By  on December 21, 2006

It's the holidays — the big hurrah of tinsel, tree ornaments and flashing plastic fantastic decor. Park Avenue's lit up, Rockefeller Center's fa-la-la festive and every store window in the city has been transformed into a scene of merch-meets-merriment opulence. But beyond the view of the public — at home or in the atelier — how do designers deck their holiday halls?

It's certainly not boughs of holly over at Betsey Johnson's studio. The decoration du jour is a paper-doll foldout of a curly-haired moppet named Babycakes — her spring runway show invite. "As soon as we thought up the invitation, I said, ‘I hope we have a lot left over because this is the cutest Christmas tree decoration,'" Johnson says. Luckily, there were plenty to spare — enough to cover the towering tree at the designer's Seventh Avenue office. (The tree, incidentally, had to be cut down to fit the 11-foot-high ceilings.)

Johnson's home decor, in contrast, is relatively understated this year: a small pink tree from ABC Carpet & Home. "It's the first time I don't have a real tree," she says, pointing out that she will spend Christmas with family elsewhere, and make a stop at Betseyville, her Mexican villa in Barra de Potosi. "I have a tree-decorating party there with kids from the village," she says. "I love to cut construction paper and make multicolor chains, and I love strung popcorn — all the old-fashioned, time-consuming things."

Johnson's not the only one who takes to the traditional. The scene chez Rachel Roy is straight out of "It's a Wonderful Life." Paper snowflakes, made by her daughter Ava, hang in the windows, and wicker baskets stocked with ornaments fill different parts of the home. Roy heats up red wine with cinnamon sticks — "for the smell as much as the taste" — and sets the television to the Turner Classic Movie channel so its films play quietly in the background. "I'm also a sucker for Christmas music," she notes, "especially when played with a harp."

Essex native Sue Stemp favors a rather British ambience. Her tree is decorated with sweets and English toy crackers. New Zealander Rebecca Taylor, meanwhile, recalls the cross-cultural shock of a southwestern American holiday. "I was surprised when I visited my husband's Texan relatives to see a country Christmas," Taylor says. "There were bundles of cinnamon tied on the backs of chairs with gingham ribbon and patchwork quilt snowmen." Her own yuletide decor, however, veers more toward ethereal chic, with lots of shine in clear crystals and metallics.

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