A classic arrangement presented in sterling by floral designer Scott Hepper.

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Now that the Halloween candy is just a sweet memory (except for that stubborn zipper on your jeans) it’s time to get the house ready for the next holiday season. Whether you call in the pros or pull the boxes down from the attic, decorations always add holiday spirit.

    If it’s your turn to host the holiday dinner, remember that the meal, not the centerpiece, should be the focal point of your dining room table, advises Scott Hepper, floral designer and manager of Carriage House Florals in Frontenac. “I’m probably the only florist who feels this way,” Hepper says. “But the flowers are not the most important part of your holiday table. After all, the cook is there to show off her skills—the meal should be the focal point. Flowers are an accent piece—like your napkins. But they do add the final polish to the table.”

     If you’re hosting a sit-down dinner, the designer cautions, avoid an oversized centerpiece and consider using three smaller arrangements instead. “You just have to remove it to make room for the gravy boat, anyway,” Hepper says. “And don’t go out and buy containers—use your own stuff! Get out the silver and the family crystal.”

    If you want the outside of your house illuminated with holiday magic, but you’d prefer to leave the rooftop scampering to Santa, a professional lighting company can keep you grounded.

    “We do it all,” says Jeff Mitchell, president of Mitchell Lighting. “We’ll design your holiday display, supply the lights and decorations, and provide professional installation and removal after the holiday. We even store everything for you until next year.” It’s a stress-free experience for the homeowner, Mitchell says, because not only does the company do all the installation, they also warranty their work against weather and mechanical failure.

    Holiday decorations have more impact if they are designed around a theme, advises Anne Smith, an interior designer for June Roesslein Interiors. “A theme gives you a foundation on which to build,” Smith says. “What expresses your taste? Do you want the look to be glamorous? Rustic? Religious? After you decide on a theme, then choose the colors you like, and you’re definitely not limited to red and green. Gold and white are beautiful for the holidays, and I have clients who do all of their holiday decorating in pastels—even pink.”

    Interior lighting schemes depend on what you want to emphasize, Smith says. “Use tiny white lights as a backdrop for other decorations and save the big colored bulbs for display on their own. And don’t forget about light fixtures!” she adds. “Even if your dining room or foyer chandelier is simply beautiful, it can still be dressed up for the holidays.”

    Most important, emphasizes Smith, is remembering that holiday decorations are temporary and do not have to match your permanent decor. “Don’t get hung up on having everything coordinated,” she advises. “It’s the holidays—you don’t want to blend in.”