Today, we’re celebrating the holiday style of Nicole Withers of Jones-Keena & Co.—a Birmingham, Michigan-based design firm led by Withers and Lucy Earl, a mother and daughter team. They believe what separates their firm from others is that they challenge their clients to create their own styles, and encourage them to build bigger and more beautiful lives than they thought would ever be possible. This philosophy made Nicole the perfect choice for our roster of designers sharing their tips and tricks for decorating for the holidays.
Collecting for Holiday Style
Nicole had been collecting nutcrackers for years when her children got in on the act and began buying her husband these classic holiday figures every year. It’s safe to say they have a sizeable collection by now. She is a big believer in collecting for the purpose of decorating, and she advises that you choose areas of the home which are central to your celebrating to display festive decorations like these. She sets the tone for holiday style with her nutcrackers arranged around the bar each year. Nicole also has a sparkly Russian village that is among her favorite decorations to put out as things turn jolly and bright.
Once her children were too old for toys, she decided to foster the collecting spirit in each of them by giving them holiday décor items for Christmas. “Collections make a statement in your home,” she says. “It’s fun and special when you’re unwrapping each piece and placing it around your home every year. There is more to it than merely decorating with a décor item; each time you come upon a thing you’ve collected, it brings to mind the memories that come along with it.” Nicole also encourages everyone to give ornaments as gifts to anyone who loves decorating, whether they are family or just friends.
Rather than large statements like color-themed trees, she prefers to concentrate on smaller moves like having ornaments set the mood. Once, again, it’s the memories they evoke that she says makes hanging them on the tree so special. That said, she is very particular about which ones are hung front and center for the decorative value they add to her holiday style. “I still put the ornaments the kids made on the tree but I put them on the back!” she explains. “I love taking them out of the boxes and remembering the kids as they were when they made each one.”
Nicole prefers fresh trees and garlands with little lights that will warm up any home and make it feel cozy. “Bringing nature from the outside to the indoors is one of my favorite things to do during the holidays,” she says. Before her children left home, it was a family tradition to decorate together, but that has changed since they have places of their own to decorate. “My sister has a floral company so I have the luxury of having her put up the tree for me now. I’ve been doing this more and more since my kids aren’t home to help because it’s not as much fun as it was when we all decorated together.”
She says having a sister in the floral décor business makes her a fun person to consult for trends in holiday style so if you have a favorite florist, they can be an excellent source for what’s hot during any given year. “My sister inspired me to decorate in a natural theme one year—I used raffia and birch bark, both of which were more elemental.” This was a departure for Nicole, who said she tends to gravitate toward glittery glass ornaments, so it was fun but she missed her favorite objects that have become tradition for her and her family.
Nicole recommends seasonal moves to bring greater joy into a home like building more fires, and not just during the holidays but throughout the winter. “Bring in the wood and have it ready to go so you can have an evening sitting in your living room—forgo watching television for a change and see how relaxing it feels. We do this much more during the holidays and throughout the months when it’s cold outside.” Change your tabletop choices each year to bring a freshness to holiday style, she advises. “I come up with a different theme every year and put something special at everyone’s plate,” she adds. “I have a variety of china patterns so I’ll switch it up to be festive—it may be chartreuse and hot pink one year, and orange and lime green the next.”
Make Decorating a Ritual
Even though we are not gathering as we normally would, she says we can still stay close. “This has been such a hard time for everyone, especially those who live alone,” she says. “We are staying safe this year, so I won’t have my daughters in the kitchen with me as I have during other years. I find myself putting them on speaker phone while we’re cooking with greater frequency because it feels like we are continuing one of the rituals we’ve always had with each other.”
Nicole advises to take some time to bring up your wonderful childhood memories that the holidays bring to mind. “One that stands out in my mind still is the first time we went to a farm and cut a tree,” she explains. “When we came home, we all began making all of the ornaments that we would hang on it, which took us two weeks.” Memories like these evoke a simpler past, she says, so this is a good year to allow ourselves to be nostalgic. If you had pomades and strings of cranberries in your past like she did, making them can take you back to nature and to a cherished past. And, don’t forget that the way to anyone’s heart is through the stomach!
“Now that my children are grown women, it has become clear to me that their favorite holiday is Thanksgiving because they love to be together while we’re all cooking, a process that we would always start the day before,” she explains. “We always bake the pies that are our favorites every year, but we also try different recipes for fun. The great thing about baking is it fills a home with aromas that make everyone happy.” If you’re not cooking, she says, heat up some spiced cider or hot chocolate, and be sure to have Christmas music wafting through your home for the weeks leading up to the special day.
We’d like to thank Nicole for sharing her tips for creating holiday style. Her reminders about mining our memories to make this year special is one of the best tips yet. We will all be creating new rituals next week, and we hope yours will include memories you will enjoy for years to come. Happy Holidays from Currey & Company!