Holiday tips

Global gourd ornament hand-carved and hand-painted in Peru (Crate and Barrel photo / December 5, 2013)

Marta Calle, Crate and Barrel president and chief merchant, hasn't decorated a Christmas tree in her home for 10 years. That's not to say she doesn't get in the Christmas spirit. Instead, she and her husband join their family and friends for tree-decorating evenings, for which she often brings her own ornament for the host.

For Calle, it's less about the decorations themselves and more about the experience of decorating — or to use her words, "creating a moment."

"Tree decorating should be this magical experience for the family," she said. "As a group, you open up your ornaments, the new ones you've bought, the old ones that have been handed down. It's that experience that you build together around the tree and around the ornaments that is something I treasure at Christmas."

And those moments can go beyond the tree. Here are Calle's tips for crafting holiday sophistication around the decorations in every room and around the Christmas table.

Creating moments around the whole house: "Don't make the living room or the shared spaces the only beautiful rooms," Calle said. "Every room should feel a little bit like Christmas."

Place seasonal pillows and throws on beds for "a splash of color that adds a layer of warmth and seasonality to your bedroom." Calle also likes to put vases of fresh pine boughs on bedside tables to give the room fragrance.

Paperwhites and amaryllis flowers are festive alternatives.

Scented candles and garland around the mirror are easy ways to dress up bathrooms. "Dress up all of the rooms in a way that it feels of the season wherever you go in your house."

Around the table: "If you want to set a beautiful table, if you want to make a McDonald's meal look sexy, candlelight," Calle said.

Whether it's a tea light at each seat or long tapers in the center of the table with a garland runner, every Christmas table setting needs candlelight for a festive, elegant feeling.

Rather than overdoing it with an entire holiday dinnerware collection, Calle suggested dressing up cream or white dinner plates by juxtaposing them with Christmasy appetizer plates. This season, Crate & Barrel is carrying 7-inch plates with red birds and starbursts that can "change the whole attitude of your table."

Add a pizzelle or another Christmas cookie to each plate to further elevate the holiday table.

Calle, a "sucker for craft paper," forgoes the tablecloth and lines the table with the neutral colored paper upon which she creates her own place card. And don't forget the crayons.

"Everyone turns into a little kid," she said. "People linger at the table longer, and it creates this wonderful, magical experience."

Around the tree: This season, Crate and Barrel's "Around the World Tree" ornaments, inspired and designed by global artists, showcase a variety of cultures from Indian to German to Peruvian.

Calle, who is from Colombia, likes the idea of a tree that reflects a family's heritage and values. Layer on ornaments from countries of your familial origins.

Or try an architectural theme, she suggested. With many holiday events circulating around the home, decorating a tree with tiny houses is an appropriate theme.

Lastly, and one of Calle's personal favorites from her tree-decorating days, simply cover the tree in glass.

"There's something really magical and beautiful about a tree that's all clear glass ornaments with white lights."

hschroering@tribune.com