The holiday season is in full swing, so many of us are getting our homes ready to host loved ones. This issue of Good to Be Home is here to help you make your home cozy for the season ahead with a look at how holiday decorations can lead to increased happiness, great modular furniture options for your spaces, tips for creating warm and welcoming rooms, and two tasty recipes perfect for the holidays.
From mantel decorations to ornate trees to twinkling exterior lights, festive holiday decor not only looks good but also can go a long way to improve your mental health. Be sure to read the article on the correlation between holiday decorations and increased happiness.
Buying furniture for your home can be a challenge, especially since it can come at a high cost. One way to ensure that your furniture can adapt with you and your ever-evolving spaces is to invest in modular pieces. These designs can be added to and moved around, and this issue offers a few different examples to consider for your home.
The winter season often brings cooler weather and longer nights, something that many of us try to combat by raising the temperature inside. But there are many other ways to help keep your home warm and cozy. Inside you’ll find five different home products that are perfect for this time of year.
December is a popular time for baking sweet treats for you and your loved ones. Baked good are the perfect addition to any holiday party, so be sure to check out the delicious takes on classic desserts.
Here’s to a wonderful holiday season spent with family and friends! As always, it’s a pleasure to send you this magazine.
Picture the holidays, and certain images may come to mind: green garland above a hearth, red baubles on a tree, a row of lit candles, and presents wrapped in glimmering paper. These images aren’t just comforting; they may show a surprising link between holiday decorating and happiness.
According to psychologist Deborah Serani, the bright colors, twinkling lights, and other seasonal fixtures of the holiday season can improve your mood. “It does create that neurological shift that can produce happiness,” she told Today. “I think anything that takes us out of our normal habituation, the normal day in, day out . . . signals our senses, and then our senses measure if it’s pleasing or not.” Serani then confirms, “Christmas decorating will spike dopamine, a feel-good hormone.”
In other words, festive surroundings add variety and intrigue to your daily life, which can help you detach from the stressors like work responsibilities that may make you unhappy. Of course, Christmas decor isn’t the only decor that makes people happier. Whatever you celebrate, do so with gusto and be as festive as you’d like; it just might make the holidays a happier season. Or follow Serani’s advice year-round and decorate for holidays throughout the year, from Valentine’s Day to Thanksgiving.
The effect is even true for those who tend to suffer from seasonal affective disorder, or negative mood changes associated with colder, shorter days. In fact, the National Institutes of Health states that activities like decorating your home for the holidays may “help individuals identify and schedule pleasant, engaging indoor or outdoor activities to combat the loss of interest they typically experience in the winter.”
What about those who associate the holidays with stress like high shopping expenses or family conflict? Find your own way to decorate—or even your own holiday to celebrate. There are many ways to be festive, and your home doesn’t have to look the way people expect it to. For example, adorn your door with whatever makes you happy, even if it’s not a classic Christmas wreath. Taking control over your decorating tasks and personalizing them to your wishes will make the festivities more satisfying.
Taking holiday decorating too seriously is a surefire way to increase stress or unhappiness. Try to regulate where you find your decorating inspiration. While decorating outlets and social media images may be solid sources of ideas, they can also become sources of stress or self-doubt if you take them at face value.
Did you know that some of the photos you see on social media are often the work of expensive design teams? In addition, images you see in blogs and magazines may be the result of filters or other photo effects that create a look that isn’t possible in person; such tools enrich color contrasts and edit out clutter like tape and hooks to piece together the perfect image.
So try to resist the temptation to “compete” with family members, friends, or images on social media—much less celebrity homes and professional design teams. Instead, decorate to your own standards. Try not to focus so much on what’s in style and more on what makes you happy. Your own happy design activities may be very mild, like setting up a simple tree or putting out some plaid throw blankets.
To have the happiest season you can, remember what’s at the heart of holiday decorating: the opportunity to bond with loved ones. Even if you aren’t hosting company this holiday season, setting up holiday decor is an opportunity to get creative and enjoy shared activities with your family, like hanging garlands around your living room. That way, everyone can enjoy the mood-boosting benefits of decorating for the holidays.
Be sure to make everyone feel included, even your littlest ones; ask everyone how they want to decorate, and then let them satisfy their creative wishes. Children may have wild or silly ideas, like decorating with candy, but do your best to encourage them. If you aren’t crazy about company seeing their decor, don’t tell your children that their ideas aren’t “good enough”; just allow them to decorate their bedrooms—then shut the door when you have company. Everyone wins.
What if you live alone? Go wild, and decorate however you’d like! You don’t have to host anyone to validate your design choices. Not only is “holiday decorating” a term that you can define anyway you’d want, but the act of decorating may be the best part. Playing some fun music while you put up decor can be a wonderful way to spend an evening, and surrounding yourself with festive imagery every day can make you happier. This isn’t just the stuff of cheesy holiday movies; psychologists like Dr. Serani actually encourage it.
As kids, many of us played with toys that we could build, tear down, and rebuild in different ways the next time we grabbed them from our toy chests. With the same pile of bricks and blocks, we could follow the blueprints and build something just like the designers told us to, or we could create something straight out of our wildest imagination. There was a certain freedom in being able to mix and match and change our builds in unique ways while still using the same pieces.
What if we could bring this creativity that we once found in our toys into our homes through our furniture? One option that encompasses this is modular furniture, which is specifically designed to be changed, mixed around, and made to fit your ever-evolving spaces.
From a design perspective, modularity is a principle seen in architecture, interior design, and furniture. The principle revolves around individual pieces, otherwise known as modules, that are combined to make one larger structure, element, or piece. The modules can typically be combined in a variety of ways and are often more easily interchangeable than traditional designs. For example, a modular office is one with walls and desks that can be moved, removed, or generally adapted according to the current needs of the office space. It makes for a flexible space rather than a rigid one since it can be updated in many ways.
Modularity is a popular approach for furniture since buyers aren’t stuck with a piece with one design and purpose. Instead, modular furniture gives consumers the chance to update their pieces in different ways since they can buy additional modules or remove modules as needed. This concept can increase the longevity of your furniture because it allows your pieces to adapt and evolve with you and your housing situation. And now that more people than ever are working from home, there’s a higher demand for flexibility in home furnishings. So if you’re in the market for new furniture for your home, here are a few different pieces and companies to consider.
One way to create a flexible seating area is to invest in a modular sofa or couch. These pieces often consist of individual seats that can be placed together in multiple configurations. For example, companies like Joybird and Lovesac offer a variety of modular sofas that give you the chance to change around your space without replacing your couch entirely. You can essentially build your own sofa by purchasing individual modules and configuring them in a way that works for you and your home.
The beauty of these kinds of modular couches is in your ability to add to or take away pieces when you need to. For example, if you end up moving from a smaller apartment to a larger house, you can add another section to your couch to better fit your new space. You can also simply change the configuration of the couch when you’re looking to give your room a refresh without spending a lot.
One popular example of a flexible table is the standing desk. These desks can be raised and lowered to your needs and desires on any specific day, giving you the flexibility to encourage the most productivity.
It’s this kind of adaptability that more people are reaching for, so companies like Loose Parts have now created flexible coffee tables, shelves, and bookcases to adapt to your needs. Loose Parts describes its products as a system rather than individual pieces since consumers have the freedom to customize their furniture. It sells a product called the Assembly Kit, which includes various-length rails, shelves, and clothing rods that you can combine to create a personalized shelf, table, or combination of the two that fits with your own design interests and shelving needs. The company also offers individual furniture pieces that you can easily assemble, disassemble, and reassemble in a new way as your spaces change.
Overall, this reinvention of what furniture can be offers a more sustainable approach to the industry since you can add to an existing piece rather than buy an all-new shelf or table when the old one no longer suits your home.
Modular home accessories are a great way to organize and decorate your spaces while giving yourself the flexibility needed to change your style. There are a variety of ways to do this, including storage solutions and wall decorations. For storage, you can look for modular or stackable containers such as those at the Container Store. The company offers a variety of systems to help you stay organized, and you can easily change the configurations by adding new pieces to your system.
There are also more decorative modular options for your home like flexible art designs. Bend Goods sells a Modular Art Piece that consists of individual curved and straight wire segments that can be arranged in any number of ways. It offers a flexible design and various colors that can then be mixed and matched according to each person’s style.
Styles always change, and your furniture can too. When you take the time to research modular furniture and accessories, you’re allowing yourself to find interesting pieces that you can adapt according to your own evolving lifestyle and interior design style.
Whether you live in one of the northernmost regions of the country or a tropical, humid environment, the short days of winter can lend a noticeable chill to your home. And while cranking up the furnace may keep you warm, there are other ways to get cozy in the coldest time of year. Try these five products that can make your home warmer and more stylish this winter.
Window treatments don’t just keep hot sunlight out; some solutions can keep warm air in. The key is to improve your home’s R-value, or its resistance to heat transfer. Window treatments with a higher R-value can insulate your windows, keeping heated air indoors where it belongs.
Hang thick drapes over large windows to reduce heat transfer and add formal elegance to any room. Be sure to select drapes that extend from the ceiling to the floor. You can even find drapes with magnetic strips that create an insulating seal around your window frames.
Treatments include these cellular shades by blinds.com, which reduce heat transfer without blocking pleasant natural light. Window tint is another effective solution, insulating glass to improve your R-value and potentially eliminating the need for sunlight-blocking window treatments. Depending on your interior design style, you may prefer the contemporary look of uncovered, tinted windows.
Almost nothing is better than a warm blanket on a cold day. Embrace the trend of accessorizing your sofa or armchair with a throw blanket, and then put it to use when you’re ready to cuddle up. Decorative throws can also add cheerful color to any room, so the indoors won’t feel as dreary as the winter weather might.
Decorative throws by CB2 are as stylish as they are comfortable. Select a colorful, retro throw or a contemporary throw in a solid neutral color. To ensure your throw blanket adds compatible color to a room, look to your wall art and small accents in your furniture for color inspiration. As for compatible patterns, consider the shape motifs in your furniture and decor. The repeating straight lines in plaid make an excellent companion to curved or round furniture, while unique graphics can add much-needed variety to rooms full of solid colors.
For optimal warmth, select a throw blanket made from dense and insulating merino wool. You can even swap out your throws as the seasons change, opting for a thin and breathable cotton throw in a floral color when spring arrives.
Down-alternative duvets are incredibly warm and promote cozy winter rest. The experts at sleepfoundation.org named a down-alternative product as their “Best Overall” recommendation because it’s comfortable, warm without being oppressive, and 100 percent hypoallergenic.
Duvets are also more hygienic than comforters. While a comforter is essentially a thick blanket, a duvet consists of two parts, a cover and an insert—both of which are easy to wash. The best duvet inserts include this one by Saatva, which has comfortable and durable box quilting and is incredibly warm yet lightweight. All you’ll need is a compatible duvet cover in a neutral color or simple pattern to complete your bed design.
To no one’s surprise, a fire in the hearth can keep you warm in winter. This winter, upgrade your fireplace so it looks as comforting as it feels. Paint or wash stained brick, give a wooden mantel a clean coat of white paint, and place some heat-resistant seating a safe distance from the hearth. If you’ve been in the mood to rearrange or even redecorate your living room, consider designing around the fireplace this winter instead of the TV—or hang a TV above the fireplace for convenience and style in one.
What about homes that don’t include a fireplace? Consider a chiminea: a portable, front-loading fireplace. These stylish and statement-making pieces not only produce heat but also burn several types of fuel. However, because they release smoke, you’ll need to either connect yours to a smoke vent or simply place it outdoors. The latter is only recommended if you live in a mild winter climate; after all, they were invented many years ago in Mexico, where winters are relatively warm.
One of the most enjoyable ways to warm up is by sharing a home-cooked meal and some hot beverages. Are you equipped to entertain? Stock up on winter dishware like soup bowls, family-style serving platters, and trivets so you can set a hot dutch oven or pan right on the dinner table. Stylish dishware made from quality, heat-resistant materials like porcelain and earthenware can make comfort foods even more satisfying.
If you love hot tea or coffee in the wintertime, upgrade your beverage break with serving trays to hold a kettle, teacups or mugs, and even some finger-food pairings like cookies or scones. You can find beautiful printed or engraved trays on Etsy that are as useful as conversation pieces as they are practical for daily use.
With the right design elements, winter can be a comfortable season worth looking forward to. These recommendations perfectly balance practical home benefits with attractive presentation—for winter design at its finest.
The holiday season is a time to be spent with loved ones, creating memories that can last a lifetime. And while good bakes might not last longer than a few hours after you’ve made them, they’re sure to bring you and your loved ones closer together. Sarah Kieffer’s Baking for the Holidays is filled with the perfect recipes for your holiday gatherings, offering treats that are easy to make and delicious to eat.
With a buttery flavor and crumbly texture, these French shortbread cookies are made with minimal ingredients and can be easily customized to your liking.
This recipe brings together peanut butter and chocolate for a homemade version of a traditional treat.
Reprinted from Baking for the Holidays: 50+ Treats for a Festive Season by Sarah Kieffer with permission from Chronicle Books, 2021. Photographs © Sarah Kieffer.
recipe by sarah kieffer
photos by sarah kieffer
I always include various kinds of sablés in my holiday gift-giving boxes—they are simple to make, and a variety of flavors can be added to the basic dough. They really are the perfect slice-and-bake treat. Use European-style butter instead of the unsalted to make these extra buttery.
Makes about 30 cookies
Add 2 tsp. of grated citrus zest (lemon, lime, orange, or grapefruit) to the dough along with the salt. Add 1 tbsp. of poppy seeds along with the flour, if desired.
Rosemary Chocolate Chip
Add ½ c. of mini chocolate chips (or finely chopped chocolate) and 2 tsp. of minced rosemary to the dough after incorporating the flour, mixing gently to combine.
Add ⅓ c. of chopped pistachios to the dough after incorporating the flour, mixing gently to combine.
Cacao Nib and Caramelized White Chocolate
Add ½ c. of chopped cacao nibs and 1 oz. of finely chopped caramelized white chocolate to the dough after incorporating the flour, mixing gently to combine.
recipe by sarah kieffer
photos by sarah kieffer
I don’t know if the world needs another recipe for peanut butter cups, but I’ve been making these around the holidays for years, much to the delight of my family, and thought you may enjoy making them, too. Use silicone molds to get a nice shape and glossy chocolate.
Makes 16 peanut butter cups
Cacao Nibs Topping
Melt 1 oz. of chocolate. Place about ½ tsp. of chocolate on top of each set and unmolded peanut butter cup, carefully smoothing out the tops. Sprinkle with chopped cacao nibs and let set before serving.