See Inside Vanessa and Nick Lachey's L.A. Home Decked Out for the Holidays

Vanessa Lachey is feeling the holiday spirit!

It’s the Top Chef Jr. host’s favorite time of year, and this season she’s transformed her and husband Nick Lachey‘s L.A. home into a winter wonderland primed for holiday entertaining.

“I am obsessed with the holiday season,” gushes the mom of three, who partnered with HomeGoods to go all-out with her decorations, finding room for everything from a life-size sleigh full of presents to a hot cocoa station. And while hubby Nick, 45, is supportive, he also does his best to keep her — and their budget — in check.

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“With him it’s just, ‘Babe, I don’t want you to spend so much money on something that we can only have up for a certain amount of time,’” she tells PEOPLE. “And I do have to agree with him. The more kids we have, the more practical we have to become, you know, because there are other things that our children need.” 

Shopping at her favorite affordable decor destination, she explains, makes it easy for her to decorate to her heart’s content without worrying about breaking the budget.

“It’s like a treasure trove,” Vanessa, 38, says of the store, which helped inspire her vision for her family’s space.

Like any true HomeGoods lover — the chain boasts a long list of celebrity fans — Vanessa knows it’s best to approach the discount store with an open mind. “I feel like people are so set in thinking that what they love is their decor, but when you get into a store you get inspired in ways that I don’t think you ever even knew you could tap into… It’s a whole experience,” she muses. 

This holiday season, the former TRL host wound up with a style she describes as “kind of a modern cabin feel,” thanks to pops of buffalo plaid (her new obsession) and larger-than-life decorative items like Nutcrackers.

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“When it comes to holidays, especially Christmas, I’m all about pops of color, special items,” Vanessa says of her decorating philosophy. And it’s important to her that the decor does more than simply make their house feel extra cozy during the winter months — it’s also an interactive way to get her and Nick’s children excited for the holidays.

With the help of a particularly great find — a large, lightweight mailbox — Vanessa even created a special space for their three children, Camden John, 6, Brooklyn Elisabeth, 4, and Phoenix Robert, 11 months, to write letters to Santa.

The clever addition is also a gift to herself: “It’s great for Nick and I. At this point, I think I know what they want, but who knows!” 

Vanessa goes all out for holiday entertaining as well. “When we have people over, whether it’s for a full meal or just for afternoon cookies and cocoa and a cocktail for some adults, I like to put stations out where people can help themselves,” she shares. “Let it be user friendly,” she suggests. A drink and dessert station free up hosts from serving duty, allowing them to mingle with their guests instead of getting stuck behind the bar. 

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In the spirit of the giving season, Vanessa loves to leave her guests with a small keepsake to remember their time shared together. One of her go-to’s is personalized keepsake name tags for the table that visitors can take home with them. “This year, I found these wooden snowflake ornaments that I put the name of each person on,” she tells PEOPLE. 

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The most important thing, she notes, is to make sure to enjoy the magic of the season with her family: “It’s a really great time to take a minute and take a beat and spend time with them and just watch their imaginations go wild.”

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