherwise be decorated much,” says Lavin.

Credit: Alison Gootee; Styling: Elizabeth Demos

Make Creative Moves

“No design elements are fixed,” says Lavin. She invests in just a few fresh wreaths each year (like the one hung in the kitchen window, above) and moves them from room to room to liven up the spaces where she’s entertaining.

Six Ways To Spruce Things Up

Take inspiration from Lavin to twirl up your home inside and out

Credit: Alison Gootee; Styling: Elizabeth Demos

Needlepoint stockings displayed along the mantel are family keepsakes.

Credit: Alison Gootee; Styling: Elizabeth Demos

Nestle evergreen clippings in a bar cart and above treasured artwork (by Jordan Connelly) for fresh accents.

Credit: Alison Gootee; Styling: Elizabeth Demos

Tie pinecones and berries with a velvet bow in a contrasting tone.

Credit: Alison Gootee; Styling: Elizabeth Demos

Beautiful presents can double as festive decorations.

Credit: Alison Gootee; Styling: Elizabeth Demos

Drape greenery and berries on lights; keep them away from bulbs for safety.

Credit: Alison Gootee; Styling: Elizabeth Demos

Lavin puts the tree lights on a dimmer to ensure a lovely glow.