Cozy Christmas style

Soft French décor gets an upgrade for the holiday season.

For Sara Bower, managing director of the Van Singel Fine Arts Center, it’s all about aesthetics. No matter the season, her home is bathed in shades of ivory and warm, earthy tones with charming accents scattered throughout. But come Nov. 1, Bower is armed with balsam scent sticks and glitter, ready to adorn every nook and cranny in her chic space with Christmas cheer.

Bower dishes about her holiday hacks, personal style and more:

How would you define your style?

I gravitate toward a lot of white and that femme, French, cozy aesthetic, and definitely for Christmas I’m the same way. Christmas is like, ‘Oh, yeah, another excuse for gold glitter everywhere — yes, please!’

What are you most inspired by when decorating for Christmas?

It’s the fantasy of ‘The Nutcracker,’ but you probably wouldn’t guess that from the way I do my decorations. Someday when I have a beautiful manor house that I inherited from a mysterious wealthy uncle in Germany, then I will go all out, like, ‘Wow, this is certainly very Nutcracker-esque.’ There’s that Old World mystery of somewhere between fantasy and curated, dramatic, theatrical brightness that I really like.

What are your favorite holiday hacks?

I own two very naughty little rescue cats who are my angels in every regard except when it comes to Christmas setup. I read once that if you have pets that like to get into Christmas décor, the best thing to do is not put things up around them. It makes them curious about the process of it all. Instead, remove them, get everything decked out and then bring them back a day later, and it works! Once in a while, they go over if I keep something really tempting at the bottom of the tree, but otherwise it’s like they go, ‘Oh,’ and then they move on.

Any go-to destinations for gift-getting?

There’s one in Hastings called Alfresco. They sell coffee and the most wonderful little books and kitchenware — just adorable gifts that bring a certain romanticism to whatever it is you’re doing. It’s been a real major goal of mine the past couple of years, as I’ve started new chapters, to live out small moments in beautiful, curated ways and try to bring that level of artistry and appreciation to everyday life.

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Ever since Pasha Shipp could talk, she's been dreaming up colorful stories. Fantasy creatures, mysterious kingdoms, enchanted forests, you name it. As she reached adulthood, she decided to take the magic out of her head and put it down on paper. Pasha has been writing for Grand Rapids Magazine since November 2015, and has loved every minute of it. She has a master's degree in Communication and a bachelor's degree in Film Studies from Grand Valley State University and Western Michigan University respectively. When she isn't daydreaming and writing stories for the magazine, she's exploring the many hidden treasures of Grand Rapids with her fiancé.