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If you caught the 2020 “crafting phenom” train, you’ve already started thinking about crafting the décor that will make your kitchen ooky-spooky, top turkey, and fit for Santa. But it’s not as easy as walking into your local craft store and just throwing stuff in your cart; this is not Supermarket Sweep. Decorating your kitchen for fun and functionality requires forethought and planning.
Admission of guilt: despite growing up with a Mom who could rival Martha Stewart in decorating prowess (and even decorated hallway mirrors for the holidays, until recently, my own holiday decorating activity—if it can be called that—was appropriately kept a secret, and certainly was never purposely featured on Instagram. My kitchen didn’t even have matching hand towels (and that actually is my mom’s fault).
And I don’t think I’m alone. Scratch that. I know I’m not alone.
Figuring out how to adopt seasonal themes and make them work in a kitchen is not like picking out a Christmas throw blanket for the couch. There are rules, and although Martha (and my mom) always said that rules were meant to be broken, here’s a few I’ve learned about holiday decorating for the kitchen that you really can’t ignore.
After years of struggling to learn the “ways of my mom,” I finally struck gold when I realized that, as the biggest visual in the kitchen, my kitchen cabinets could guide the process of decorating by giving me a color to complement. Halloween and Fall months, for example, are rife with oranges, greens, purples, golds, browns, and reds. In my last place, my kitchen cabinets were a deep blue, so I complemented their central look with orange pumpkins and pinecones for the entire fall season. For Halloween, I gave a few pumpkins and pinecones removable googly eyes and tiny witch hats I bought at a dollar store. I changed the kitchen from Fall to Halloween in under three minutes and three dollars, and the cute look stood out against the deep blue of the cabinets, adding a spooky feel for Halloween, and a pleasantly chilly feel for the rest of Fall.
Pro-tip: Cut out pictures from magazines—I know, it’s so 1995—or take pictures of things you want to buy ahead of time and set them up through your kitchen to visualize the look before you commit to it.
Two apartments with cheap cabinets ago, I “cheated” on holiday decorating in the kitchen by purchasing those gummy window shapes and a few paper window decorations. After slapping the gummy shapes to some of the kitchen cabinets and taping the paper decorations to the remaining ones, I called it a win. About five weeks later, I learned a very painful and valuable lesson. The gummy clings left behind an oily shadow on the surface of my kitchen cabinets that never did come out. And the tape? Well, it didn’t leave anything behind, including the surface of the kitchen cabinets.
Pro-tip: Never attach anything to your kitchen cabinets…except permanent hardware.
In most kitchens, the space above the kitchen cabinets languishes throughout most of the year, devoid of anything other than dust. I add a lighted garland above my kitchen cabinets to bring interest to the space and to highlight my cabinets.
Pro-tip: If you’re going for garland, choose fabric garlands over plastic ones, which have the potential to scratch the surface of your cabinets, leaving behind reminders of your decorating long after the holidays are over.
Decorating the kitchen for the holidays is a tricky endeavor because the idea is to add to the joy of the season, not to a list of things you need to repair. Hard materials, like beaded or glass pumpkins, plastic garlands (see above), wooden gourds, etc. are great décor for hard countertops. The caveat is that you don’t want those things near your cabinets. That beaded pumpkin you fell head over heels for at Target is just waiting to scratch the surface of your kitchen cabinets, leaving you with a feeling much departed from holiday joy. If you’re decorating around your cabinets, stick with soft pillowy décor, real or foam pumpkins and gourds, and other softer materials that aren’t likely to cause damage on contact with your kitchen cabinets.
Pro-tip: Keep décor away from the kitchen sink, food prep surfaces and other “wet” areas of the kitchen to avoid décor damage, stains (yes, décor can “leak” paint and colors), and other holiday mishaps.
At the end of each season, my mom’s decorations would magically disappear without a trace—no dot of glitter left behind—and just as quickly be replaced by the next season’s fascinators. While my displays are much simpler, knowing the rules certainly makes it easy to keep up, keep the kitchen and cabinets intact, and keep going. Who knows, maybe someday I’ll have 12 pumpkins instead of six.