Just because you’re an interior designer doesn’t mean you’re sure to have the perfect Christmas tree. Bradley Hüsemann-Odom, of Atlanta’s Dixon Rye interior design studio and retail destination, learned that last year the hard way.
“It was Peter and I's first Christmas together as a married couple,” he says. “I am from Mississippi and he is from Munich, Germany, so trying to combine those [styles] as a married couple was very interesting.”
Odom can’t help but laugh remembering their “total abomination” of a tree. It was far too small for their space, and covered in lights and mismatched decorations that just screamed of Odom’s inner frustration.
“You know you get to that point with a real tree where it's such a pain in the butt to water it?” Odom says. “I finally got to a point where I was like, ‘oh, I could just let the tree die.’”
This year, Odom and his husband found the perfect way to meld their styles to create the coziest of holiday nests. They started from scratch, picking out new ornaments “as a couple” and found ways to incorporate their personal style and memories throughout their home.
This year, to save you from tears, Odom is sharing his home-tested tips and tricks for curating the merriest and well-balanced holiday space; from picking the perfect tree to decking out your bar cart.
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Pick The Perfect Tree
While Odom believe picking the perfect tree is a truly personal experience; whether it be a sparse Norfolk pine, a fluffy white pine, or a fragrant Fraser fir, the one thing you simply must consider is the scale of the tree in your space.
“Knowing that you need to leave a little bit of room for your topper, and you don't want to cram yourself into a space where you can't get all the way around the tree,” Odom says. “The back of the tree tends to be forgotten. You put all the pretty stuff on the front and then it's like, ‘Oh, there's the back.’ We tried this year to really allow ourselves space around the entire tree, because all parts of the tree are important—not just the front."
Be Thoughtful About Your Lights
“I like to go overboard with lights, but there can be too many,” Odom admits. “If there are too many, you don't end up seeing your ornaments, especially at night when the tree is lit, because the lights overpower the ornaments.”
Odom suggests putting the lights on your tree the first night you bring it home and saving ornament decorations for the second night. It spreads out the holiday cheer, and it gives your editing eye a bit more time to size up what’s what.
Curate Your Ornaments Around A Palette
[This year] was a chance for us to start fresh with ornaments and say, “these are our ornaments as a couple.” And so I said, you curate and select the ones you love, I will curate and select the ones I love building off of this hot air balloon.
“It's a mercury glass ball with a wireform around it in the shape of a hot air balloon that [Danish interior designer] Oliver Gustav gave me probably 10 years ago, and I've always just loved them,” Odom says. “We both collectively agreed that our color palette would be this rusty bronze with a little bit of silver and green.”
The couple searched around for their favorite items, but came together with their favorite choices before making any final calls.
“It was funny, because he was going through mine and there were certain ones that he was like, ‘Oh, I'm a hard no on that,’ and I was like, ‘Oh God, here we go again,’” Odom laughs, “but in actuality, it worked out perfectly, and he was totally right about the hard no.”
Leave Room For Fun, But Don’t Make It Too Random
When you’re buying fresh ornaments, Odom suggests buying things in sets, so that there’s never one errant ornament that doesn’t match the rest. Otherwise, that little sparkly gem might get lost in the shuffle.
“We bought 12 of everything we really believed in, and six of the oddities and weird ones that we just wanted to be able to include,” Odom says. “It makes it look like the tree is very purposeful and doesn't have a million-ton of ornaments—which can be beautiful too, but [this method] is very thoughtful in terms of the curation.”
Throw Out Those Old Hooks
A newer trick Odom employs in his home is one he picked up from a fellow designer in Houston. Rather than use standard ornament hooks which aren’t very strong and tend to speed up the drooping of your tree limbs, this designer uses floral wire to wrap the ornament tops tightly to the tree.
“They don't hang from the branch but basically hang to the branch,” he says. “You bring the top of the ornament all the way up to the limb, and then wrap your wire. It was a game changer for us this year, because the ornaments feel so much more stable, especially with us having two dogs who love to run around the tree.”
Speaking of drooping tree limbs, placing your ornaments further inside your tree can make for a longer lasting effect.
“Go in an inch or an inch-and-a-half and hang your ornament there,” Odom says. “Once the limbs of the tree start to droop, this naturally puts the ornaments in a really great place. That is something I learned this year that I am like, ‘done, every year.’”
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Balance The Festive Spirit Around Your House
“When it comes to the rest of the house, I'm sort of like ‘more is more,’” Odom says. “My aesthetic is very much about layers and texture.”
This year, Odom and his husband spread the cheer with wreaths and garland throughout their home. There’s a wreath atop a piece of art that hangs above the sofa; one on a closet door; some wreaths with ribbon behind their dining room chairs, and an advent wreath on the dining table. Candles throughout the home finish the cozy and layered look.
“What we did is sit in the room and go, ‘if there's four walls to a room, the tree is on that wall, then that wreath hanging about the art is on this wall, then we've got to get a little bit on these [other] two walls so it feels well rounded and balanced versus one sided.’”
Simple Can Be Stunning
Even if you’re going all out like Odom and his husband with greenery in every corner, sticking to a subtle theme can give your space a stunning effect without feeling overwhelmed.
“I like the simplicity of a green garland with a ribbon entwined,” Odom says. “Another thing I'm probably late on is these micro fairy lights. You buy them on Amazon for $12, and it changes the entire look of the place. I put them on the wreath on the door and on the closet door. All of a sudden I have lights dispersed around the room, because there's lights on the tree and these little fairy lights that are so soft. It just made for a really nice and warm environment.”
Odom also found a way to work in sentimental pieces that capture the spirit of the holidays and create space for personal memories without taking away from the overall effect.
“This year was really special for me, because I lost one of my best friends and he always collected these Gold Bells of the Royal Family,” Odom says. “I ended up incorporating them into the garland this year, and it actually looks so festive. It's one of those things that I probably would never use any other time, where he always had them displayed on a shelf, but they worked beautifully as a great reminder and connection to him this holiday season.”
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Update Your Bar Cart For Holiday Parties
There’s nothing like entertaining during the holidays, and you can bring a festive touch to both your display and your seasonal cocktail mixers.
“In our bar cart, there's always my favorite ornament, which is this antique, bronze Santa Claus that sits there,” Odom says. “It includes all the makings of our perfect holiday cocktail; the ones we enjoyed the most this time of the year (mine is the black Manhattan, and Peter's would be the Boulevardier)
“We always have a little bowl there with nuts,” he continues, “but this time of year, we switch it out for a little more color, whether it's lemons or limes. In our case, we put the bells there to create a more festive environment.”
Round it all out with your favorite holiday glasses—think something with a bit of extra sparkle or shine—and your bar cart will stay merry and bright.
And When Do You Take Your Decorations Down?
“Well, last year the tree didn't make it 'til Christmas,” Odom laughs, “but that's literally the first time ever.”
Odom says he’s very much of the tradition that the tree can’t come down until after New Year’s Day, although once you’ve taken down all the fun accoutrement and cleaned up the pine needles, you might find your space is ready for a new year makeover.
“We find at the store that the tree comes down for people, and all of a sudden in January we have an influx of customers looking for new sofas or living room furniture,” Odom says. “I think the tree comes down and they're like, ‘oh, my Living room feels boring now. Maybe I need new furniture?’ And we're like ‘yes, you do.’”
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Visit Bradley Odom’s official website and follow him on Instagram for more tasteful design tips and inspiration, and visit Dixon Rye in Atlanta and via dixonrye.com.