Home for the Holidays

Whether you are planning an intimate gathering of friends and family or a stylish soirée for the holidays, setting the scene with a festive flair will help make it a season of memorable moments.

We enlisted the help of local home décor and entertaining expert Paula King, owner of the wonderfully curated retail emporium Agapanthus, with locations in historic downtown Ocala and Butler Town Center in Gainesville, to help create some inspired ideas for decorating your home and dressing your table during the upcoming holiday season.

Nicole and James Heller graciously allowed us to use their gorgeous historic home, built in 1933, in southeast Ocala, as a backdrop to stage our fantasy fête.

Nicole, an RN who soon expects to complete her certification as an APRN, is director of surgical services at The Villages Hospital. James is a licensed real estate professional with The Villages. The couple, who were married in 2017, moved into the home in 2019. They are expecting their first child in March.

When a friend first sent them the listing for this enchanting bungalow, it was love at first sight.

“We said, ‘We have to have that house,’” Nicole recalls.

The couple says they enjoy living in the historic district and that their home is often bustling with activity as they entertain family members, friends and neighbors. 

Pictured: Handblown glass pumpkins by Simon Pearce, Lastra dinner plates, Fauna pasta bowls, Italian baking dish by Vietri, Bistro flatware, Berry & Thread goblets, teal bubble glasses, linen napkins by Juliska, paper napkins by Caspari, acrylic servers by Sabre Paris.

Sentimental Journey

“Decorations become traditions,” King offers. “As with this idea, where each year a family photo taken during the holidays is added to the collection and displayed. Before you know it, they fill your tabletop.”

Tip: Buy similar style frames (the same color or style) and stock up when you find ones you love.

Center of Attention

Create small vignettes of your prized collections on a sideboard or console where they have a greater impact, like the glass trees below, arranged near a sunny window.

Tip: Add evergreen garland or stems and strands of LED lights for a more dramatic evening look. 

Pictured: Handblown glass trees by Simon Pearce.

Level Best

A tiered server is a versatile serving piece for entertaining. It’s also the perfect choice for desserts, fruit, charcuterie or even small party favors.

Pictured: Berry & Thread stoneware tiered server from Juliska.

Garden Party

Mary Weaver, opposite with Nicole in her garden, of Floral Architecture, created a custom arrangement to complete King’s tablescape with fresh cut flowers.

Weaver suggests looking around your yard to find interesting natural items to add to your centerpiece.

“For this arrangement, I used fresh red ginger and swamp sunflowers, which are very easy to grow at home. I added sword fern and jasmine vine for greens. Then, to brighten things up, I added some white stock, which also adds a light fragrance, and fall yarrow flower, with touches of grapevine branches throughout.”

Weaver has more than three decades in the industry. She provides floral services for clients at their homes and for special occasions, corporate events and weddings, and also decorates homes for holidays—from a single Christmas tree to an entire house.

Weaver started Floral Architecture eight years ago. She meets with clients at their location or in her office space at the Beautiful Moments campus in southwest Ocala.

Setting the Scene

King suggests creating a tablescape with the colors of the season to create anticipation for the main event. Adding salad or dessert plates and fresh linens is a great way to dress up your basic white plates for the holidays. Using woodenware and texture creates warmth. A low floral centerpiece and votive candles at every place setting will keep your guests’ view of one another unobstructed and keep the conversation flowing. Party “crackers” at each place containing toys, musical instruments or games, are an English tradition that has found its way to American tables while everyone lingers.

Pictured: Handblown glass pumpkins by Simon Pearce, Lastra dinner plates, Fauna pasta bowls, Italian baking dish by Vietri, Bistro flatware, Berry & Thread goblets, teal bubble glasses, linen napkins by Juliska, paper napkins by Caspari, renewal wooden bowl, acrylic servers by Sabre Paris.

All featured decorative accessories, tabletop and serving pieces are available at Agapanthus in store and online.

Trim the Trimmings

While Nicole and James haven’t likely acquired enough decorations and trimmings to need to purge just yet, King says it is never a bad idea to sort your stash and simplify Marie Kondo-style.

“After the Thanksgiving meal is over is a good time to make use of any extra hands that may be around. Bring out your seasonal decorations, assess what you have, and plan your decorating,” King suggests. “Placing that first wreath on the door is a simple and sure way to put you in the holiday spirit.”

Tip: A fresh or preserved wreath, like the laurel wood version pictured opposite, always looks best. Choose nice wired ribbon. Get twice what you think you may need and use it year after year.

“Before you decorate, spread out all your trimmings on a table and take a look at what you have,” King advises. “Toss or repair anything that is broken or anything that you no longer want to incorporate in your holiday decorating. This may be a good time to freshen up your color palette. This is also a great time to pass down sentimental pieces to your children or other family members.”

Tip: Solid color balls in large quantities will make your tree look professionally decorated.

According to Kondo, if an item doesn’t spark joy in your heart, it’s probably time to part with it. Consider donating items to local thrift shops or charities, where they can have a new life.

If a certain snow globe or nutcracker brings to mind good memories but won’t be making it into this year’s rotation, then store it in a holiday bin with other like items. There’s always next year!

However you choose to adorn your house, whether your celebrations are intimate or bustling, we hope the spirit of the season fills your home with love and laughter.


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