We know, we know – this home tour is not as neutral as you might have expected from us, but come on, how fun is this?! Joni Lay, of one of our favorite, colorful kids design sites, Lay Baby Lay, has decked her halls with everything merry and bright. Her pink (pink!!) tree and DIY village remind us of the wonder and excitement that the holiday season is all about. We sat down with Joni to get the inside scoop on how to pull off such a vibrant color scheme, how her kids influence her design style, and what decorating traditions her family cannot live without.
Tell us about your holiday decorating process, when do you like to get started?
I usually start decorating the weekend after Thanksgiving – I’m always excited to begin! I don’t really have a great process. With three littles, I just kind of do what I can. Usually, I put most things up the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and then when they go back to school the following week, I tweak and add and get it the way I like it – it’s hard to get it just right with lots of little, helping hands around!
We know how expensive festive decor can get. How do you budget when it comes to decorating seasonally?
I try to build onto what I already have rather than go in a completely new direction. I love bright, happy colors and a vintage feel, so as long as I stay consistent with that look, I can buy one or two new items that I really love each year rather than overhaul everything each season. I love the nostalgia that comes with having pieces you pull out every year!
I’ve also been adding on one new project a year; last year, we made a little Christmas village (from Studio DIY’s idea!), and this year I made an advent calendar (like A Beautiful Mess’ stocking advent calendar) that I plan to keep using. It’s fun to come up with one new thing to make with the girls each year that we can treasure in seasons to come.
We are obsessed with your bright colors! Where do you shop for holiday decor?
I love Target! Their items are inexpensive and aren’t too “precious” (i.e. breakable!), and they always have really fun collections every year. Every now and then, I will splurge on something I really love from Anthropologie, like the snowball garland I have on the mantel – I bought that one last year.
Do you have any holiday traditions that are special to you and your family?
We always go see the holiday lights at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens the Sunday before Thanksgiving. It’s become a special tradition the girls really look forward to, and it’s a fun way to kick off the season. We also pick a couple of nights to watch a Christmas movie by the tree. The girls pull out sleeping bags, I make some treats and hot chocolate, and Chip sets up the screen and projector for a fun movie experience.
What was your childhood home decorated like at the holidays, compared to your own as an adult? Did you take any influence from your childhood when putting your own together?
Our holiday decor was usually pretty traditional, with lots of greenery and red bows. My mom never had a cohesive look for the tree, which I loved! It was filled with handmade ornaments and a collection of ones my grandmother gave us over the years, and it had colored lights when I was a child. I’ve started gravitating more towards the colored lights and love putting them on the trees and garlands around the house. They have such a warm, cozy glow and remind me of my childhood Christmases!
My grandmother had more of a whimsical Christmas decor. She had more pastels and glitter, and I really love that vintage, twinkly look which is definitely present in our home at the holidays!
How has decorating for the holidays evolved over the years for you? Did introducing kids change your style at all?
I’ve always been a “live tree” girl – I love the smell of a live tree and the experience of cutting one down, but over the past few years I have been happy with my pink faux tree. We always travel at Christmas and leave town a week before the big day, so it makes it hard to get a real tree because then we have to decide if we want to take it down before Christmas or come back a week after Christmas to a sad, dead tree.
I’ve been enjoying the simplicity of putting up the fake tree, and the girls love the pink color, plus we get to experience a live tree at the grandparents’ houses. I’ve also added a white faux tree to the mix, and I add enough greenery around the house to have a little of both. I also used to put more ornaments on the tree, but now, it’s mostly my favorite papier-mâché ball ornaments (that won’t break) and handmade ornaments by the girls.
How do you keep your decor festive but also kid-friendly? Do you have any tips for moms with little ones who are prone to putting everything in their mouths (ornaments included)?
It’s so challenging! I have stopped putting breakable ornaments out of any kind, I just feel like it’s not even worth the stress and worry. Maybe one day we will put those collectible, older ornaments up, but for now, I really love putting up the sweet, handmade ones the girls made with some colorful ball ornaments that won’t break.
I do usually put a good collection of ornaments towards the bottom of the tree that the girls can play with and some on the coffee table on a tray. They love the little animal ones from Target, so I have quite a few of those and let them enjoy playing with them as they wish. I keep anything fragile out of reach. For the most part, I just plan to use decor that really can’t be broken. I also love using gift wrapping for decor; I have a large bowl on the coffee table filled with bows and ribbons that can’t be damaged but still look really pretty and festive.
I think a win is finding some non-breakable, safe ornaments (maybe skip the hooks, and just hang them with small loops of string?) that are okay for kids to touch and play with and keeping any breakable decor out of reach is the best way to make it low-stress. It’s really just not worth it to fight the littles over the decorations, and at the end of the day, you want them to enjoy it, too!
Have you slowly been collecting your holiday decor over the years, or did you purchase it all at once?
It’s been a process! It can be so expensive to buy everything at once, so I just add a little and edit what we have every year. As a child, I loved unboxing the same sweet ornaments and decorations every year; you can’t help but think about favorite Christmas memories, so there is something really sweet to re-using decor and building upon it.
Do you have a favorite ornament on your wonderfully colorful tree?
My favorite ornaments are the ones the girls made in preschool, with their photos on them! So sweet! I also have all the ornaments my grandmother gave me every year growing up. I put a few on the tree that aren’t too fragile, but those are some of the most precious ones to me!
What’s your favorite piece of holiday decor that you own?
The girls and I made a Christmas village last year, and I adore how it came together. I can see it being something I put out every year, with special memories of making it together.
Overall, what’s your favorite thing about celebrating in your home?
I love the focus on being together. Something about the trees and the twinkly lights makes you want to pause and spend time around the tree. It’s an invitation to slow down and enjoy being together; most of the activities in our advent calendar involve doing something together in front of the tree, and I love making memories there! With Christmas music playing in the background, of course!
What does your Christmas morning with the kids look like?
We usually travel at Christmas to see grandparents, but we set aside Christmas Eve and Christmas morning to be just us, which I love. We celebrate at our farmhouse because it’s in between our families, and we have giant sliding doors that open into the family room. I love making the girls wait anxiously behind the doors while I “get the camera set up” before we open them. I remember my dad doing that when we were little; the anticipation was so fun, and I love making them wait a little for all the surprises! We usually cook a fun breakfast with pigs in a blanket and pancakes after opening gifts and lounge around all morning in our pajamas before we have to see anyone again!
How do you get the whole family involved in sprucing up your home for the holidays? Do you have any decorating traditions?
It’s honestly still a little bit crazy. My oldest is 8, and they love playing with the decorations and often have their own ideas about things. I have to take a lot of deep breaths and let them have a little creative control. I’m sure as the girls get bigger, this tradition will become a little less crazy.
This year, the girls strung up a garland from the tree to the curtains and hung coat hangers on it from their closet. I took them down, because I have to draw the line somewhere, ha! I do let them hang most of the ornaments however they would like, though, and they are constantly moving around the bottle brush trees and my little light up trees.
What’s the best part about being a parent during the holidays?
Definitely the excitement! Also, the reminder that things don’t have to be over the top. Sometimes I’m surprised at how excited my girls get over the smallest thing. I often think it has to be a big deal, but a small piece of chocolate in their advent calendar or simply making hot chocolate and snuggling by the tree is the best thing in the world to them.
The important thing is being together, and I love that they force me to remember that; it’s not about the doing and the decorating and all the events, but enjoying the season as a family and treasuring this time when our girls are little.
Joni Lay is the Everymom…
Hot chocolate or hot cider? Hot cider.
Favorite Christmas song? Okay, this is silly, but I love the Statler Brothers Christmas album, an old country band. My dad listened to them when I was little, so it’s forever steeped in nostalgia and is the sound of Christmas to me.
Favorite Christmas movie? Love Actually.
The best gift you’ve ever given? One year, we put together a short film about my grandmother – my sister and I interviewed our family members at Thanksgiving, found old photos, and Chip helped me edit it. My grandmother ended up unexpectedly getting very sick, and she passed away the day after Christmas, but it was such a special gift to give all the family members a copy of the film on Christmas Day to celebrate her.
The great debate: when do you start listening to Christmas music? The day after Halloween, I’m committed!
Oddest thing you’ve seen on your kid’s Christmas list? Brigette wants a real, pet fox this year. She is insisting on it…not sure what I’m going to do!