Setting the Scene for the Holidays!

by University District

The season of glitter, glow and giving is around the corner! We are more than a little curious about the styles, colours and ways we can best bring modern magic and a fresh mood to our holiday decor.

Who better to turn to for answers than local Calgary-based design aficionado Alykhan Velji.


You’ve likely seen him on national TV and in magazines touting “it” looks for everything from simple and impactful pillows and throws choices to full-blown, entire-home design and decorating projects.

In fact, University District has turned to him for a delightful Discovery Centre holiday makeover with a showcase of tablescapes that you can tour over the holidays!

“Think a little differently about your holiday table scape this year. With us being allowed to have smaller get togethers this year for the holidays, why not amp up your table scapes and be the star of your next dinner party!” says Aly.

  • Rustic Chic
    A nod to the rustic with warm wood tones, black and white buffalo check, and holiday greens. Elevated with hits of black and of course a little sparkle.
  • Timeless Elegance
    Soft winter whites with natural elements like marble make this look universal. Adding elegance with gold tones and a natural element with dried florals keeps it modern.
  • Graphic Statement
    Play up the colour component and create a gorgeous graphic statement with graphic shapes and hues of pinks. A throwback to the 80s, this look will be sure to create an impact.


While chatting, we were inspired to reconsider what home holiday decor could look like for our 2021 celebrations, as we gather around the dinner table for memorable feasts, the TV for the latest holiday movies or the tree to see what surprises loved ones have parcelled up for us as we watch their delight when opening our gifts of love and appreciation!

Q. Alykhan, might our go-to European nutcrackers and velveteen ribbons and bows on the hearth be starting to feel a little less joyful? Do you think it’s time to turn some heads in a fresh direction this holiday season with new splashes of colour, texture and tone?

A. Absolutely! That said, this continues to be a nostalgic time of  year for everyone. With that, we often unpack storage boxes of treasured favourites — from that cheeky little elf on the shelf to mischievous Norwegian gnomes or even childhood stockings and music boxes. We would never want to suggest there is a great reason to toss traditions. However, we love to keep decor current, fresh and exciting and evolving.

I find that holiday decor should be a mix of old and new. So throwing in those pieces you have had over the years or using decorations your kids have made adds such a personal and warm touch to holiday decor.

Let’s focus on freshness this year! It’s time for some renewed energy to spark a little extra seasonal sensory happiness this year.

Q.  We agree! It’s time to embrace change.  So, what are the 2021 “it” colours for holiday style in your expert opinion?

A. Well, we are moving away from those deep, rich holiday colours and moving towards a more subtle palette.

I call earth tones the definitive “it” colours for the holiday style this year. Think soft greens, creams, mid-tone woods, and lots of natural materials. The key for 2021 is to keep it natural and soft. You can of course still accent with brass and silver tones to play up the festive look.  And I also adore incorporating hits of black in my holiday decor.

I find that this will really help to ground the whole natural look and add some sophistication to an earthy palette.



So how best to bring nature indoors do you suggest?

A. Fresh holiday greens are also always on trend and I love to have these all over the house. They don’t necessarily have to be in the traditional form of a real tree. 

You can use Christmas greens and berries in vases throughout your home.

I also love wreaths accented with magnolia leaves and eucalyptus, this will leave your house looking and smelling delightful. Boughs of holiday greens in and around your home is also an affordable way of adding that organic holiday touch to any space.

Q. What other easy and affordable ideas do you have to incorporate holiday decor into your home?

A. I love to change up my holiday decor simply by using accessories.  Keep every-year decorations a little more neutral. This way you can accent with the on-trend holiday scheme by using smaller touches. This ensures that you are keeping it affordable and still chic. 

Q. What surprising twists do you have up your sleeve to delight homeowners and their visitors during this special winter reprieve?

A. I love the use of whimsical decor and accessories. This year, it is all about natural materials like marbles, onyx, rattan and light wood tones. Using luxe finishes and mixing those natural materials really creates something unexpected. It is all about textures and working with these throughout your home to create a consistent look.

Q. Where do you like to source decor goodies in NW YYC for your projects?

A. I love to hit up Homesense in Market Mall. I think it is a great one stop shop for the best holiday decor and accessories all while keeping it wallet friendly. You don’t want to break the bank when decorating.

Did you know that NW YYC is home to beehives? Read our blog post about honey in the neighbourhood, craft ideas and natural must-haves from every U/D kitchen cupboard over the holidays!

Q. Are there examples of locally made items people may want to consider?

A. Hitting up markets across Calgary is a great way of seeing what others are making for holiday decor. I also love going on Etsy and seeing what local makers are on there and ordering those one-of-a-kind objects or gifts for the holidays.

TIP: Be sure to come by the Discovery Centre November 19 to December 19 to see Alykhan Velji’s expert designs on display!


University District We thank Alykhan and wish all our U/D retailers and residents a happy festive season! See you at Northwestival and hope you will share your favourite decor tips, recipes, shopping ideas and more with us online by tagging us in social media posts. It’s one more way, we can celebrate the season and togetherness! Engage with University District on Facebook, @udistrictyyc_ on Instagram or Twitter.

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