Interior Designers Reveal Their Most Cherished Holiday Traditions

From family-wide secret Santas to holiday cookie exchanges, the holidays encourage us to engage in annual traditions like no other time of year. If you’re looking to add a few new traditions to the roster, you’re in luck! We reached out to eleven of our favorite interior designers and asked them to share the holiday traditions that they hold most dear. With answers all over the map, you’re sure to find a new tradition or two to spark some of that Yuletide magic!

Photo by Lisa Hilderbrand

Decking The Halls

“We are very elaborate decorators for Christmas—big garland over the front door, wreath over (almost) every window. We live in a rambling antique farmhouse and it is so picturesque.” – Lisa Hilderbrand of Hilderbrand Interiors

“I love the shift to winter because I take it as an opportunity to create a cozier atmosphere in the house. We swap out white linen pillows and lampshades for deeper colors, including red silk lampshades above the mantle in the living room. After, we always get the biggest tree we can fit in the house and decorate it. We even hang ornaments from the chandeliers and pile them up in bowls and vessels on our bookshelves. Finally, I’ll make a gingerbread house with my daughter. It’s a classic Christmas decorating day and I love it.” – Summer Thornton of Summer Thornton Design

Season’s Eatings

“My husband and I go to his family home in Minnesota every Christmas. In honor of his Norwegian heritage, we always make ‘lefse’ (a potato based thin pancake served with sugar and butter), drink shots of Aquavit, and even eat a bit of lutefisk, which is whitefish cured in lye!” – Taylor Jacobson of Taylor Jacobsen Interior Design

“One of our fondest holiday traditions is Christmas brunch. My parents always hosted a brunch growing up, and my grandparents and family would all come over. Now that I have kids of my own, my mom passed the tradition to me, so now me and my husband host everyone. Unlike when I was little, where we would stay in pajamas all day, after our kids open gifts from Santa and get a few hours of play, then we scrub them up and don the Christmas attire one last time for a seated brunch.” – MA Allen of MA Allen Interiors

“We love to bake cookies to share with family and friends. My oldest son is now quite the baker and experiments with new recipes every year. We always take in a performance of the Nutcracker at Lincoln Center, too, followed by a late lunch of Chinese food at the Shun Lee Palace. It wouldn’t be the holidays without!” – Sara Story of Sara Story Design

Photo by Stephen Kent Johnson / OTTO

Trimming (And Chopping!) The Tree

“One of our favorite places to spend time as a family is in Roaring Gap, North Carolina, a peaceful sanctuary in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Roaring Gap holds some of our most cherished memories, including the cutting of our annual Christmas tree. Roaring Gap is located in Alleghany County, home to a plethora of magnificent Christmas tree farms. The anticipation my two young children display when finding the ‘perfect match’ is a joy that cannot be replicated.” Charlotte Lucas of Charlotte Lucas Interior Design

“Shopping for the tree is always my very favorite thing. In our house, the whole day revolves around it. I love getting all the decorations out, especially the ornaments. Growing up,  my grandmother would give us a silver ornament each year, and it’s still such a special part of decorating the tree.” – Amy Berry of Amy Berry Design

“Our family has many traditions which we look forward to, but first and foremost is finding a Christmas tree. Every year we go the same sweet vendor on the Lower East Side and inevitably end up picking a ‘Charlie Brown’ tree – my children always find it endearing since I am a designer, but we decorate it to the nines!” – Sara Story of Sara Story Design

“We both get a special ornament every year for each of our children. The ornament always symbolizes a milestone or special interest that they had that year. We write a small note with each ornament along with the reason for the selection. When our children are grown and have their own Christmas trees, we will give them the box with their special ornaments.” –Anne Maxwell Foster and Suysel dePedro Cunningham of Tilton Fenwick

Photo by Anna Routh / Design by MA Allen

A Family Affair

“We always host a large caroling party for friends and neighbors on December 22nd. Every year, putting this party on feels hectic and crazy, and I often catch myself asking ‘Why?!’ amidst the madness of Christmas prep. But on the night of the party, I am always awed by the simple joy singing can bring to another person. Watching my friends crowded together outside a neighbor’s door, with kids, dogs, and hot toddys in tow, belting ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas,’ with abandon makes me teary and so grateful.” – Allison Dehn Bloom of Dehn Bloom

“My husband and I have four married children, and six grandchildren (so far!). Since the kids have two families to celebrate with now, we have decided to pick two days that we call ‘Stoffer Christmas Eve and Stoffer Christmas observed.’ Those two days are usually not actually Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but doing it this way allows all the kids to celebrate with their spouse’s family AND our family. Win-win! We are also like to read the account of Jesus’ birth in the gospel of Luke. It’s very special, and never gets old.” – Jean Stoffer of Jean Stoffer Design

“Every year, despite our advancing ages, my mother still gives my brother and I new pajamas on Christmas Eve. And every year, despite our advancing ages, we are still psyched for the new PJs and immediately put them on. This year, I’m designing Lake Pajamas’s first retail space, so to put a little twist on our annual tradition, I’m going to be giving my mother new pajamas! Shhhhh, don’t tell.” – Olivia Brock of Torrance Mitchell Designs

Lead photo by Stephen Kent Johnson / OTTO


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December 18, 2018

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