A quiet Christmas is just what 2020 calls for and Ambika Sahni Pascale has turned her New Jersey home into a holiday oasis. Garland, a small village, a decked-out tree, sweetly sentimental family touches, pops of orange (her family celebrates Diwali and Christmas) and more all make Ambika’s setup oh so lovely. The primarily neutral tones make the greenery and touches of red pop and the layers of different textures give everything such a warm and cozy feel.
For more from Ambika, including her best tips for decorating smaller spaces and how she and her husband are embracing the holiday changes this year is bringing, keep reading.
Name: Ambika Sahni Pascale
Location: Haddonfield, NJ
Sq. Ft: 2,400 sq ft
When do you start decorating for the holidays?
We usually start decorating the weekend after Thanksgiving, but this year we thought the pandemic made it socially acceptable to decorate earlier! We started the second weekend in November (except for the tree) and I’ve got to say, I may continue this tradition next year. I love how cheerful and cozy the house feels.
Tell us about your holiday decorating process.
We celebrate Diwali (usually falls in late October/early November) and Christmas so holiday decorating begins early. I love neutrals with pops of red and evergreen for Christmas and orange for Diwali. Diwali is the festival of lights celebrated in India and ties in well with Christmas decor. Also, by going neutral, we can keep most of the holiday decorations up through January. I’ve been purposeful about the types of decorations we’re accumulating because I want them to be timeless and last for years.
How do you budget when it comes to decorating seasonally? (Things can get expensive for such a short time of the year!)
I reuse everything and invest in a few specific pieces every year that I know will be good for years to come—think a capsule wardrobe for seasonal decor. For example, white lights are classic and match our home’s decor. Similarly, I have a soft spot for those mini bottle brush trees, and they are super cute and easy to store without getting damaged. For things I eye on Pinterest or from my favorite shops for holiday decor (i.e., Terrain, Grandin Road, Target), I make a list of a few items that I know I can use for years to come and budget for them.
For things I eye on Pinterest, I make a list of a few items that I know I can use for years to come and budget for them.
This holiday is extra special because my daughter was born on November 25th so the ornament showing the first year we became a family of five will always be front and center on the tree.
Where do you shop for holiday decor?
Do you have any holiday traditions that are special to you?
Pascale pre-Christmas! When there isn’t a world pandemic, we celebrate Christmas with my in-laws in Florida so we’ve instituted something called Pascale pre-Christmas. It’s two weekends of Christmas fun packed into the first half of December, including just our immediate family exchanging presents, sponsoring a local family together, a ride on the Polar Express (again, pre-pandemic), and lots of baking cookies and building gingerbread houses. It makes the holiday season last a little longer and gives us the chance to celebrate just us. This year, we’ll be doing lots of at-home activities throughout December even though we are staying home for Christmas.
Do you have any tips for readers who may live in smaller apartments (and who are on a budget) who might not be able to decorate to their heart’s desire?
Facebook Marketplace! You’d be amazed at what you can find on there for cheap, and you’re reusing stuff that may be thrown out eventually. Also, DIY! I’m not very good at DIY-ing, but Instagram and Pinterest are a gold mine for how-to videos for pretty simple projects like an orange and cranberry garland, for example. I definitely want to do that this year! Also, for space concerns, smaller trees and rosemary bushes are adorable options. I find that less is more for holiday decor no matter how big your space is.
I find that less is more for holiday decor no matter how big your space is.
Do you have a favorite ornament on your tree?
Yes! I ordered a custom ornament from a shop on Etsy called BridesmaidForever that features our entire family, including the dog, and year. This holiday is extra special because my daughter was born on November 25th so the ornament showing the first year we became a family of five will always be front and center on the tree.
What’s your favorite piece of holiday decor that you own?
My mother-in-law gifted us with her mother’s hand-painted snowman and the Night Before Christmas ceramic music box. My husband’s grandmother passed away from Alzheimer’s, and it means a lot to have her hand-painted decor displayed in our home.
How are you adjusting your celebrations this year?
We’re embracing “Stay Home” as our mantra for the holiday… and are very excited to be celebrating at home this year. It’s the perfect time to put on some sweats and stay in. We’ll bake lots of cookies and do crafts with our son. For Christmas Eve dinner, we’ll order-in sushi (and put the babies down early) because I was without my beloved sashimi for months and months while being pregnant.
Ambika Sahni Pascale is The Everygirl…
Hot chocolate or hot cider? Hot cider… spiked!
Favorite Christmas song? “Do They Know It’s Christmas” – Band Aid 1984
Favorite Christmas movie? Miracle on 34th Street (the original)
Favorite holiday treat? My mother-in-law’s Italian Rainbow cookies
The best gift you’ve ever given? My husband’s father passed away from cancer from Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam. I was able to work with an organization called In Memory: Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund to have him honored for his service, even though he didn’t pass away while in combat. It was so nice to play a small part in helping honor his father, a man I wish I could have met.
What’s at the top of your Christmas list this year? A milk frother for lattes!