It’s easy to get in a rut with the same holiday decorations each year. Why not do things differently this season, beginning at the front door?
Updating your outdoor display doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult. Some designers suggest keeping things simple: perhaps a different color scheme, in harmony with the surrounding landscape, or a few personal tweaks to the traditional.
"Even if a single wreath is the extent of your decorating, make it yours with special ribbon," says New York designer Philip Gorrivan. "It’s the first thing guests see, and creates a lasting impression."
Try making wreaths of pine cones or magnolia blossoms sprayed with high-gloss lacquer, he says. "They look chic and modern yet reference the past."
Sally Wilson, partner with husband John Kelsey in Wilson Kelsey Design in Salem, Mass., suggests starting with a new color theme. "For a refreshing change from cherry red, try rich burgundy, or elegant white and/or gold with forest green," she says.
The key, she adds, is not to go overboard: "Wreaths on every window, colored lights framing the stair banister and outlining the roof — it can look like you didn’t know when to stop. Plus it waters down your focal point, the entrance."
Gorrivan suggests photographing the front of the house and making a large print before getting the ladder out. "Play around with paper patterns of the garlands, trees, torches, whatever you plan to use, cut to scale," he says. "This way you can verify balance, proportion and color combinations."
An example of balance: "If you have double front doors, place wreaths on both of them. Otherwise they’ll look lopsided," Wilson says.
When wrapping garlands around posts or columns, she adds, "Keep the spaces between them uniform. And go for an odd number of loops, more interesting than even."
For many designers, outdoor displays are a chance to let your creative side shine — to play with items that say something about you or where you live.
"If kitsch is your thing and you live near the beach, why not put Santa on a surf board and drape the hedge with lights shaped like pineapples?" says Los Angeles designer Mark Cutler. "What’s important is that you like it ... and everything is in proportion and balanced."
In warmer climates, where traditional greenery can look out-of-place and homes are often contemporary in style, Cutler likes door wreaths of olive branches, palm leaves and herbs.
"Add baubles in natural colors — terra-cotta, olive, soft white — or use a square rather than a round wreath. More in keeping with the architecture," he says.
"Palm trees look festive with their trunks and fronds swirled in small white lights," says Cutler.
Unabashedly fake, silver, tinsel trees also look fun in hot climates, he says. "Buy a ‘grove’ of them in different sizes at Kmart."
Pam Flowers, principal of PK Flowers Interiors in Aledo, Texas, goes for a Southwestern feel with big bunches of red chili peppers, dried-flower wreaths sprouting from old leather cowboy chaps, and even lit-up farm equipment.
"Make the most of what you have" is a Gorrivan mantra. Popular on apartment terraces, for instance, are bamboo gardens. "Don’t replace them with evergreens," he says, "Swag them in white lights."
Those with lawns might put a small cluster of outdoor trees in the front yard. "Position them securely in tree stands and anchor with heavy gauge wire. Then decorate au naturel with suet cakes, cranberry chains and popcorn balls," he says. "It’s a treat for the kids, as well as the birds."
One of Cutler’s favorite traditions is to hang white ornaments from an oak tree in front of his house, with a red one added each year for daughter Ruby. "It adds to the family spirit of the holidays," he says, "which is, of course, what it’s all about."
Speaking of family, don’t forget the doors you use most frequently.
"If you use a side door, try a flat-back basket filled with pine, berries and cinnamon sticks," suggests Wilson. "If you enter the house through the garage, hang a wreath beribboned in colors similar to those used in front."
And if you’re feeling a little more ambitious, try to bring your outdoor and indoor decorations in sync: "Extravagant or simple, carry the same theme and colors from outside in, from room to room," says Gorrivan. "It’s easy on the eyes and makes a complete statement."