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Former White House decorator shares 3 top tips for beautifying your home this holiday season

The holidays are nearly here, and as many people plan for the best meals to prepare, outfits to wear and décor to dress up their homes in their holiday best, one person knows a thing or two about the topic.

Amanda Barkley is a freelance florist, designer and content creator who brings considerable experience in decorating a home — a large one, for that matter.

She worked as lead designer at the White House during President Donald Trump’s administration from 2016 to 2020 and shared some of her fondest memories and best insights.

“I was given the opportunity to create paper flowers that represented each state and territory, as well as Bucilla-inspired houses and ornaments,” she recalled.

Barkley spent two years as a design volunteer during the Obama administration before taking on the lead designer role for the Trumps.

Amanda Barkley

Amanda Barkley worked as the lead designer in the White House during the Trump administration from 2016-2020. (Amanda Barkley)

“There were many moments that stand out for me, but decorating our special Gold Star Tree was one I’ll never forget,” she said

Gold Star families, of course, are mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, daughters and sons grieving their beloved patriots who died fighting for our country’s freedoms, according to The White House.

White House blue room

Barkley helped design White House Christmas decorations in 2020. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

“Gold Star family members were invited to help decorate, and the experience was so moving and unforgettable,” she said.

The San Antonio-based designer now travels with major design firms to decorate hotels, businesses and homes. Christmas is her busiest time of the year, she said, with preparations starting in early July.

“This time of year is really for the children,” she noted in discussing the importance of holiday decorating.

“I think about when I was younger and how Christmas was a big influence in my core love of design, color and crafting,” she said.

Essential worker ornaments

Barkley said some of the items that first lady Melania Trump desired for Christmas decorations at the White House were ornaments representing essential workers.  (Amanda Barkley)

The holidays, however, can be stressful, Barkley said.

She recommended three tips for minimizing stress while enjoying décor galore this holiday season.

1. Use what you have first

Keep and use that old, wrinkled ribbon by ironing it to look fresh again, she recommended

She also recommended making use of all the ornaments you have — without worrying about matches.

“This is how we stay away from a ‘designer’ look and move more toward a traditional home-inspired feel,” she said.

2. Lights, lights and more lights

Barkley said the more lights you can add, the better.

Decorated Christmas room

Barkley recommends adding even more lights to your Christmas tree than you would normally, to make sure it sparkles for the holidays.  (iStock)

“Typically you want 100 lights for every foot of tree,” she said — so go bright.

The designer said she prefers a warm white light as opposed to a white or pure-white light, as these can often turn out looking blue.

3. Add fresh greens where you can 

Bring on the greenery, said Barkley.

“They last for weeks, and the smell will be warm and spicy just like Christmas,” she noted.

Decor tips

Make an arrangement full of greenery that will instantly brighten the room, said Barkley.  (Amanda Barkley)

She suggested an all-greenery arrangement for the home that can be simple and yet different.

Everyone tends to feel the stress during the holidays, she said — so she suggested focusing on what you love to do when bringing in the holiday spirit.

“I’m not a good cook, so I usually outsource that part of my holidays,” she said.

Amanda Barkley and White House

Amanda Barkley, a former White House lead designer, shared her top tips for decorating your personal space this holiday season.  (Amanda Barkley/Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

“If you’re not confident about your décor, then maybe lean into buying poinsettia plants, which easily can be dropped into any container.”


Overall, Barkley recommended leaning into the holiday and decorating wherever you can.

“Let’s inspire a younger generation not only so that they keep traditions alive — but possibly inspire the next generation of designers.”

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