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Memorable parties start with decor

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Holiday decorating and entertaining can be so ... predictable. Red-and-green color schemes, Santas everywhere, same old table decorations, same tired tableware. How to get out of the rut? Get a little playful, says lifestyle guru Erinn Valencich.

"You always want to have a memorable party, and the way to do it is to have fun, interesting pieces that are not only incredibly functional but are unique and something you don't see at everyone's house, so you stand out," says Valencich, a regular on morning television who also has a web site (

Go for the unexpected, she says: Why is it necessary to use the traditional red-and-green color schemes when blues and greens and even hot pinks are becoming "holiday" colors?

"I like to use solid and neutral colors that I can use year-round," she says. "A string of Christmas lights has a month of use."

Instead of a tatty Christmas-tree centerpiece, Valencich put chunks of carved faux red coral on her white table runner at a recent party and sprinkled smaller pieces elsewhere to go with her red-and-white color theme. She has even built a party decor around a snazzy $400 pair of shoes, which themselves can be works of art. Decorations with shoe themes are ubiquitous, although you might want to put the actual shoes on the mantelpiece.

"Choose your color scheme first, because then it's easier to pick what you need from your own collections or online," she says.

The fact is, she says, it's so much easier to be creative these days thanks to scores of books, magazines and television shows about decorating.

"Homes are much more to the forefront in the past three or four years, and there are so many tips available out there to make decorating accessible for people," she says. "When it comes to entertaining, it's more fun to make a personal statement, to create a beautiful moment that people will remember and remember you."

Here are few ways to jazz up your entertaining look.

Contributing: Mary Cadden

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