Decorate like a Pro: Interior Designer Robin Henry

Editor’s Note: In honor of the holiday season and our love of decking the halls to the nines, we’ve tapped three of our favorite Fairfield County interior designers to share how they decorate and entertain for the holiday season.

If there’s an interior designer whose work is guaranteed to make us smile, it’s Robin Henry. Her work is like a pop of sunshine in that it’s colorful, bright, and crisp, but her rooms are refined and elegant at the same time. Sounds like a perfect recipe for a festive holiday home! Here, the up-and-coming designer (House Beautiful named her one of their “Next Wave” designers this year) and mom of two shares a few of her favorite secrets for chic, family-friendly holiday decorating.

As a designer, what’s your approach to decorating your home for the holidays?
I like to make a few big statements with holiday decor, a lovely large wreath in front of a window, a beautiful floral arrangement on a sideboard, a giant bowl full of pinecones and pomander balls—made by the entire family—on the coffee table. Lots of natural elements. I go for beautiful scents as well, Nest makes incredible Christmas-y candles that I employ widely. And don’t forget lighting! Real or fake candles and twinkling lights are the third key to holiday decor.

Do you stick to the same decor scheme each year or do you have a tendency to switch it up?

For the most part I do the same tricks with greenery—there are only so many places in our old farmhouse to use it and I like to do it up wherever possible! I also have many heirloom decorations from my mother that are put out for sentimental reasons. It always varies slightly but the major items are present. The one place I like to change up a bit more is the dining table. I buy inexpensive and beautiful tablecloths and napkins from Saffron Marigold in a range of patterns and vary my centerpieces based on whatever I find and/or am obsessed with at the moment.

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A cozy living space designed by Robin

What is one thing you always incorporate into your holiday decor?
Lots and lots of candles.

When do you start decorating? Are you one of those people who can’t wait to get out the decorations as soon as November 1 rolls around or are you more of a last-minute type?
We start the weekend before Thanksgiving because family usually visits at that time and we like to decorate the Christmas tree together, and it helps with the general festivities to have the whole place done up. We always go to New Mexico for Christmas, so we want some time to enjoy the decorations before we leave town!

Do you have any holiday decor pet peeves or faux pas?
Though I can well understand the allure, I have found that cheap holiday decorations made badly in China don’t last very many seasons. I prefer hand-made decorations, especially those contributed by my children, mixed in with natural elements.

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Pomander balls decorated by Robin’s children

What’s your best tip for decorating a home for the holidays in a way that’s fun, but still sophisticated?
Every year the kids and my husband and I go out and collect pine cones and kindling, decorate our own pomander balls, make gingerbread houses and other treats, and clip lots of beautiful leaves and branches from the trees in our yard to use in tabletop decorations. I have even been known to clip boughs from the ‘back’ of our Christmas tree to tuck into arrangements. I think getting the whole family involved is fun and rewarding, but also results in lovely decorating.

What about entertaining. What’s the one thing you do to get your home ready for guests?
I cannot imagine doing ‘one thing’ to get the home ready for guests, but I have found that if you stock the bar and serve everyone marlin dip they will not care one bit about anything else!

What’s your favorite local holiday tradition?
The kids write letters to Santa and we take them over to Saugatuck Sweets, where they have an express to Santa mailbox, and we get hot chocolates and egg creams.

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