How to Decorate Your Home for Valentine’s Day & Spice It Up After Dark
Recently on Instagram Stories I asked everyone if they knew some home decorators for the holidays. I was in a pinch & didn’t have time to get my whole house looking festive by myself. I hired someone really quick & they came in to streamline the whole thing ( post coming soon ).
After I hired someone, Emma Baker, who is part of The Skinny Confidential community reached out with the most beautiful design deck. It was so beautiful that I asked her to come on the blog to share some of her tips & tricks with you guys.
In this post Emma is sharing how to set up & style a Valentine’s Day brunch scene, perfect for family or your girlfriends. BUT THEN, she is showing us how to transform the whole situation into a spicy, sexy night in with your Valentine.
Along the way she is also sharing her journey & how she got into event planning/decorating & some fun tips like her favorite places to buy decor & how to use what you already have to elevate a space. Emma totally breaks down the whole process with gorgeous photos, detailed how-to’s & even made you a shopping list for the daytime scene & the nighttime scene. Efficient!
She is such an expert in the space & like I said, the deck she made for me was incredible, so I think you guys are going to love this fun post, just in time for Valentine’s Day. Let’s get right to it with Emma Baker of The Emma Edit.
Hi! I’m Emma Baker & I’m so excited to be sharing with you some of my design tips & tricks for decorating your home for Valentine’s Day. I grew up in a small suburb of Houston, Texas where planning, organizing, & getting creative were always how I enjoyed spending my free time.
Born into a middle-class family of extremely hard-working parents, I was taught that dreams are achieved by steadfast commitment & determination. My entrepreneurial spirit was imprinted from a young age & has carried me through the most incredible, unexpected, & oftentimes challenging, 30 years I could have ever imagined.
Art has always been my safe space. One, because creativity allows room for mistakes & two, because my designs are something I can control. Growing up whether I was singing around the house, crafting, scrapbooking, journaling, painting my nails, or making flower crowns instead of participating in soccer practice – nothing brought me more peace or calmed my mind like creativity & design.
I attended the University of Houston & received a specialized business degree from the Hilton College of Hotel & Restaurant Management with an emphasis in Event Design. I joined a sorority & realized off the bat I had a real knack for managing & influencing my peers in the best way. I finished my senior year as President where I learned how to communicate with 40 different personalities – & many various sub-personalities within each.
It became clear that combined with my love for creativity & a newfound skillset – events & design were somewhat destiny.
Right out of college I landed a job at a high-end event firm in Houston, Swift + Company. I started as a staffing coordinator & “runner” where my daily duties oftentimes included having my ( fabulous ) boss’ shoes shined, chasing FedEx trucks down for delayed shipments of event decor, coffee runs, taking lunch orders, & learning tricks of the trade – like a Bamboo Nest candle is the best scent for an event.
Most significantly, I learned that these two skills would be the pillars of effectively getting every job done: having empathy & being resourceful.
After a year or so with my blinders on, I was finally promoted to a full-scale Event Planner. This followed a quick conversation in my boss’ office after she unexpectedly stopped me & asked for my opinion on a cocktail napkin color, & she liked my answer.
From cocktail parties to corporate dinners to backyard tented events & weddings – the long hours, late nights, & working weekends taught me so much of what I carry with me today. By the time I had left Swift + Company, I was working my tail off – planning events, building their wedding planning department from the ground, & managing their floral warehouse. Talk about adding tools to the toolbox!
Around this time is when the allure of childhood had officially faded away & that very unsettling quarter-life crisis had found its way to me. I was riddled with anxiety & felt trapped in my current phase of life. I knew I wanted more for my career & had been dreaming up the possibilities outside of Texas for what seemed like forever.
During an impromptu trip to visit my best friend in LA, I reached out to a family friend who was also in the industry to catch up & to give me an update on his work. After popping into his office & what I thought would be a quick warehouse tour, I ran into the owner. Two hours later, I had a job offer & invite to begin producing events on a larger scale.
I knew this opportunity was exactly what I had been working towards. I flew home, ended my 6-year relationship, quit my job, & packed my bags. We love a dramatic exit!
Within a week of landing in Los Angeles, I was in Jimmy Iovine’s backyard on the production team for David Geffen’s 80th birthday, surrounded by people I had only ever seen on tv. The next few years felt like an absolute dream. I was producing for red carpets, A-list weddings, & private events & was working under some of the most influential event designers in the world.
Slowly & with a lot of self-work, I finally felt my anxieties release their tight grip. Never underestimate the power of a 30-minute walk, a good podcast, & 10 minutes of mindfulness.
I truly believe life is what you make it & the keys to success lie inside daily routines & creating small but intentional habits. & lots of visualization. But that’s a whole other story – let’s get to the fun stuff.
After three or so years working as an Event Director for Town & Country in Los Angeles ( & with the not so friendly nudge of Covid slowing events down), I decided to do what I’ve always known I would one day do: start my own business.
Taking with me the unbelievable experience from the last 8 years in high-end event design & production management, The Emma Edit was born in September of 2021.
Before we get to all my decorating tips for Valentine’s Day, let me say that I’ve been a follower of The Skinny Confidential for quite some time, so the opportunity to share my tips with this community is incredibly exciting! If I’m being honest, in 2018 I wrote that I would work with Lauryn in some capacity within the next five years – full circle to the power of visualization, manifestation, & hard work. So let’s get into it.
I like my holidays to be more than a look. It’s about designing a feeling, or vibe. When a guest walks into my home, I want to stimulate all five senses, not just appeal to them visually.
Sometimes decor can be overwhelming. Where to find it? What look to go for? Is your s/o going to enjoy your new festive finds? It’s not easy being in the business of pleasing everyone. With that being said, take this time to put out something YOU truly love. I promise if you find a vision & you stand behind it, it will be adored.
Never be self-conscious about personal expression through design. Creativity is allowing yourself the room to make mistakes & design is knowing which ones to keep.
A quick way to nail down your vision is to find a theme. We love a theme! Now, try to think multi-dimensionally when I say “theme” – this can be a beautiful color palette, an earthy element, a children’s book, a song, or a movie – find something fun that inspires your decor that you can center your holiday around.
When I think of Valentine’s a few different things come to mind: romance, playfulness, appreciation for the love in my life, chocolate, & a good cocktail.
This Valentine’s Day, I found myself inspired by Alice in Wonderland. Think a family-friendly hidden garden tea party for breakfast & a flip to Queen of Hearts a la “eat me or it’s off with your head” for after dark. Fun right?
Before you know it you’ll be inviting all your friends over for a trip to Wonderland. Boom – not only did you deck the halls, but you’re a party planner too.
So how do we make those things come to life in your home? Let’s dive into the basics.
First, we plan. Every good plan for me begins in a note on my phone. The checklist option is a game-changer. Normally my brainstorming note for decorating begins a bit like this:
♡ DAYTIME ♡
TABLE SET FOR TEA
Theme: Alice in Wonderland
+ Herbal Tea – something pink, maybe floating flowers?
+ Fun Latté Option – look on Pinterest
+ Tea Sandwiches – in a fun thematic shape
+ Sweets – assorted candies & pastries, find cute bowls
+ Entry – Valentine themed door hanger?
+ Living Room – garland, something to attach Valentine cards to
+ Dining Room – set the table with thematic china ( look for mom’s vintage teapots ) & decor
*Naturally, after some daydreaming & late-night scrolling through Pinterest – this note will become a checklist of everything you need to make your vision come to life.
Next, we execute our plan by sourcing the materials to create your look. Make a grocery list for your holiday bites & take a Saturday to make yourself a hot tea & do a little hunting & gathering.
You do not necessarily need to purchase anything crazy expensive for decorating your home. Go through your parents’ china cabinet & find some vintage tableware, bring out your “fancy” dishes, hit a quick thrift shop, antique store, or Goodwill. Your tableware doesn’t all need to match or be overly curated. Make do with what ( I’m sure ) you already have.
I truly believe you can make your space look beautiful with what you have around you. This achieves what I call a “lived-in look” by creating an effortless & comfortable setting for your guests to walk into. It’s unsettling to invite guests into your home when things feel stuffy & over-produced. It should look like you grabbed a handful of flowers from the garden, made a few exciting apps, set a beautiful table, & threw your hair in a chic pony. Voila!
Now for the sake of my motto “more is more,” I, of course, used this blog post as an excuse to style not one, but two looks for Valentine’s Day because we love options. AND you’ll be able to shop the post if you don’t feel like going to the trouble of dreaming up something independently. Take my ideas & re-create!
Here are my four pillars of holiday decorating:
1. Front Entry Moment
2. Living Room Focal Moment
3. Dining Room Tablescape
4. Small Details Around Your Home
Front Entry Moment
I’m big into feng shui & energy channels being clear for abundance. Considering your front entry is how energy enters your home, it’s always important to make it inviting & welcoming & ensure it’s clear of debris & clutter. Add a couple of small details to your front door to set the tone for the holiday. In this case, I added a heart-shaped door hanger & threw a bunch of wildflowers & a head of ornamental kale into what year-round is typically an empty bucket.
Living Room Focal Moment
After the front entry, I love a focal moment in the living room. A festive garland is always fun to design & hangs beautifully either on a credenza, along a console table, or above the mantle. HomeGoods is usually a great stop for snagging a thematic garland or you can take this opportunity for a fun DIY.
If I snag a garland that comes with an otherwise generic ribbon for stringing, I opt for something a bit more elevated. I had some fabulous velvet ribbon lying around & restrung my garland with that. I love creating layers with multiple strands & styling the pieces myself. A great tip is to sneak mini clothespins into your garland & display any holiday cards you receive through the season instead of cluttering the side of your fridge.
I also love flanking either side of my mantle with distressed ‘Wabi Sabi’ style terracotta urns – one to host something green & one to host a wood wick candle. Incorporating living elements into your home decor is not only beautiful – plants promote good oxygen levels which is the core of positive feng shui for health & well-being.
Trust me on dropping a wood wick candle in your urns – not only does it create the most beautiful lantern effect that flickers during the evening, but it is a great place to hide those candles that smell so good but aren’t always aesthetically pleasing.
Lastly, I always include taper candles to the mix in fun colors & various heights near the base of the fireplace. I’m also a big fan of stacked books in all areas of the home & always think it’s nice to incorporate them in any capacity. If you have some books you love but the sleeves aren’t so glam, take the sleeve off & leave them “naked” – it creates solid color blocks for stacking.
Dining Room Tablescape
To be honest, decorating for the holidays for me has always been predominantly about setting a beautiful table. Not only is it the best place for good conversation, but in the rules of feng shui, whether it’s time to eat or not, it’s important to keep something on the dining table because it provides a sense of purpose & invitation.
I typically start by turning on some great music & grabbing everything around the house I know will help me achieve whatever look I’m going for. In this case, for my hidden garden look, I knew I wanted to incorporate all the books in my home, pull out my glass tea set, grab my bud vases, gather my taper candles, & design something feminine & whimsical for a beautiful Valentine’s brunch.
I placed some distressed stools on the table to create levels because I love my guests’ eye to always find something new to look at. It’s important to always keep the eye going by designing a table that has both depth & dimension.
I purchased a few additional details from Amazon like vintage keys & clocks to elevate the theme & brought in wildflowers to bring the table to life. You can place a floral wire through the stem of your flowers & form it into an unruly shape you would like. I always keep a dozen or so bud vases in my credenza & bring them out during the holidays to place a few stems of florals in each. It’s so easy to grab a few bunches of flowers the next time you’re out, give them a quick trim & place the bud vases along the table.
I want to see a design in motion so during the holiday I always repurpose all the incense & palo santo in my home & bring them to the table to create both movement & initiate clear energy.
Like I said before, stimulating all five senses is the key to beautiful design so I always find a fitting menu to go along with my look. I set the table with hibiscus tea, heart-shaped waffles, tea sandwiches cut in the shape of a suit of cards, & assorted candies. A quick trick to plating beautiful food is to buy some edible flowers – perfect for topping a drink & adding a garnish.
After you’ve set the base elements of your table there are a few quick & easy ways to elevate any design: adding a sprinkle of dried flowers, printing some paper goods, & garnishing with produce. Amazon carries a wide array of dried flowers for adding that final touch to your tablescape. Find a local printer & for ( normally ) under $10 you can have a few custom paper goods printed. I used Canva to design a few tags for this Alice in Wonderland look that read “Drink Me” & “Read Me.” I wanted some fun play on words that I could re-purpose in the evening.
One of my favorite cost-efficient tricks is to go to your local grocer & find some beautiful produce to add to any bare spots. I grabbed heirloom carrots & petite radishes to create an earthy & organic feel to this design.
Shop Hidden Garden Look
“Read Me” Signage – 3.5” x 2” Canva Template in “BDScript” Font
…AND ONTO THE EVENING LOOK
Now for the evening look, I wanted to use a lot of the same elements but give it more of an adults-only vibe. Simply changing the color of your taper candles will create an entirely new look. I swapped the candles to black, my produce for Bosc pears & opted for bottled perfume & a sleek scented candle on the table instead of incense. I wanted to create a romantic “night in” because who really likes going out for Valentine’s anyway?
I figured it would be fun to create an entirely aphrodisiac menu starting with a sip of hot sake & oysters on the half shell, followed by grilled artichoke & fresh sashimi, & ending with dark chocolate dipped strawberries & shortbread cookies covered in crushed pistachios.
Because I was already printing those cute tags for brunch, I went ahead & printed a menu for the evening that read “Eat Me Or It’s Off With Your Head” a la Queen of Hearts.
An easy way to create an upscale ( but simple ) dinner situation at home is to order in but plate your food beautifully. Display your sashimi on a slate cheese board & add an edible flower to the side of your fresh ginger.
The desserts could be a fun activity to do the night before with family. I bought some dark melting chocolate & dipped a few strawberries & shortbread cookies. I took a handful of pistachios & crushed them for a sprinkle before the chocolate dried. Under 5 minutes & delicious. For drinks, I recommend a vanilla bean & fig cocktail ( which are both aphrodisiacs ) or a spicy chili pepper martini.
The nesting baskets that I used to decorate the base of my mantle during the few weeks leading up to the holiday I used as a creative way to “wrap” my Valentine’s gifts for the evening. I love repurposing decor I already own.
And remember those “Drink Me” & “Read Me” tags from brunch? It’s time to use them after dark. Tie your “Read Me” tag to a small wicker basket & attach a note to your s/o. This is the perfect place for a thoughtful & personal touch. In this case, I found a pack of “Lucky Tickets” & dropped a few inside with the note.
In the next basket, attach a tag that reads “Play Me” & include some cheeky late-night games to play after dinner. I’ve heard nothing but good things about Serena Kerrigan’s card games. I found some ‘Truth of Dare Poppers’ & some ‘Spark Passion Matchsticks’ & combined the two.
And for your largest box, attach a card that reads “Please Me”, filled with lingerie. I love the idea of keeping these on the table during dinner & opening after.
Shop Eat Me Look
“Please Me” Signage – 3.5” x 2” Canva Template in “BDScript” Font
Small Details Around Your Home
The other decor tips I have for you are all in the details. During the holiday I love putting out a nice hand soap in every restroom. A couple of my favs are the bar soap from Diptyque in Roses, Byredo Suede or you guessed it – Aesop Resurrection.
Fill small bowls with assorted holiday candies like red hots, all pink starbursts, & conversation hearts & set them out on the coffee table, end tables, entry tables, & kitchen island. I prefer something subtle like this over some kitschy home decor.
I also always incorporate an earthy element as a focal piece on a beautiful piece of furniture. Depending on the season, I most often opt for popping some blooming branches in a ceramic vase. This year I made a DIY paper heart tree by finding the perfect branch from the front yard & adorning it with paper hearts in different shades of pink. All you need is a few different sheets of cardstock in various shades of pink, red, or white & some yarn. I’ll attach the link to the template in the details.
When it comes to feng shui it is said that your bedroom aligns with your overall wellness & is the place you should go to rejuvenate – which ties into the Earth element. Incorporate materials like ceramics, crystals, stones, & earth tones to bring a specific energy into your bedroom.
This is the perfect place to set up a grounding sanctuary & add a few details to make it thematic to the holiday. I keep my salt rock lamp & a diffuser next to a few crystals & some candles.
For Valentine’s Day, go ahead & romanticize this area. I switched my Nest candle for the Woo More Play candle & added some flowers. I always love love love a miniature orchid. Sprinkle a few of your dried flowers around your sanctuary & light your candles just before you start dinner.
After dinner take your gifts to the bedroom to spice things up. I found the most fun games to play to keep things exciting all night. Super affordable & linked below. Add red light bulbs to the lamps in your bedroom ( TSC fam gets it ) to set the mood. Not only are they full of health benefits but are perfect for Valentine’s Day.
Shop Around The House
That about sums it up! Never forget a good playlist, I’ve been loving the French artist Emma Peters lately & it would create a super cute Valentine’s vibe. The last touch to any holiday is always a room spray around the house & a few photos taken with an original Polaroid camera. They make the cutest petite photo albums to display on the coffee table year-round. Xo!
Design for me is therapeutic & an absolute escape. If I’m ever feeling stressed out, I clean the house, get organized, & then set a beautiful table. There is no better feeling in the world than the opportunity to dream up an elaborate idea for your client & see their faces when you successfully execute the vision on one of the most important days of their lives.
Or the feeling of people second-guessing your vision until the day of design when it all comes together, & everyone finally understands your direction. It is such an interesting & individually unique craft & the most incredible form of self-expression. My work is my favorite pastime & my proudest hobby.
“There is never a typical day. Sure, there are meetings & project deadlines but at the end of the day, with design, you never really know what’s going to happen.” – Anna Wintour
ABOUT THE EMMA EDIT
The Emma Edit is a full-service event planning, production, design & creative consulting firm. From private parties to full-service wedding planning, creative conceptualization & consulting, & thematic decor & design, I provide a unique & custom experience for every client. Sourcing from all over the world, locating organic finds from vintage studios, & producing handmade details – my work is based on years of experience in events & design, & I have curated a completely unmatched style & am dedicated to delivering a premium product. For event, wedding, or residential design I am your go-to source for translating functional beauty into the places & spaces that mean the most.
Oh, & my last tip, always make sure you have a fresh manicure. Cheers!
Design: The Emma Edit by Emma Baker
Photography: Mariposa Pictures by Beth Hawkes
Florals: The Wild Bunch NYC
Hope you guys got some fun ideas for your Valentine’s Day setup. Be sure to grab some Woo coconut oil lube to spice things up in the bedroom this year. Oh, & if you don’t know what kind of gift to ask for, just copy & paste this post & send it to your significant other. I got you covered.
+ stalk this indoor water fountain for all the zen vibes.
++ check out 3 ways to make your house smell delicious all year.
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