Celebrating the holidays does not mean that you need to incorporate the traditional reds, greens, and golds associated with the season. You can still channel your festive spirit by opting for more neutral-toned decor with warm winter whites, natural wood finishes, and organic seasonal touches. We recruited Ascia Sahar to show how to create a neutral-hued look for the holidays, and she ended up giving us a lesson in layering in vivid hues as well. The lifestyle influencer and blogger recently invited us over for brunch at the Dallas home she shares with her husband and three (soon to be four!) little ones. Starting with the neutral tones of the Casafina Eivissa dinnerware, Clemente Bowl, SIN Prong Bowl, and linen napkins, Ascia then added in bright persimmons, burnt orange flowers, salad greens, and a berry medley to brighten up her holiday table. It was a brilliant contrast of tones, which allowed the meal to take center stage. We had a chance to briefly chat with Ascia about creating that harmonious balance for this season's decor, why she adds vivid color with the food at her table, and a few of her recommendations for holiday decorating. Read below for more.
You began your career as a photographer before founding Expedition Subsahara. Was there a moment of inspiration that led you to that transition?
You've had a career in marketing, business development, global affairs, on-air reporting, and entrepreneurship before you moved into content creation. Was there a moment that inspired the change?
I believe it was a collection of different moments that led to my current path and what I do now as a content creator. I'd also have to say that my passion for writing as a form of therapy initially connected me with my base audience, and through that, I gained the confidence to continue onward.
In your writing and videos, you proudly share your faith and culture while also warmly embracing people as they are. Could you speak to creating such a welcoming presence with your work?
I'd say it comes from my lived experience. As someone born a refugee, I spent a few years in Europe as an immigrant, then finally arrived in this country I now call home. I have experienced it all, from the warm embrace and feeling like I belonged to the painful words of the ignorant. I choose kindness in this chaotic world. Our time in this space is limited and how we can intentionally make things better is by accepting people as they are.
Happy Holidays! Tell us your inspiration behind your holiday decor this year. How would you describe it?
It was to create a harmonious balance with what already exists in my home, my everyday surroundings. For me, that means neutrals, layering pieces, incorporating what already lives in my space, and lots of textures!
How do you want people to feel when they walk into your home?
I want them to feel warmth, welcomed, and loved! Oh, so dearly loved!
What is the best way to incorporate festive elements and seasonal touches while keeping a neutral holiday theme?
Keeping the color scheme in one family, adding natural elements like fresh garland, and incorporating nature into my decor—like pine tree branches in a tall vase and pine cones placed in a centerpiece bowl.
Your tablescape is stunning! It's minimally styled but still feels so vibrant—how do you strike that balance?
Thank you! As I plan my tablescape with my serving ware, the food is where all that vivid color comes in. The tablescape is meant to serve as the canvas for the meal itself. This way, it allows for a balance between the table decor and the food made with love to share with loved ones.
Similarly, it feels like you allow your menu to take center stage. Are there any staples you always cook or have on your table?
Absolutely! Whenever I have the honor to host, the menu items are almost always traditional Afghan food!
With so many dishes, our holiday tablescapes can sometimes feel overstuffed. Any advice to set your places as minimally as possible?
My major piece of advice would be to set the table with the main dishes and create a buffet-style set-up off to the side or on the kitchen island for the additional menu items. Use all of your kitchen and dining pieces at your disposal.
Beyond your dining area, what are your top tips for neutral holiday decor?
Create an ambiance near or at your main entrance. I've used my entryway console as a way to welcome guests with lots of seasonal touches—like warm-scented candles, dried pinecones and branches, and lots of flowers.
What are three must-haves in your home during this season?
This season, my three must-haves are cinnamon-scented dried pinecones in my Lulu and Georgia Lakshmi Bowl, a fresh olive wreath for my front door, and an insane amount of hot chocolate!
What is one holiday tradition you're looking forward to the most with your family this year?
The one I adore the most is simply about being together with my family. We love gathering around our fire pit in our backyard, sipping on hot chocolate, making smores, and watching the sun go down.
We're so excited for you and your growing family! What's next for you all?
We're expecting our littlest and last addition to our family in late February! All of us are feeling blessed to have this opportunity for one more to love, my oldest especially! I am in the midst of nesting, and I hope to have a few more home projects completed before this little one's arrival. Besides that, we're practicing mindfulness, enjoying our now, and grounding ourselves in gratitude.
Photography provided by Ascia Sahar