How to Decorate for the Holidays

Jenny Rogers

Mary Ernst McColgan, owner of Short North flower shop Rose Bredl, offers tips and ideas for the most festive time of year.

For a subdued take on what's typically the tackiest holiday of the year, forget bright-orange plastic pumpkins and, instead, keep things spooky-but elegant-with displays of white pumpkins, heirloom green-and-white gourds and squash. Hosting a party? Add clusters of decorative cabbage and kale to your tablescape. "The colors are more harvest-y, softer," she says.

"For Thanksgiving, wheat spirals look so amazing on a tablescape," says Ernst McColgan, whose decorating go-tos include plants, herbs and anything fresh. "My general guideline is that doing a spread and setting a scene with different elements is the key. Having highs and lows and different textures-like a table that incorporates wood cutting boards and zinc elements-is such a comfortable, approachable vibe." Her never-ever list is short: Ditch the fake flowers.

"Simple and pretty" is how Ernst McColgan describes her holiday-season aesthetic. Choose greenery over too much sparkle, and you'll be able to keep your decorations up longer, too. As for the blooms: "At the holidays, I love amaryllis and paperwhites, and peonies will be coming back," she says. Bulb forcing is big business for the shop in the winter, and bulbs look great as table decorations. Missing the red? Pepper berries are a sweet complement to greenery. "For me, it's about making a big statement with a couple things, like a magnolia wreath," she adds. Other options include glass cylinders filled with dried pomegranates or sugar-pine cones.