For centuries, traditions have kept our spirits buoyed through the shortest, darkest days of the year with candles and strings of lights. Continue the custom with gleaming decorations that cast a serene glow on the season (and require far less effort than trimming a tree).
Transparent pieces of quartz, frosty glassware and chunky candlesticks that resemble icicles refract the last afternoon rays at a midwinter feast. A white patent tablecloth--you can simply cut it to the desired dimensions and wipe it clean with a sponge for repeated use--enhances the reflection.
Shiny branches of fruit and leaves create old-fashioned glamour in a vase that echoes their topography and glint.
No need for a fussy composition of wire and heavy evergreens-- just lay loose stems (here, eucalyptus) on the mantel with a 6' strand of metal beads and a silvered pinecone or two. White peacock feathers make a light-catching tracery against the dark background.
A birch-bark tree strung with a tinsel-and-glass-bead garland is reminiscent of a Scandinavian Yule log. A resin candlestick and a mirrored cup filled with snowberries complete the spartan yet folksy trinity.
Tall shoots of yellow crab apples act as an alternative tree when hung with homemade-looking stars, leaves and snowballs. The decoration subtly spills over onto the entryway table, while a pair of carved-basswood deer animate the fairy tale.