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Nora Napientek says she wasn't thinking Christmas when she chose a color scheme of white, green, and candy-cane red for the rooms in her 1920s cottage in suburban Chicago. But the Santa-approved palette certainly goes a long way toward making the family's holiday decorating a snap. "I like bright, primary colors," says Nora. "White furniture and trim pop against them, and they're easier to work with than, say, mauves and pinks."
To transform her home to yuletide festive, this working mother of two, ages 4 and 6, takes a practical approach, adding a few effortless seasonal touches throughout the house. In the family room, which features her whimsical collection of vintage toys, including a tricycle and picture blocks, Nora conceives a different themed tree every year by scouring garage sales for bargain decorations. "It might be all-white ornaments and ribbons or, like this year, a peppermint motif," she says. For the pared-down living room, pinecone-studded wreaths, colorful stockings, and a smattering of red candles and vases set the scene.
When she throws a party Nora puts out a simple buffet using her own dinnerware—a collection of dishes, cake stands, and platters adorned with birds, trees, and holly. The designs are a signature of her company, called Nora Fleming, named after her great-grandmother. "She was everything you would want a mom to be—always cooking and baking—so it felt natural to include her as part of a business that celebrates homemaking," says Nora. Now Nora passes her own passion for entertaining and playful decorating on to her kids all year long—but especially during the holidays. The ability to inspire, it seems, runs in the family.