Deck the Halls!

Mary Jo Gourd, owner and founder of MJG Interiors, offers fun, easy tips for tasteful and festive holiday décor.


As the nights grow longer and snow gently cascades onto the rolling hills and scenic valleys of Southern Vermont, homeowners from across the region are gearing up for the Holiday season with eager anticipation. Whether you find yourself in a beautiful modern home, a rustic farmhouse, a magnificent historic estate, or a gorgeous ski chalet, tasteful décor plays an incredibly important role in creating a harmonious atmosphere for your Holiday gatherings. 

For homeowners with limited decorating experience, attempting to deck the halls in a stylish manner might seem a tad intimidating. Fear not! Mary Jo Gourd, the knowledgeable owner and founder of the celebrated Manchester-based interior design firm, MJG Interiors, is here to help. She has graciously agreed to share some essential Holiday home décor tips with Stratton Magazine, which can serve as a fantastic foundational guide for novice decorators in need of rudimentary instruction. Grab some candles and pine boughs and get ready to have some good, old-fashioned fun. It’s time to spruce up your home for the Holidays!

Mary Jo Gourd’s Holiday Home Décor Tips: 

Balance and Cohesion

The underlying philosophy that guides Gourd’s approach to home design is rooted in balance and cohesion. According to Gourd, those all-encompass- ing aesthetic principles can be easily applied to homes of all kinds throughout the Holiday season. She notes that well-balanced color schemes and cohesive design don’t just improve the appearance of a home—they also improve the quality of life of its inhabitants, as well. “If you’re walking through a house and the rooms don’t tie together in terms of color or design, it feels very disjointed. If you’re feeling like your house is not well put-together, it doesn’t set you up to have a good day. Conversely, if your house is well-balanced in terms of color and design, it’s going to bring a sense of positivity and order to your life. This is especially important during the Holiday season, when everything is happening so fast.”

In order to maintain a sense of order and color cohesion throughout your home, Gourd recommends sticking to a simple, unified color scheme throughout its rooms. Historic, New England-style homes are usually well-suited to traditional holiday colors, such as red, white, and green. These colors are also present in many enduring holiday accessories, such as embroidered pillows and decorative ornaments, which are nicely complemented by the natural colors present in holly, roping, and juniper berries. For homeowners who are celebrating Hanukkah, a traditional color scheme of blue, white and silver can also be incorporated throughout the home in a cohesive, attractive fashion using decorative pillows, fabrics, and ornamental accessories.

For modern homes, Gourd recommends sticking to the basics and accessorizing surfaces and mantelpieces with white candles and fresh greenery. This combination will create a stylish ambience without clutter or excessive ornamentation. For additional rustic flavor, pinecones can be strategically placed around the roping. “There are several nurseries throughout the region that sell roping, pinecones, and decorative greenery, including Equinox Valley Nursery south of Manchester on Main Street. Aubuchon Hardware also sells decorative greenery, as well. Every year during the Holiday season, a woman comes to Aubuchon Hardware in Manchester and makes decorative centerpieces and wreaths with fresh greens for their customers. It’s a good— and often overlooked—option for homeowners who are doing some last-minute preparations.”

Setting the Mood with Seasonal Wallpaper

Since the Holiday season is relatively short, Gourd does not recommend permanently replacing wallpaper to create a festive backdrop. However, she says that homeowners interested in taking their Holiday home décor in a unique and adventurous direction should consider using peel-and-stick wallpaper. A vast assortment of Holiday-themed peel-and-stick wallpapers, decals, and murals can be found on internet marketplaces such as Murals Your Way, and specialty web platforms such as Tempaper and Limitless Walls. The wallpapers, murals, and decals are self-adhesive, reusable, and easy to apply, allowing homeowners to accessorize their walls without the hassle of permanent wallpaper installation. “You could potentially create the silhouette of a Christmas tree or menorah, or create a wintry woods scene on your wall, among other things,” says Gourd. “It’s not expensive, and the wallpapers can be extensively customized. You can even order peel-and-stick silhouette wallpapers with pictures of friends or family. It might sound a little offbeat, but a lot of people like to use those types of designs to set the mood for lighthearted family gatherings and reunions.”

Tables and Centerpieces

Although every home is different and must be furnished in a manner that reflects its distinctive qualities, Gourd believes that certain types of wood possess visual qualities that are undeniably appealing— especially during the Holiday season. “One of my favorite woods to use is walnut,” says Gourd. “It has a nice, dark, warm, rich tone to it. Dining tables, side tables, and coffee tables made out of walnut are absolutely gorgeous year- round, but they can also definitely elevate the Holiday feel.”

For those who wish to enhance their tables with decorative centerpieces, Gourd says that it’s safe to stick to the following basic rules: “If a table is round, it’s best to use a round centerpiece that matches its shape. If a table is rectangular, I would use a runner that goes from one end of the table to the other.” For an additional farmhouse-chic touch, place burlap or linens on top of the runner and accentuate it with pinecones, natural greens, and candles.

Rustic Accents

Owners of modern farmhouse-style homes or historic homes can enhance the countrified ambience of their interior spaces during the Holiday season by making inventive use of antique winter sports accessories, such as wooden skis, sleds, and snowshoes. They can be hung on the walls or from the ceilings in a decorative manner, and they can also be used to bring new dimension and value to various furniture pieces throughout the home. Gourd elaborates: “It’s really fun to use a sled as a table and decorate on top of it. For instance, if you have a console table behind a sofa, and you have a wooden sled that is about the length and width of the table—or perhaps a bit smaller—you could put it on top of the table and decorate it with fake gift boxes, greenery, and candy. Even if you don’t have a console table to put the sled on, you can lean it against the wall and scatter gift boxes around it with greenery or pinecones. You can also do it with a pair of skis or snowshoes. The possibilities are nearly endless.” 

About MJG Interiors 

MJG Interiors provides world-class residential interior design services in Vermont, Connecticut, New York, and the greater New England and Mid-Atlantic regions. Over the past several decades, MJG Interiors’ Founder, Mary Jo Gourd, has built a sterling reputation for herself as a versatile and skilled designer who is comfortable in a wide range of aesthetic niches. Her talent for creating well-balanced spaces earned her the respect and trust of numerous loyal clients, and her portfolio includes fabulously-decorated spaces throughout Southern Vermont, New England, and parts beyond. As the reach of her business continued to grow, Gourd opened an additional branch in Fairfield, Connecticut to better serve the Tri-State region. 

Regardless of whether a project involves a singular design element, such as window treatments, fabrics, or wallpaper, or furnishing an entire house from top to bottom, Gourd and her associates assist their clients at every stage of the process. Services include design, décor, lighting, bedding, and furniture selection, bespoke window treatments, kitchen and bathroom design, including tiling and fixtures, remodeling, and project management—all of which can be combined together into their signature full-service interior design service. 

In the initial phase of consultation for full-service interior design projects, a designer from MJG’s team speaks openly with clients about their needs for the spaces. Once rapport is established, the designer is able to learn more about any lifestyle considerations and physical requirements that need to be taken into account, as well as budgetary concerns and personal stylistic inclinations. Clients are encouraged to compile images that perfectly capture the vision that they have for the spaces and submit them to the designer. The designer will then work with the clients on a collaborative basis to develop a plan for the project, mapping out specifics as they determine its scope. 

Towards the end of the initial consultation phase, the designer extensively reviews the specifications of the site and the spaces, taking photographs and precise measurements of the spaces’ dimensions. After the specifications are compiled, the schematic design stage commences, where one or two design proposals are developed and submitted to the clients for review and approval. Clients are then given the opportunity to decide whether or not the design evokes a positive emotional response, which aids in their subsequent discussions with the designer. 

Once the scope, focus, and plan for the project is fully established and agreed upon, the enjoyable part of the process can truly begin. During the design development stage, MJG’s design team searches for materials, furnishings, finishes, fabrics, flooring, and design elements that bring the project to life, creating a color palette and aesthetic that beautifully embodies their clients’ conceptualizations. Throughout the development process, MJG’s designers are able to utilize their industry connections to source highly sought-after products for their clients that bring new levels of elegance and cohesion to the spaces. Once the process of design development and product selection is complete, MJG’s design staff partner with skilled tradespeople to finish any necessary renovation work, then decorate and furnish the spaces. When everything is all said and done, the spaces are ready for the clients to enjoy. According to Gourd, her favorite thing about working with her clients is seeing how the redesigned interior spaces bring new levels of stability, bliss, and fulfillment to their lives. “The best part about my job is the knowledge that I can affect somebody’s life—both inside and outside of their home—by giving them a home that is peaceful, beautiful, and full of joy,” says Gourd. “It’s a feeling unlike any other.”