Tastemaker Lauren Ashley Allan rarely stands still. And when it comes to holiday décor, she prides herself on the power of evolution—especially as her two young children become more involved in decorating the tree and creating a new generation of memories.
“Elements are always evolving because I get curious about an idea and have to try it out,” explains Allan, who recently celebrated the two-year anniversary of her eponymous firm, Lauren Ashley Allan Interior Design and Architecture Studio, which serves clients throughout the Chicago area, including the North Shore. “Now that our children, Cleo and Van, are 5 and 3, our daughter is old enough to appreciate ornaments that have been handed down through the generations and gravitates towards those. She wants to know the story behind each and every ornament.”
While Allan has built a national reputation on a fearless design aesthetic that is as modern as it is timeless, her holiday style is rooted in tradition and family.
“It’s all about having things in your home that you love, that lift you up, and make you feel good. Décor should be elevated, yet warm—with nothing that is too precious,” says Allan, whose design pedigree includes working as a Senior Designer for Kelly Wearstler and Creative Director for Nate Berkus. “I like to blend lots of textures with vintage or heirloom ornaments that stand the test of time and spark joy,”
Her growing design studio is constantly embracing the latest technology, incorporating virtual design to create immersive spaces rooted in history. Drawing influences from vintage books and magazines from France and Italy, Allan’s signature take on modern glam is all about bringing in unexpected elements and accents you can’t find anywhere else—especially during the holidays.
“A party is always in season. Come up with a concept such as mixed metals, be bold, and have fun!” she says. “Set up a home bar that guests will flock to. It should look festive and appetizing.”
Allan says holiday entertaining is also the perfect opportunity to put your own signature touch on décor. Rather than rushing out to buy new serving plates or bowls, open the china cabinet to see what’s already there that can be repurposed in a new way.
“Conversation pieces make the bar more interesting,” she explains. “Introduce a select amount of glassware, leaving most out of site behind the bar, with only the frequently used and beautiful decanters up front. Bring in a beautiful tray to give height to different things or a raised tray as a platform for small plates and more accents. Plus, you can slide things under it for extra space.”
Allan also likes to keep a “dialogue with the outdoors,” bringing in fall and winter leaves and branches to add color and height to the bar. Even the smallest details like pretty, well-chosen bartender’s accessories can set the tone for a party that guests will be talking about into next year.
“Scale is important and if everything is big, nothing will shine on its own,” she adds. “When you’re setting up, think about the flow of the guests. Arrange things so they can come, get their drink, their olive, a napkin, a straw—it should be seamless.”
But her best tip of all is to relax and focus on what the season is all about—making memories with family and loved ones.
“The holidays to us are about giving back as much as possible,” she says. “I hope it reminds us all that the best gifts come from a place of love.”
Follow Lauren Ashley Allan on Instagram at @lauren.ashley.allan.
“The heirloom tree is an ode to my Greek grandmother Nene, who only did trees this way. In lieu of color, decorate with all winter whites—warm white lights, head to toe white garland or flowers,” says local designer Lauren Ashley Allan. “Inspired by centuries-old artistry found throughout Europe, add block-printed or hand embroidered ornaments. Layers and layers of heirloom pieces to make the details of the tree come together as one.”
Charlie Brown Tree
Allan says it’s easier than you think to reinvent this famous Christmas tree and add it to your holiday décor. “It can be a holly tree that is reminiscent of the holiday classic with Charlie Brown,” she explains, adding: “It’s OK to have more than one tree and they can each be decorated differently with a different concept based on the room it is in, or different size—such as a table tree.” If you have kids or grandkids, one tree can be just for them, adorned with all custom-made ornaments. Another fun holiday tradition is making pasta garland and velvet beaded ornaments together.
Lush Fruit Tree
Using beaded and velvet luscious fruit ornaments, embrace jewel tones and rich colors of pink and amethyst. Layer in two sizes of warm all-white lights. Include red flowers or smaller red velvet bows throughout the tree for an added touch of warmth to the space. Try a down-to-earth linen tree skirt for a more laid back and approachable feel and top it with an unlacquered brass star.
Black & White Striped Tree
Allan likes to use holiday classic ball ornaments in a black and white striped pattern (varying scales of stripe thickness). “It’s so much fun to give your tree a concept and go all in with it—be bold and have fun!” she says. “Then you can even match your table décor to your tree, depending on the room the tree is in.”
Monochromatic Metallic Tree
For a luxe look all its own, go for the gold, or silver! “Try a fun glam tree that is dripping with faceted mirrored balls or metallic ornaments,” suggests Allan. “Add brass and mixed metal tone accents throughout the tree in different sizes and scales to give the tree depth and an artfully elevated feel.”