Holiday lights and more with Taniya Nayak - Home Front

Taniya Nayak
Dec 14, 2017

Designer Taniya Nayak, a regular on HGTV, is currently on ABC's "The Great Christmas Light Fight". She is known for creating hot new restaurants and interiors all over the country. Taniya, whose firm is based in Boston, knows a lot about holiday lighting as well as making your place stand out.

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. She and weekly guests, whether Martha Stewart, the Property Brothers or Nate Berkus, answer your decorating and design questions. Jura is always happy to whip out her paint chips, track down a hard-to-find piece of furniture or offer her seasoned advice on practical living and decluttering. For more than 10 years, Home Front has been an online conversation about the best way to make your home comfortable, stylish and fun. We invite you to submit questions and share you own great tips, ideas and gripes. No problem is too big or too small, send them over.

Welcome this morning to designer Taniya Nayak, a regular on HGTV who  is currently on ABC's "The Great Christmas Light Fight". Taniya  is known for creating hot new restaurants and interiors all over the country. Taniya, whose firm is based in Boston, knows a ton about holiday lighting and decorating as well as making your own place have a lot of personality. So let's chat. 

Hello everyone and thank you for joining me for today's chat!  My name is Taniya Nayak and I am an interior designer based in Boston!  For the past few months, I have been crisscrossing the country to see the best holiday light displays for ABC's The Great Christmas Light Fight!  You can watch the season finale on ABC on Monday, Dec 18 at 8pm.  Looking forward to your questions!  Thank you for hosting me, Jura!  

What do you think is a reasonable amount of lights for an eight foot Christmas tree? Each year, my husband piles on more - I think there should be a limit!

Great question!  A good rule of thumb is 100 lights for every foot-and-a-half of tree. However, if you love lights, you may want to double or even triple that amount.

Good morning, I recently donated my PVC artificial Christmas tree for a new mostly PVC-free tree, since from the moment I put it up, until I took it down my husband coughed. I am looking to also get rid of my indoor Christmas lights and gold garland. Do you know where I can purchase PVC-free Christmas tree lights? Also, do you have any environmentally-friendly garland you can recommend? Thanks for you help.

I totally hear ya!  PVC trees carry toxins that affects people's allergies in different ways.  What you'll want to look out for is a new technology where the tree is made from injection-molded polyethylene (PE) plastic.  You can find them via an online search.  The best part?  They are even more realistic looking! 

Hi Taniya, We remember watching you on "Restaurant Impossible" years ago, and have always wondered: Was the next-day remodeling and redecorating really as hectic as portrayed on television? Do you have any tips for those of us who want to remodel or redecorate in a short timeframe and on a limited budget? Thanks!

Yes absolutely! It was always super hectic! And the timeframe was real! 

My best tip for not stressing out during a reno is to plan ahead and create lists and budgets for every last detail before you get started. I also recommend purchasing your accessories first and picking your paint color LAST believe it or not- it's a great way to find great deals on furniture and decor items.

I know you do fabulous restaurants. What I'm wondering is, why is the lighting in so many bistros so bad? And how can I learn from this when lighting my dining room?

I'm a nut about good lighting especially in a restaurant or bistro! Best advice....everything on a dimmer. Then you have the flexibility to light for all different occasions.

Or you can consider different sources of light like floor lamps or table lamps in a side table/buffet table.



Our small western town has seen a tidal wave of projected holiday lights this year. I was one of the excited flood, but somehow they are ultimately disappointing after the initial charm fades. Are we missing something?

I think you're exactly right!  These projectors seem to have really taken off this year, as we've been seeing them everywhere.  I think that the key is to remember that it's just one element.  A truly great display will have a variety of different type of light sources.  You should have colors and white lights, static lights and lights in motion.  Just like anything in good design, it's all about the mix!  

So purple seems to be one of the hot colors this year. I love it but how can I inject just a little bit into my living room color scheme?

I do love me some purple! Especially because there are so many purples to choose from. Best way to inject just a touch is by adding a vase w flowers, a painting, or even some throw pillows or a blanket. But the key to making it all work is to have at least 3 small sources of purple balanced through out the room. For ex..A vase w purple flowers in one corner, a throw blanket on the sofa, and a piece of art in the opposite corner that may have a touch of purple in it as well. Make sense? :)

Do you know of anywhere to get copper pots re-tinned?

Sending this out to local area cooks. Any ideas?

Hi Taniya, I used to love watching you on Restaurant Impossible. You always came up with fantastic ideas. I'm hoping you can give me a tip on the easiest way to. Make a home wreath for my front door. The store wreaths are okay but I want to display my own creation. Thank you for any suggestion you can give me.....Norman

I love to make wreaths! I always like to make mine a little personal. Is there something that you especially like or collect? I have seen wreaths made from wine corks, pine cones, ornaments, even toy cars. Grab a wire wreath frame from the craft store and ask them help you with whatever else you may need for that specific wreath. Also be sure to look up more ideas and instructions on Pinterest- such a great resource! And most importantly....have fun with it!!

We own a business in Colorado called Rocky Mountain Helicopters. Is ok to decorate for Christmas specifically or just for the overall holiday season? Love to hear your feedback... Thanks, Owner/President Chris Renn

I would say, best to decorate for your community as they are the ones supporting you and your business HOWEVER...definitely incorporate decorations that are specific to your personal holiday traditions.

I guess what I am trying to say, is you can't go wrong with a little something for everyone! 

I was just reading the article where the professional organizer says not to give candles, and I'm panicking. I have bought some Luminara flameless candles to give a close relative. Are those better to give than the real ones? Please say yes!

Hey, what does this organizer have against candles?!  I love candles as a gift, and this sounds like a nice option that will last for your loved one!  

Do you have a go-to gift you give each year? Or what do you think is a good hostess gift you can buy in quantity and give to a number of people?

I love to give a candle (see previous question!).  But i also love to create personalized ornaments to give as gifts.  You can buy the ornaments in bulk and then decorate them uniquely.  

How do you feel about trees done in one color ornaments? Do you think it's boring?

Not at all boring! I love it! 

What has been your favorite light display this year?

I am glad you asked! One thing that a lot of people watching the show do not realize is how much I agonize over picking just one winner on each episode. As cliche as this may sound- to me, they all truly are winners. I love all of the families, their lights, and the reasons why they do it every year. I can't say I have just one overall favorite but there were definitely favorite elements in every display like the skating rink on the Tomasello family's driveway! And the patriotic themed light show on our special "Neighbors" episode at the Wilz family display.

What do you do on your own mantel? I don't want to use natural greenery as I use my wood burning fireplace and don't want the threat of fire.

Hi Taniya! I just love your work!!! I really enjoy filling my house with lights. I have them everywhere even in the bathrooms and bedrooms! I especially like adding some flair to my dining room to make the holiday meals more special! What kind of lighting do you recommend and should it be variable and flexible for different types of meals? Maybe formal for a turkey dinner but fun for something like pizza? Do you like pizza? Thanks for your help and happy holidays! HF4827

Instead of fresh greens, try using lights or garland made from ornaments for a colorful focal point! 

Next week while my kids are gone I am going to paint my basement some white or cream color, but I need some help in which direction to go. The basement is L-shaped with 2 windows along the back wall and 1 window along the side wall (far end of the L) that are all about 2 feet high by six feet wide, so it is somewhat dark in there, but not overwhelmingly so. However, I do want to maximize the light. There is a large brown couch and a table from LLBean (milk white, which is essentially the same color as Benjamin Moore Bone White). Also I plan to put an old oak bar table and chairs in it as well. I don't know whether to go in the direction of a cool white or a warm one. Also, do I need to do anything differently because it is paneling? It has already been painted over with (I believe) Benjamin Moore Navajo White in a flat finish (there was a can of this in the basement when we moved in). I plan to use an eggshell finish. I was hoping to go to the store today to get one or more quarts to try out on various walls, but I'd like to narrow my options down before I go.

Hi There! Sounds like you are on the right track. White is a great option as I totally agree that basements can get very dark. In your case, if you are adding natural wood elements, choose a warmer toned white. And I would also be sure that it is an eggshell finish as it will be washable and more durable for all of the activity down there.

Would love a fresh idea for a holiday centerpiece...

Quick, easy , and fresh ideas for a centerpiece!

Greab a small wreath and lay it flat on the table. Add some candles in the center hole portion. It can be one large one or several candles at various heights. 

Another idea is to grab some fallen branches from the yard and spray paint them gold, silver, or high gloss white. Drop them in a vase and if you want to take it a step further, add some small ornaments to them. 


I'm interested in some of the BM paint colors, particularly those "in between" colors that look different in different light but not so keen on paying BM prices-- I'd rather buy the premium Behr line. What's the best way to color-match across brands? Do they come out accurately?

Absolutely- all you need to do is tell them at the paint store that you want a BM color using the other brand and they will color match for you. I have had great success with this but definitely do a test patch before painting the entire room. 

Bought some... love them and I would love to receive them as a gift. No more fear of wax on my beautiful tables!

I agree - I am terrified of hot wax dripping on my tables and walls.

Do you have a new show coming up?

Hi! I am still filming The Great Christmas Light Fight on ABC. I am also a regular guest on The Rachael Ray Show.

Currently working on new show ideas so fingers crossed- you'll be seeing me very soon! 

Good morning, My daughter's room is painted Maidenhair Fern, a mossy green with some yellow in it. I am struggling with a color for the rug. Tan? Gray? Yellow? Blue? Appreciate your help!

I would say with that color combo, add a lighter tan rug to freshen it up! 

Hello, We need a new sofa for our family room in our small home with transitional decor (if you can call it decor, that is). Our previous sofa was used all the time, but it's oversized for the space and its large loose back cushions are just about always a mess. We need something durable (we have kids), comfortable, compact and affordable. I'm thinking something L shaped with a tight back or at least a semi-attached one. Any suggestions?

I am a big fan of a large sectional sofa- you are definitely on the right track here. I understand your concerns with the loose cushions but I would still make sure that the sofa is super comfy as it sounds like your family is all about some good comfort! Micro fiber or vinyl are extremely durable options. Also keep a large basket of throw blankets & pillows nearby.

What if you like lots of colors in lights on the tree. Is that a dated look?

Not dated looking at all. 

The Christmas tree is a perfect opportunity to show off who you are and what your decor style is. SO have fun with it and don't worry about trends! 

Hello Taniya! I am such a big fan of yours! I love enjoying my coffee on the weekends, but inevitably end up with coffee and additional stains on my sheets. I have switched to dark sheets, but they just make my bedroom seem so depressing. Any brilliant and exciting ideas on how to brighten up the bedroom and keep me from unnecessary stains? Thanks!!!

Hey there! This is so funny because I am also a black coffee in bed person! And I ALSO get coffee stains on my sheets sometimes. We can do one of 2 things here: 

1. Get out of bed hahaha

2. Keep white sheets and wash with a good bleach or Oxy Clean which is what I do to keep my sheets looking bright and fresh.

Thanks for the question...and the compliment :)

Thanks Taniya! Great chat and great lighting and other advice. Next week join me for Susan Dippre talking about the decorations at Colonial Williamsburg.

HI Taniya! I'm a huge fan. My husband and I are planning a trip to Boston in the new year, and we would love to eat at some of your restaurants to see your designs in person! Where are we most likely to run into you and your cute bulldog Flynn?

Hi! Yah! You'll love Boston and I love that you know of my adorable little bulldog Flynn! 

We just opened a couple of new spots this year. We have Citrus and Salt in the Back Bay area and we also have a hot little taqueria called Yellow Door Taqueria in Dorchester. Right next door to that is Lower Mills Tavern. I hope we run into each other at one of our places! 

Hi there. Every Christmas Eve in my hometown in Utah, everyone in the neighborhood put up paper bag luminarias along our sidewalks. I love them. But in my current Maryland neighborhood, no one does it. Would it be weird to be the only house doing it? I can't quite convince my husband. :) Thanks!

I love luminaries! I don't think it would be weird at all! 

Do you have a favorite paint color for a bedroom? We want a soothing spa look - right now we have a khaki color and it's kind of boring.

One of my fave colors is November Rain by Benjamin Moore. It seems to change through out the day.

Thank you all so much for the amazing questions!  I had a great time chatting with everyone.  Check me out on Instagram and don't miss the season finale of the Great Christmas Light Fight on ABC this Monday at 8pm et!  

Happy holidays everyone!!! 

In This Chat
Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily twitter feed @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering, organizing and DC retail.

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