The Elements of an Amazing Holiday Design: Holiday Design Trends of 2016

handmade christmas heart shaped decorations outdoor in snowy gardenThere is an art to Holiday design that extends beyond the traditional green, red, and white color palette and a string of warm white accent lights around a building’s entryway. There’s nothing wrong with this approach, in fact there is a timeless beauty to these features that is essential to the holiday tradition and will forever be in vogue.

However, beyond the traditional displays of every-year, there are designers and designs that are pushing the boundaries of holiday magic to places never before reached by taking the elements of tradition and infusing them with new imagination, creating designs that are captivatingly new and bursting with Holiday spirit.

The art of Holiday decor requires a deep understanding of traditional design, along with an eagerness to break the rules and push the bounds of design. In order to create the stunning Holiday displays that we see popping up all over the country in shopping centers, town squares, government buildings, and the like during this time of year, much larger creative capacities are needed. Ambius Designers have their fingers on the pulse of the Holiday trends and play off each other’s inspirations.

Just like any form of art, Holiday décor begins with the designs that have worked and adds to it by harnessing the inspirations and excitement that surround the Holidays. This is why the Holidays in particular seem to lend us some of the most brilliant displays of the year. Just like last year and the years before, the design elements of 2016-17 continue to change and evolve with the times.

Here’s our list of the top design elements and themes that you will see this Holiday season whether you’re out walking the wintery landscapes or shopping at your local mall.


Organically Festive / Fronds & Foliage

The theme of going green and sustainably-sourced materials has been a best practice for many businesses in recent years, and the trend has only been gaining in momentum. However, this trend has never translated over to Holiday design – until now.

“This is the organic theme all grown up and matured,” says Ambius designer, Laura Burns-Lambert. “The design concept of Biophilia has become increasingly recognized in the design and management fields and we’re seeing that the trend rolled over into Holiday décor. In this design, the days of extra ribbon and extravagant bows are no more.”

As the name suggests, the Organically Festive/Fronds & Foliage design is inspired by nature and the natural world. The design is a refreshing take on traditional holiday décor highlighted by its use of trees, wreaths, and garland but with an abundance of sustainable succulents. Popular succulents such as Echeveria, Sedum, Aeonium, and Dudleya come in a wide spectrum of colors and add shape, shade, size and texture to each design. They also contribute to making each design unique as each plant itself is different.

In addition to succulents and natural features, the design is accented with fruits, nuts, woods or pinecones for color and festivity.

The design was created to bring you back to the forest and hillsides, the coasts and mountains of which we’re all so familiar. This is the optimal design for those who are continually searching for new and exciting ways of integrating their businesses with nature. The Organically Festive approach is the perfect Holiday compliment to one of businesses hottest sustainability trends.


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Nordic & Scandinavian

The Nordic & Scandinavian Holiday design trend brings together several essential design features that are incorporated throughout many of this year’s top design trends. Rustic and natural themes are brought into perfect harmony with modern minimalist simplicity for a look that is both simple and functional, and a combination of modern and rustic design elements.

“There’s nothing overtly glaring, flashy, or flamboyant about this design, rather, it’s a breath of fresh air and a feeling of peace and quiet,” says Burns-Lambert.  “It’s part of the ‘Live Simply’ design theory that is very popular right now in interiors, and one of the ideology’s biggest components is using less to say more which is a fundamental aspect of this design.”

According to Burns-Lambert, the Nordic & Scandinavian design can be characterized by the use of larger pieces with simple stylistic features like fibers and wood grains, woven textures such as baskets, simple base colors such as black and whites, and a touch of color to set off the design like a crisp red or blue.

Additional accent items such as wreaths made of branches with touches of greenery and yarn or burlap bows to tie it together are commonly used. You may also find touches of tradition within this design such as galvanized metal or wooden stars, birch branches, and a touch of pine garland.

Expect to see this popular Holiday design early and often this season, as it is part of a larger and more established design trend that is already being adopted by many businesses. The Nordic & Scandinavian design is a logical next step for businesses who have already adopted the Simple Modern Rustic design that has become a mainstay in businesses across North America.

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Smoke & Mirrors

The Smoke & Mirrors design is an evolution from last year’s popular “Winter Lights” design. Both designs use metallic as their primary color foundation, but where they diverge is their use of secondary colors and accent materials. The Smoke and Mirrors design is highlighted by Mercury glass, white crystals, silvers and pewters to make for a brilliant and shimmering holiday display.

Although this design is heavily dependent on metallics, it’s the secondary color choice that really sets the entirety of the design in motion. This secondary color is Benjamin Moore’s 2017 color of the year, “Shadow.” This deep and rich color is similar to black, but has the ability to ebb and flow with the surrounding colors and works with light so well that it’s said that “light brings it to life,” as the creative director of Benjamin Moore described.

“When these colors are paired something magic happens,” explains Burns-Lambert of the design. “The glitter and twinkle of lights, crystals, and metals create depth, and the dark ‘Shadow’ background makes the perfect backdrop for a holiday design that practically glows in luminescent brilliance.”

This design is truly groundbreaking in terms of color selection. The classic holiday design pieces such as pinecones, metallic ornaments, and stars are present in this design, but the greens and reds have been replaced by white black smoke and accented with silver tinsels for a one-of-a-kind holiday display. Although the design remains true holiday tradition, this is one of the first designs to utilize black and white as its primary color palette. In this regard, it’s an entirely new and original form of Holiday décor that will be making its introduction this holiday season.

Christmas fir with white decoration

mock up poster frames in hipster interior background

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Golden Frost

Like a snowy landscape illuminated by the first rays of the morning sun, the Golden Frost theme is a theme of holiday optimism and joy.  The design is highlighted by its use of traditional holiday elements such as snow, frost, and icicles and tied together with rays of golden sunshine.

“This is a versatile design that has thematic elements that will always be in demand for holiday décor,” says Burns-Lambert. “There’s something about the sparkle of crisp snow and the warmth of gold that work so well together, and by adding wooden elements this design takes on a whole new level of sophistication and elegance.”

The design as a whole leans heavily on natural and rustic elements such as trees, leaves, branches, and wood that has been covered or coated in glitter and shine.

Additional key features of the Golden Frost design are the green or flocked trees, icy branches, gold wrapped packages, white lights, and as much gold as possible in the form of gold-wrapped packages for under the tree, gold tinsel, golden containers and ornamentation, and a dash of velvet for good measure.Golden Frost 3

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Paper & Scissors

In today’s world there is a premium on creativity, DIY, and finding new ways of doing ordinary things. The Paper and Scissors theme is the perfect design of the times in this regard because it perfectly encapsulates all of these values. Designers are reimagining traditional holiday materials and iconography such as the paper snowflakes and origami doves and creating entirely new holiday designscapes that lean more towards art exhibition aesthetics than simple holiday design theme.

The Paper and Scissors design features ornamentation, snow fixtures, and garland, but is only loosely tied to traditional holiday themes. The design’s primary goal is to push the boundaries of design through direct inspiration.

One of the core elements of this design is its use of color. Paper and Scissors tossed out the book on traditional Holiday color palettes and started anew. Any color can be incorporated into this design so long as it works to enhance the whole design. This isn’t color for color’s sake, but rather an exercise in color theory.

“We rarely use paper to write on anymore and newspapers are few and far between, as are printed books,” explains Burns-Lambert on the topic. “The beauty of paper shines as it’s folded, cut up, and strung from wire or thread. It adds entirely new layers and dimensions to holiday designs that have hardly been used before, and in the case of this design, paper takes center stage and shines.”

Although this isn’t the first design to use paper elements to create lavish holiday designs, it’s one of the first to make paper the focal point of the overall look. “Any color or design theme can be enhanced with paper,” added Burns-Lambert. “You just need to know how and when to use it.”

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Learn about the Benefits of Holiday Decorations for Your Business


Want to see more Holiday décor designs? View our 2016 Holiday Décor Idea Book!


*This article was written in collaboration with Ambius designer, Laura Burns-Lambert

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