Michael Del Piero started off as an antiques dealer who just happened to have an affinity for interior designs that were layered without being frilly and overdone. It wasn’t until she met a famous, well-known, and respected designer who told her she had a keen sense of proportion, color, and mixing that could not be taught that she moved to interior designing full-time. Now she works mostly with residential clients in ritzy North Shore estates (see some of her projects here). Del Piero spoke with Chicago recently about her designing process and how to tastefully decorate our homes for the holidays.

How do you go about designing a space?

I look at the space I’m designing as a blank canvas. I’m very attracted to abstract art and tend to think of spaces in that way. I believe that you need blank spaces in order to rest and take other things in. Blank spaces are important to me as the spaces that are filled.

What is your process in designing a space?

I start with an inspiration, whether it’s from an ad or textile, then incorporate the client’s needs and desires, the architecture of the home and build a plan with all those in mind. There’s a lot of planning that goes into this. We pull together design plans for an entire home within a month because we believe that rooms need to connect.

How do you prepare your home for the holidays?

I like to use live things; I don’t like plastic or things that are too shiny. I personally use live trees, branches, white lights because they look like snow, and mix in dark bronze or mercury glass ornaments. I raised two kids in a interfaith home—I’m Catholic and my ex-husband is Jewish—so I always avoided anything that was too Christmas or too Hanukkah. I found that the live decorations were a good balance of both because it’s more of a winter look rather than one holiday over the other.

What is your favorite color scheme to use for holiday décor?

I like lots of shades of green to create a layered look, bright green berries with three or four different shades of greens with white, silver and bronze. One of my favorite things to do for the holidays is to do a live-layered tablescape. I layer my dining room table with all kinds of greens, berries, twigs, pinecones and little rusty objects I find around.

Do you have any tips for people decorating their homes for the holidays?

I think the biggest mistake is people think they can be tacky just because it’s a holiday. It’s the same concept you use when decorating a home, you want to be tasteful and have things flow together. So a theme that makes sense is most important—and don’t throw out taste!