Photos from our Better Homes & Gardens Christmas Ideas Photo Shoot in our Rental House

easy christmas ideas

In October of 2012 I received an email from an Editor at Meredith Publications about possibly shooting our house for the 2013 issue of Better Homes & Gardens Christmas Ideas magazine…. A DREAM!

They also asked me not to show photos on my blog of my Christmas decor before the shoot…. A NIGHTMARE!

So here are all of the photos I was dying to show you last year…

The crew of three, Brie (the same photographer who came the year before for the DIY shoot, her sidekick, Pat, and Nicole a Meredith art director) came on Janurary 15th so we didn’t have to keep our Christmas decor up that much longer. But I did switch out our Christmas tree for a fresh, more simple feeling tree.

I really wanted the article to be an encouragement that we can decorate for Christmas simply, naturally, and inexpensively with a lean towards handmade. Even in a rental house.

Mostly I’m going to show photos that I took before during and after so here we go!

easy christmas ideas  easy christmas ideas

Here’s how it looked in real life before they came…

bhg christmas ideas

Here’s how it looked in the magazine, I’m always surprised how the coloring is off, but I’m still thrilled with the feature.

DSC_0300 2



DIY pom wreath

DIY pom wreath



lots of easy Christmas ideas! Natrual, handmade Christmas

World’s most simply decorated tree:

2 strands of C9 lights (that’s it TWO strands!!)

2 strands of finger knitted garland (handmade, here’s more info)

1 strand of pom pom yarn

about a dozen copper ornaments

a bunch of paper snowflakes I made with my boys over the past few years

The beautiful live tree was gifted to us from some friends, the Hill family who grow old fashioned Christmas trees on their land in Hendersonville, NC. They are trees that aren’t severely shaped into a perfect Dr. Seuss triangle. They have natural spaces and are beautifully quirky.


Here’s everything that was used on the tree. I think it’s less than $50 worth of stuff.



I made it a point, after I removed our decorations, to pile them all on a table and take a picture. This is it. THIS is pretty much all of our decor besides our trees and some greenery that my mom and I cut from a local park.

lots of simple Christmas ideas!


pom pom garland from West Elm


This is our store bought live tree that our family used before the shoot it’s too tight, there are no spaces. Now I’m spoiled and only want an old fashioned tree.

lots of easy Christmas ideas!


Two EASY and free ways to decorate: cut greenery from a park and put it in containers you already own & use your own winter scarves and wrap them around items in your home that are already on display.

lots of easy Christmas ideas!

white ceramic boots: Z Gallerie

wreath : Hershey is my Baby

canvas: Lindsay Letters


our bed, before ironing



right before the tree swap

lots of simple Christmas ideas!

my office, $85 thrifted dresser, $15 yard sale table for a desk, $20 white tree from a yard sale


Here’s the amount of decor I used after it was packed up. Four bins (one had my pretend gifts so I could use them again this year & show how I wrapped them here at the blog–coming next week) The bag holds my wreaths.


Sweet little tree.

lots of easy Christmas ideas!





As the BHG people were walking out the front door the boys and dog were already taking over.

easy christmas ideas


prepping the bed


better homes & gardens christmas ideas Screen Shot 2013-12-02 at 7.54.59 AM

It was SUCH fun getting the house ready and seeing the photos in the magazine. Our tree even made the table of contents!

better homes and gardens christmas ideas

You can order it here. You can download it immediately here, all of our local stores sold out way back in October.


 A little secret to how I make run-of-the-mill gifts feel custom

Closeups & Ideas for Giftwrap from the photo shoot

Our home this year: Our first Christmas in our little farmhouse: Good Enough Decorating for when Life isn’t Perfect. Because isn’t that Always?

Monday the 16th, its YOUR turn to join in the tour, we’ll have a link up here and an instagram hashtag (any ideas?) for the 5th annual Christmas Tour of Homes

tour of homes

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  1. I have been delaying my Christmas tree installation for the last few weeks. I have been feeling uninspired and tired of my old, cluttered tree decorations. THIS is exactly what I needed today. I just love the simplicity of your style. It’s like you’ve decorated for winter, and have not limited yourself to Christmas. I live in northern Minnesota, so winter is here to stay until March/April. I can imagine leaving many of these items up throughout the snow season! Thank you for the simplicity in all you do.

    • yippie!!!

      writing this post actually was a great reminder for me as I think about getting our current home Christmasy for the season! Why do I always lean toward difficult? Even with last year, before the magazine came I packed more stuff AWAY.

  2. Oh Nester. Your spread in that magazine was so inspiring. I have had the magazine literally open up to your feature for weeks as I decorated this year. I even learned to finger knit for the first time in front of a movie when I was sick! What you mentioned about decorating with handmade and what you have is right on target. I would say that my home this year looks the best it ever has…and yet I used less stuff and things I had around the house. It is amazing how the simpleness of a few beautiful things speaks much more volume that a lot of clutter. Getting rid of a few more Christmas bins this year! Thank you for the inspiration! You are so talented!

  3. Love,love the finger knitted garland, clever! Do you have a second tree with the kids crafts? Or do you have a clever way go displaying or using them? I have a feeling you do? :)

    • my boys have a little tree in their room, sometimes we put their old ornaments on there, sometimes they just hang cars and legos from it, sometimes just colored lights. I’m not SUPER sentimental and our boys were homeschooled a lot so we don’t have a ton of kids made ornaments besides the snowflakes

  4. This is one of my favorite posts. Well, I have a lot of favorites, but this one is amazing. I was just thinking that all the white and brown, especially reminds me of some of the scenes in Dr. Zhivago.

  5. I honestly never knew people decorated bedrooms for Christmas! But, why not?!

    • I know, right?! They wanted bedroom photos too, SO I decorated it in like 4 minutes–free greens from the park and a bowl of left over ornaments! however, the ironing of the sheets and choosing of the pillows took me HOURS!!!

  6. Alicia wagner says

    I’m in love with the tree stumps you painted. Great idea! Thank you for the inspiration – :)

  7. LOVE THIS! I’m dying to find an old-fashioned, live Christmas tree! Can your friends recommend any other farms like theirs in the MD/DC/VA area???

  8. How fun and exciting!! I love your simple Christmas decor, Nester. Your house looks beautiful and you should be flattered that the BHG folks barely changed anything before taking pics of your living room. I splurged and bought this magazine for myself when I saw your home in it while flipping through it at the store. I was so excited I told my hubby that my “friend’s awesome house” was in it. And then I was like, well, technically she doesn’t know who I am but she feels like a friend and it seems like I’ve been to her house before. :)

  9. My brain is reeling! It makes me want to go grab some greenery RIGHT NOW! I love all the white in your house. A few questions: where did the huge hydrangea looking wreath come from (it’s prominently displayed in the 2nd picture above the expedit bookcase)? Also, where did you get your bed? Thanks!!!

  10. Melanie Miller says

    Miss Nester, this is beautiful!! I did buy the magazine when I saw you were in it and I drooled over all the pictures. I love the quietness of your color choices. And I must tell you, when I was putting up our Christmas décor this week and was tempted to go buy something new, I reminded myself to shop my house first. In doing so, I found some great alternatives that otherwise wouldn’t have been used, probably the whole season. It forced me to stretch, saved energy and money, and I felt like I was channeling you! Thanks for that.

  11. Beautiful! Where did you get the herringbone rug in your living room?

  12. I finally found a copy of the magazine yesterday and loved taking in every page! You gave me so many good ideas and everything looks so clean and cozy and fresh! Amazing!

  13. it’s so beautiful! i love that you wanted the feature to be “do-able” for real people and not over the top for a magazine. that doesn’t surprise me (after reading here for years) but i love that. :)

    and the old-fashioned tree! i recently read (southern living, maybe?) about someone thinning out branches on their tree to allow for more spaces…and i really think that’s a beautiful idea for being able to showcase special ornaments. with a full tree, i feel like it really takes a LOT of stuff to make a tree look decorated…but then it looks crowded too. i’m thinking i will go that route next year! (and maybe visit that Hendersonville farm on the way back to GA after Thanksgiving in Asheville–perfect!)

  14. I also love decorating with stuff from nature or just shopping the house. You’re such an inspiration! I love your whimsical style and your tip about using winter scarves to decorate around the house!

  15. I bought the magazine some time back and still browse it for inspiration. I loved your tree and the trimmings. Can you give more detail about the Hill family, address, phone number, etc.?

  16. Love your mantle with “real” greenery and all of the “texture” there. Could you please speak to how long the real greenery lasts and if there is something you can do to keep it from turning brown during the season? Thanks!

    • I left mine up about 3 weeks. It gets brittle but didn’t really turn brown. I didn’t spray it or water it or anything but I’ve heard that responsible grown ups mist their greens.

      Also, when I cut mine we had yet to have a hard freeze so I did notice some little bugs! But they were totally worth it!

  17. Hi! I love the paint color on your walls (it appears to be a light blueish green), do you mind sharing what color it is?! Thank you!

  18. Lovely!!!

  19. I need a grandfather clock with a scarf on it, STAT!

  20. Jennifer Byrd says

    Your post is just what the doctor ordered. I’m a mom to four (older kiddos, 23, 21, 18 & 16) and 3 weeks post bilateral mastectomy (resplendent with minor complications)…I’ve pouted a bit (okay, maybe more than a “bit”) about what I won’t be able to do this year for Christmas but your post is a gentle reminder to me that less is more. Paper chains, pom poms and snowflakes, now that, I can handle. Blessings to you!

  21. Simply lovely…as always. Inspirational…as always. I pared way down this year and used just a smidgen of my “normal” Christmas décor. My biggest change…we bought a real, LIVE tree…that we can take to our cabin property and plant. Simple, natural, neutral colors…my theme this year.

  22. I LOVE your finger knitted garland. What do you think if it had a knot tied in it every 6 inches or so. Would it look awesome or stupid? I have a 10 year old daughter and all of a sudden I’m convinced she was created for projects like this. I bet I could bribe her with movie time (which could double as finger knitting time.)

  23. Love your simple – yet gorgeous – decorating ideas. That must have been hard to keep it a secret for almost a year! But here’s my question: HOW DO YOU HAVE SO MUCH WHITE WITH A CHOCOLATE LAB? I’ve had to go with a darker palette because of his dark fur, but I love the white. Someday, maybe.

  24. This post is super inspiring, not just because everything is completely charming and lovely and everything I would want in my house at Christmas, but because of the simplicity and lack of kitschy clutter (key for this currently apartment-dwelling fam!). Do you have more source ideas for pom-pom garland, brass ornaments, feathers your pom-pom wreaths (handmade??), etc?

  25. How exciting for you! Of course, my favorite part is the chandelier with the greenery and feathers. Antlers, feathers, greens (and cowhide:) are my style too. Now for the burning questions: did it feel any different sleeping on ironed sheets?

  26. Absolutely gorgeous! I just love your style ~


  27. Eeeek!! The issue has been sitting on my counter for a week or so and I just had to go grab it and read the article. Everything looks so beautiful {of course it does!} and I love the colors and natural greenery. Love it all. Congratulations!! Now they’ll just have to come back and do a spread on your farm house!! :)

  28. Your massive amounts of disco balls makes me very happy.
    I have two and the fifteen minutes when the sun hits the big one just right is my most favorite part of the day.

  29. Stunning. Simple. Love it! You are a genius. Sharing on Julie Loves Home’s Facebook page! :-)

  30. your house makes my heart happy. i’m getting some stumps. I LOVE how you put them everywhere!! where did you get them? please tell me you didn’t recently cut down a tree..

    • yep, a tree fell, but also some from friend’s yards, keep them in the garage for 6 months or so first so all the bugs can work their way out!

  31. I love the BHG spread – I have had the magazine pretty much since it was first available. This year I am sorting through my Christmas stuff as I decorate with plans to get rid of stuff I no longer use. For this year I found a cute Advent banner when we were in Winston-Salem. Last week I purchased some boxwood wreaths from Decor Steals . I may need two or three candles, otherwise, it is use what I already have and be creative. I love the idea of an old fashioned simple Christmas – Today is decorating day! Thank you for your inspiration – can’t wait to see what you do this year at the farm!

  32. This is SO exciting to see the process of magazine photo shoot and see your other pictures from the shoot. It’s amazing how tweaking pictures on the computer can change the mood of the room so dramatically. I was just thinking of your pom pom wreath and went to hobby lobby to some buy pom supplies to make one, but couldn’t find any. Where can I get that kind of poms to make a wreath like yours??

  33. So pretty. I have some black and white pom-pom yarn, and I love it.

    Thanks for the inspiration and for remembering us renters! :D

  34. Jodie Holmes says

    Wow! That is a dream and I am inspired! Question – what is the size of your herringbone rug?

  35. I was shocked to see this magazine at my supermarket last night and of course I grabbed it!! – so very exciting!!

  36. I was SO excited to find a copy of this magazine tucked away at Michael’s earlier in the week, knowing you were featured! I’ve been itchy to change up my main tree; too heavy, too dark, too ornate. I wanted something simpler, but I wasn’t sure what. I saw your finger-knitted garland and audibly gasped! Now to learn to finger knit…

    Also, thank you for being the reasonable person that you are, and sharing all of that with us. I read some of the other articles in the magazine and those I’m-not-doing-enough feelings started to creep in. You know — I’m not making homemade this and that with my daughter, I’m not properly decorating the outside of our home, that kind of stuff. Thank you for offering a counter-message that we don’t HAVE to go hog wild to have a beautiful, meaningful Christmas. :) I simply adore your blog!

  37. Just beautiful!!! It must have been so hard to keep your pictures of the deco a secret for so long…I never even got to see the magazine. I guess I can download it, though. :P

  38. Wow! I’m so happy for you! Congratulations on the magazine!

  39. Dear Nester,
    I have been one of your students/apprentices for a year or two now. I am a recovering perfectionist who is now speaking “It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful” to myself and to my kids. What an important things to teach our kids when they are young- it frees them up to try new things and not expect themselves to do things perfectly. Thank you for that!
    I have always wondered… where did you find your bust/head that the feathers are in on your mantle in this post? Do you have another bust too? (if so, where did you find it??) Or maybe I am just imagining it!!:)
    I hope you have a wonderful Advent and Christmas! Thank you for all you teach your readers!

    • I have two yes!

      One is from a local store, Black Lion, it was on clearance because it was cracked, I got it a few years ago, the second one is from Home Goods. I saw one last week at Target, you can even get them on Amazon, search ‘bust planter’ or ‘head planter’ xo

  40. Ha! Your entry christmas tree does not look so very different from my tree in 2010!!! ;-)
    I even spayed some christmas balls with copper spray, because I could not find any copper ones anywhere :). Greetings from Norway – and I’m totally in love with the fireplace in your new home!

  41. So fun!!! BH&G just came this Tuesday to shoot my home for their 2014 issue!! It was so fun but I was a complete wreck before they came and totally crashed after they left!! And its killing me to not be able to share my decor this year- I guess Im going to have to have a party and invite all the neighbors over!!
    Loved seeing your home in this issue- I bought it Oct 20th- the day it come out at our local store!

  42. Love it, Nester! Someone else said it first: love the peace and quiet of the color selections. So beautiful and cozy. My favorite has to be the scarf on the clock. Brilliant!

  43. SO fun! Congratulations

  44. Just wondering where you found your cream muffler scarf with fur on the ends? What a creative idea to wrap it around your clock!

  45. Elizabeth Hicks says

    I love your ideas EXCEPT I can’t believe you said cut greens at a park! they are not yours! they are not free! they are stolen! shame on you!

    • Melissa McIntyre says

      Maybe laws are different in her state…Maybe she asked…Maybe YOU should ask before you go shaming someone. And aren’t federal, state, and some local parks TAX funded anyway? So technically, they ARE hers ;-)

  46. Can you tell me the name of the tree farm that the Hill Family owns? I’ve been looking for a tree like that–lots of space for tons of ornaments. Thanks!

  47. M, thank you for this. Inspiring and peaceful.

  48. So happy to have read this post today! We just got our Christmas tree, and let’s just say that it is far from a perfect tree! I had promised my son that we would buy the tree from the Boy Scout troop, and the selection was a bit sad. BUT… Now I am inspired to make it work! I guess it is true what u are always saying, it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.

  49. i love it
    i love it all
    i love the boys crashed on the “dont mess up the couch for photos” couch

  50. Amazing how much you achieved so much with so little! Any woman reading that article will assume it is beyond her until they grasp that. LOVE that tree! We don’t do live trees so i actually flatten out my faux tree branches to achieve a similar look as i like to see the ornaments. Interesting that God kinda “forced” you into saving last year’s Christmas pics knowing He would bless you with them this year while you deal with construction and changes in priorities in your life. :-) first thing i noticed were the gifts! Looking forward to that post.

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