It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and our tastemakers have the best advice to make your festive holiday home décor the talk of the town. We hope their tips and traditions spark your spirit and help you celebrate “the most wonderful time of the year.”

Laura Latham

Laura Latham and her husband are in the process of renovating the former Leavy family home in historic Brunswick on Union Street.

Christmas china

Laura loves holiday traditions.

“My grandmother, who turns 100 in May, gifted me six place settings of vintage Spode Christmas Tree china in my mid-20s,” she said. “My holiday table is larger than six people now, but because it reminds me of her, I love mixing it in with my Bernardaud Soleil Levant to accommodate more place settings.”

Center of attention

A bright holiday centerpiece sets the tone.

“I love red amaryllis bulbs planted in a large etched-glass bowl, or a cedar garland with bud vases of white flowers and red berries,” she said.

Scents of the season

Candles aren’t a top priority.

“I love to make my own Christmas potpourri by boiling cinnamon sticks, cranberries, oranges, cloves and a small pine twig,” she said. “Putting all of the ingredients in a jar also makes a great hostess gift or Christmas gift for neighbors.”

A bit of the unexpected

“After two years of renovations, this is our first year spending Christmas in our home and our first Christmas with our daughter,” she said. “I love children’s books and have been collecting Christmas-themed books all year to her bookshelf for festive reading this holiday season.

“I also can’t wait to decorate all five fireplace mantles.”

Special collections

“I collect the Waterford Times Square ornaments both in glass and crystal,” she said. “When I lived in New York, my husband and I always celebrated New Year’s at the same rooftop bar in Times Square, and he proposed to me on New Year’s Eve, so they are sentimental.”

Laura also loves the holiday table linens from Courtland and Co. “(They) always have the best linens,” she said. “I add something new each year.”

Jackie Bryant

Jackie Bryant is the president of the Brunswick Chapter of the Links Inc., an international nonprofit organization for women of color.

Christmas china

“I purchased the Lenox Holiday 12-piece dinner plate set many years ago,” Jackie said, adding she continues to expand it as her family grows. The pattern features a “graceful holly and berries motif.”


A cordless illuminated and shimmering centerpiece, made by Hammacher Schlemmer adorns the family’s holiday table each year. It features an LED candle that flickers surrounded by garlands, berries and pinecones, as well as ornaments, holly leaves and poinsettia blooms. “It … really adds a taste of elegance to any dinner table at Christmas.”

Scents of the season

Jackie’s holiday scent is Twisted Peppermint – a blend of sugared snow, vanilla butter cream and fresh balsam mixed with cool peppermint, available from Bath & Body Works – which she burns continually throughout the holidays. “My favorite holiday candle is a jumbo red and white candle shaped like a peppermint candy cane,” she said.”

A bit of the unexpected

Jackie’s bathrooms also get dressed for the holidays.

“I have Christmas shower curtains and I place scented garland around the bathroom mirrors to accent them,” she explained. Soap-shaped Santas and snowmen and Santa toothbrushes finish the look.

Special collections

Jackie began collecting Santas of all shapes and sizes in 1997; she now has 45. Her Santas engage in a variety of activities, including playing golf and hanging out on the beach. Her favorite Santa was purchased at an estate sale.

“He was wrapped in peppermint candy canes,” she said. “Who would have guessed that?”

Willa Kane

Willa Kane, who divides her time between Sea Island and Raleigh, N.C., has distinctive and traditional tastes that make guests feel right at home.

Christmas china

To avoid her table from being too matchy-matchy, Willa coordinates her tableware, using items from various collections.

“I love mixing Bordallo Pinheiro Cabbage Green chargers with Royal Crown Derby Olde Avesbury plates and accessories,” she said.

Center of attention

“I’m partial to using mostly greenery from my garden – Little Gem Magnolia, Crytomeria, regular and variegated boxwood are favorites – tucked in around a collection of silver, gold and white Christmas trees of various sizes,” she said.

Scents of the season

“Nest Holiday Classic,” was Willa’s immediate answer. This candle, with its blend of blend of pomegranate, Mandarin orange, pine, cloves and cinnamon, with hints of vanilla and amber, permeates its surroundings with tantalizing holiday aromas.

A bit of the unexpected

Every successful holiday decorating scheme has an element of surprise. For the Kanes, it’s a fun felt nativity scene under a spiral stair that leads to an upstairs playroom. “It’s a favorite hiding place for our grandchildren,” she said.

Special collections

Willa collects Christmas trees, and Simon Pearce glass trees are among her recent additions.

“I’ve collected Christmas trees in various materials and sizes for many years, from mercury glass to pinecone and nuts to old gilded ones,” she said.

Willa’s main tree is decorated primarily with gold and silver angels, most of which are gifts from her friend, Anne Graham Lotz.

“I (also) love pulling out a small ivory pillow with gold lettering that says ‘Hark’ and putting it in a chair in my living room. It reminds me that Jesus, the newborn King, is the reason we celebrate.”

Mary Hitt

Mary Hitt is a former mayor of Jesup, the widow of Dr. William Hitt and matriarch of her family.

Christmas china

Gold-rimmed white china is the preferred pattern for Mary’s Christmas dinner parties.

“It … looks fabulous with red and white poinsettias, … pine and cedar boughs on the table, incorporated into whatever centerpieces I have that year,” she said.

Spode’s Christmas Memories is reserved for the family Christmas dinner.

Mary’s table is one of the few places it’s found – after it was manufactured for a large New York department store, it was never released to the public. The pattern, with its green wreath and red bow, interspersed with antique toys, is timeless.

Center of attention

Mary’s centerpieces generally feature fresh fruit and flowers, wreaths, ribbon, pinecones, dark red candles, and a few sparkly ornaments. Fresh materials will be added closer to Christmas.

This year, a large red Oriental box with black and gold trim, representing one of the gifts brought by the Magi to the baby Jesus, will be added to the tablescape. There will also be an ornate camel keepsake, trimmed in gold, and given to her by her late friend, Carolyn McMillan.

Scents of the season

Mary’s favorite holiday scents are Christmas tree or Bayberry, but if she could find a fruitcake-scented candle, she would buy it.

“I have been busy baking fruitcakes lately and the house always smells exactly like Christmas. Some people like to boil citrus peels with cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, allspice and cloves added to achieve that wonderful Christmas scent,” she said.

A bit of the unexpected

Mary decorates her breezeway as well – with wreaths and handmade Mr. and Mrs. Santas made by a patient of her late husband’s, faux gifts, real green plants and a small Christmas tree, all of which are illuminated at night.

Special collections

Holiday collections that are treasured each year include antique children’s books, Madame Alexander and Puddin’ Patch dolls and antique toys.

“I usually put them around the bottom of the Christmas tree …. I get great enjoyment out of bringing them out each year and always regret having to pack them away until the next year,” she said.

Patsy Bryan

Patsy Bryan is a Realtor with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Hodnett Cooper Real Estate, the wife of Tommy Bryan, owner of St. Simons Drug, a mother and grandmother.

Christmas china

Patsy’s Christmas china is timeless. “My Christmas china pattern is Christmas Tree by Spode,” she said. “It is casual, not fancy.”

Center of attention

Natural materials, and a mix of textures are important for her centerpiece.

“My favorite centerpiece for a holiday table is fresh foliage like holly, magnolia, cedar (and) variegated pittosporum,” she said. “Also, I like to use pine cones, fruit, white hypericum berries, and all types of candles – votive and tapered.”

Patsy also has a collection of cone-shaped trees she adds to the table in the colors of the season.

“My centerpieces are different every year; I just see what I can find in the yard, or my neighbor’s yard, and go from there.”

Scents of the season

Sometimes one has to compromise. Patsy’s favorite candle is Votivo’s Red Currant, but her husband is allergic to the smell.

“So the one we use for Christmas is Bedrock Tree Farm Soy Candle from New England,” she said. “The candles are made from freshly harvested fir needles, (and) it smells just like a fresh real tree.

“This is a family-owned company too and we have met the couple that owns it – wonderful people.”

A bit of the unexpected

Patsy doesn’t really have an unusual spot, but what she does have are themed areas for all the living areas in her house.

“The entry hall has my nativity scene,” she said. “The living room has angels. The family room has the Christmas tree, which is the main focus of the room. The pool house or recreation room is decorated with Santa Claus.

“All of my ornaments are very special. They all have come from vacations, friends, family, our children’s activities – lots of memories. I love unwrapping the ornaments every year and each one has a story.”

Special collections

Patsy has several, but the one she shared with us was her Margaret Furlong porcelain angels.

“Each angel represents something special, and has a verse from the Bible as a reference,” she said.