Decking the Halls at Kiawah River with Interior Designer Mary Scott McLaurin

When it comes to holiday décor, it seems everyone has opinions stronger than Aunt Helen’s eggnog. Should a tree be real or artificial? Decorate before or after Thanksgiving? What to do with this glittery popsicle stick pipe-cleaner thing? Tinsel or no?

When the time came to establish our holiday vision for Kiawah River, we turned to sisters (and our dear friends) Mary Scott McLaurin and Frances Parker at interior design firm McLaurin Parker for tips to make a home Christmas-ready.

Choose the Perfect Tree

According to Mary Scott, choosing a Christmas tree is a personal preference with no set rules.
First, identify space for your tree. Then, find the largest tree you can get away with to fill that
space. Look for a tree with branches low to the ground so there is no gap between the tree
stand and the floor.

“Growing up, my family couldn’t find a big enough tree – it always had to kiss the ceiling,” said
McLaurin. “I tend to choose real trees over artificial ones. One tradition I love that can be
cherished for years is to choose a live tree with the root ball attached and replant it after the

Decorate (and Compromise) Like a Pro

Once the tree is set up, it’s time to start the decorating process. Like art, McLaurin explains
that decorating a tree is a personal process often rooted in childhood memories. In most
households, there are two schools of thought when it comes to decorating a tree: one involves
using traditional, warm white lights and a formal set of decorations acquired over the years. The
other evokes images of multi-colored blinking lights with homemade ornaments fashioned out of
popsicle sticks, thick yarn and (often missing) googley-eyes.

McLaurin shared fond memories of baking cookies with her mother, then placing the cookie cutters on her family tree alongside faded construction paper chains and treasured glass and silver pieces gifted and collected over many years.

We were thrilled to learn that McLaurin had a solution to this annual dilemma.

“One solution to keep the peace is to have two trees…one formal tree and another personal one
that becomes a special project for children and family to decorate.”

When it comes to lights, McLaurin suggests setting them deep into the tree, so it looks as if it’s
glowing from the inside.

For families still amassing their collection of ornaments, McLaurin recommends tying a giant
bow to the top of the tree with large cascading ribbons to create a dramatic effect on a budget.

Become a Lowcountry Scavenger

Look no further than the Lowcountry landscape to put the finishing touches on your holiday
décor. McLaurin suggests taking bottom branches from the tree and laying them on the mantle
or adding them to a tall clear vessel for a festive look with a bonus evergreen aroma.

For a quintessential Lowcountry look, she suggests adding magnolia branches to a mantle with
lots of tea lights. Because magnolia leaves look pretty even when dry, the foliage is perfect for
around the bar, bedrooms or fireplace.

Poinsettias, a popular hostess gift during the holidays, can be the gift that keeps on giving by
removing the blooms from the plant and placing them in bud vases in a powder room or guest
bedside table.

McLaurin’s advice for Kiawah River? Add a large lit tree to a Kiawah River cottage or Charleston single porch. We can’t wait to implement these easy design tips with our personal touches this season.