DIY Holiday Decorating

Written By Lisa Ahern, Cedar Grove Gardens

Let’s admit it, decorating for the holidays can be a bit of a chore. We all lead hectic lives that have us running different directions, often, at the same time. It’s tempting to go home after a long day at work and sit down and let the world outside wait “on hold” while you have a glass of wine and wind down. Alas, the 10-year-old inside me insists I decorate every year even though I don’t have kids.

I always feel better when I’ve taken the time to spruce things up and acknowledge the season. After all, I make holiday décor for a living and it would be a shame not to do the same for myself as well. As a matter of fact, it would make me feel rather Scrooge-ish!

The trick for me is to take the bull by the horns and get decorating done early. Really early. Like the day after Thanksgiving. After that, the pace of life picks up too fast and things get ahead of me. Once I’ve taken the time to do it I can enjoy coming home to my little “holiday house” every night for the rest of the season.

I’ve made a “punch list” of holiday “focal points” that are things I tend to do every year. Here we go…

Decorate the front door so it looks interesting and attractive from the street.

A wreath on the front door should be the major focal point. It’s the first thing that greets everyone who comes to the house or passes by. Make that bow spectacular! Buy the fancy ribbon. Use two ribbons together. Go big and go bold on the pine cones and shiny ornaments. Invest in the “good stuff” and use it several years in a row to get your money’s worth. Save the ornaments and bow and bring them out again next year. You will never regret spending money on something you really love. (You will regret skimping and thinking about what you really wanted and did not get!) A basket full of logs, birch wood or otherwise, and a new door mat finish the scene at the front door.

Make a little “vignette” just for my own pleasure to greet me daily when I come in the side door and toss down my keys.

I usually do a smaller version of the front door wreath on the side door. Sometimes with only a really great bow that is the same as the front. I always hang an old leather strap of sleigh bells around the door knob. They cheerfully jingle every time someone comes in or out. My side door is actually a screened-in porch. To dress if for winter, I’ve made “curtains” from vintage plaid woolen blankets (ebay!) stitched together and hung on rods. A shower curtain is stitched to the reverse side to protect from soaking rain. Nobody sees the backside of my porch in winter and the “campy-ness” of the tartan look inside puts a smile on my face every time!

Add the little holiday touches inside in the areas where I spend the most time, i.e., the kitchen sink and the spot where I usually sit in the living room.

The kitchen sink in my house is command central, the hub of my home. Here you must have a small wreath facing inward and/or a pleasing little windowsill scene that says, “holiday”! Whether it’s bottle brush trees and snowflake ornaments or potted lime cypress trees in birch bark pots with pine cones, the window at the sink is the #1 spot in the house because you often spend hours there cooking and baking during the holiday season. I love to use little battery-operated copper line lights to illuminate the scene. They are available with a built-in timer that turns them on at the same time every day and shuts off after 5 hours. They are lit when I come in the door – perfection!

In the family room I usually introduce some fragrance; a pine tree candle in a hurricane or a reed diffuser with a holiday fragrance. A tabletop size tree is often the closest I’ll get to a real Christmas tree. As a matter of fact, I’ve been known to skip any kind of true altogether and just swag some garland from side to side at each door frame in the room and hang a few baubles and bows on each corner. A generous “drip” down of greenery on each side frames in the scene and keeps the décor from taking up valuable square footage in my small home (mistletoe optional).

Another good spot to add an embellishment is the windows. A little boxwood tucked on either side of the window lock with a small bow is a nice touch. Hang a small artificial wreath (6” often sold as a “candle ring”) from a suction cup on the bottom half of the window and voila! Instant cheer!

Of course the mantel is the queen of all spots in the house. Go a little asymmetrical this year and create a focal point on one side. Use a tree topper as a standing ornament and cluster a few more ornaments at the base. Drip some garland down the right side of the mantel and you have a very chic, minimalist look that says, “I am crushing this holiday décor thing!”

Pour a drink and step back and admire your work.

Lisa Ahern is a flower designer and merchandiser at Cedar Grove Gardens in Dorchester. She’s a Dorchester resident by choice (DBC). Follow her on Pinterest at Lisamahern40.