The biggest Christmas decorating mistakes, according to interior designers

8 major dos and don'ts of decking the halls

Woman putting lights on a Christmas tree, Lights4fun
(Image credit: Lights4fun)

Decorating for the holidays can be a wonderful time: the eggnog is flowing, the Christmas tunes playing softly in the background, and you’re finally able to revisit all those gorgeous ornaments and memorabilia that you haven’t seen since last December...

But sometimes, no matter how much effort you put in, it can feel like your holiday decorations don’t exactly mesh with your decor style or vision for your festive atmosphere.

'When decorating your home for Christmas, it can sometimes feel like something is missing,' explains Sylvia James, interior designer at 'Whether you’ve been using the same decorations for years or recently changed the decor in your living room, there are a few key reasons for feeling like this.'

Whether you’re worried about making a holiday decor faux pas—or you need a little inspiration to make your decorations pop a bit brighter, here are some of the biggest Christmas decorating mistakes according to interior designers—and what to do instead.

Your tree topper was an afterthought


(Image credit: IKEA)

'It’s important to choose a tree topper that is to scale with your tree,' explains James. 'Leaving it until the last minute without any thought will result in a topper that is disproportionate and using the same one with a different tree is lazy.'

James suggests taking the time to invest in a few different shapes and sizes—and to continue adding more to the collection as the years go by. This is especially key if you prefer a real Christmas tree over something artificial as your tree’s silhouette and size will change a little bit each year.

You try to do too much

christmas decor

(Image credit: Home Depot)

It can be hard to limit your decoration purchasing, especially if you have so many ideas and want to integrate them all. 'Even if you have large spaces in your home, you can’t have every theme take place,' warns James. 'To make an impact, it’s best to focus on one theme and pay extra diligence. Limit the use of textures and materials and stick to just one aesthetic for a consistent look.'

You don’t change the family photos

family photos in black frames on a grey wall

(Image credit: Photolini)

A subtle yet overlooked change is switching your family pictures around, says James. 'Try to swap any family summer holiday pictures with festive alternatives. Shots of last year’s festive activities, such as the family at ice skating, will add an individualized touch to your home. It’s a great way to cherish the memories and start a tradition.'

The decorations lack personal flair


(Image credit: IKEA)

'If your Christmas decorations can be in any house, you’re doing it wrong,' says James. 'Whether you have kids or live at home with your parents, everyone can make their decorations look personal to them.'

James suggests spending a little extra time investing in personal baubles, stockings and even integrating photos into memorabilia. Investing in DIY Christmas decorations will make all the difference, 'A little touch of character will create your own grotto masterpiece.' We love these IKEA Vinter decks which you could easily customize also.

There isn’t a clean slate

It’s important to have a clean slate to start with. If you start setting up your decorations around dust and clutter, you can ruin the finished look. 'Try to minimize the existing clutter before you add in the Christmas cheer,' suggests James. 'Take time to give your home a thorough clean and you’ll notice the difference at the end.' Start pre-Christmas cleaning as early as you can for results that will last throughout the holidays.

You don’t have a plan

Blue wallpaper and mantel with Christmas cards and wooden wreath

(Image credit: PMQ for Two)

'The worst thing you can do when decorating with Christmas is to start out without a clear vision of what imagery you want to achieve,'  says Stacy Lewis, Interior Designer at EternityModern. 'When you set out without planning first, you will tend to come up with ideas as you go, which isn’t bad by itself, but only if you already have an overarching theme to start with.'

According to Lewis, this is the reason why too many Christmas setups look random and cluttered—and it’s also the reason why you end up with those mysterious objects that you somehow have but can’t use.

'My best advice is to always start with a plan; start from the beginning. What would you like your house to look like? What kind of atmosphere do you want to convey with your décor? Deciding this beforehand will help you pick the right items even before you start decorating and avoid ending up with a lot of clutter to deal with after the holidays.'

Safety first!

christmas decor

(Image credit: Home Depot)

Kelly Fitzsimmons, owner of Light Up Your Holidays, would rather not see you up on a ladder trying to string lights. She says homeowners often underestimate the danger of attempting to set up rooftop lights and other outdoor Christmas decorations themselves.

'Do not get on more than a stepladder,' she says. 'Don’t risk it. Because it’s not what you do every day.' If your heart is set on an elaborate display but you’re short on time, energy and expertise, consider hiring a professional to do the work for you. And, be sure to get clued up on Christmas light safety also.

Do what makes you happy

A Christmas tree and paper decorations in a hallway area

(Image credit: Wayfair)

There’s nothing like coming home after a long day of work and seeing your house bathed in a beautiful light display. 'If it makes you smile, that’s the goal,' Fitzsimmons says.

Kaitlyn is an experienced travel and lifestyle writer with a keen interest in interior decorating and home optimization. An avid traveler, she's currently splitting her time between her apartment in a century-old châteauesque building in Montreal and her cozy chalet in the woods (that she built with her own two hands... and many YouTube tutorials!). Her work has been published in Travel + Leisure, Tatler Asia, Forbes, Robb Report Singapore, and various other international publications.