All decked out outdoors with wreaths and gazing balls

December 18, 2009|By MARY CAROL GARRITY / Scripps Howard News Service

A couple of years ago, in a weak moment, I vowed to never again host a holiday open house at my historic home. Getting ready for the tour, which was held during my busiest season at work, was giving me gray hairs.

But in those quiet years off, I discovered something surprising: I couldn't stand it. I missed the fun and excitement of reinventing my home for the holidays, then opening my doors to new and old friends who traveled from all over the country to kick off the holiday season with us. Gray hairs or not, I wanted to resume the tradition.

Last year was my first year back, and I couldn't wait to make up for lost time. At the top of my list was creating an exterior display that was simple and inexpensive, yet so striking, it screamed holiday joy. Unfortunately, I was drawing a complete blank, and the hour of the open house was zooming up on me.


My home is fronted by a railing that is accented with broad pillars topped with shallow concrete urns. I knew this highly visible spot was the perfect place to create my low-effort, high-impact display, so I started to experiment. I rested a fat and fluffy faux pine wreath, which was studded with little silver balls, upon the mouth of an urn.

I loved the look. But it needed something more. So I placed a large silver gazing ball in the center of the wreath. My heart leapt. The small silver balls on the wreath harmonized with the large silver gazing ball, creating a monochromatic color scheme that was classy but simple. And I adored how the spiky needles of the evergreen wreath added a bit of a wild and woodsy feel to this orderly display.

Best yet, it was incredibly easy to build each of the displays because the gazing balls were so heavy that they held the wreaths firmly in place. No need to wire in or weigh down the wreath or the ball. All I had to do was toss the wreaths on the urns, plop in the gazing balls, and I was done with my whole front display in minutes.

I was so taken by this simple show stealer that I used a variation for the displays in my courtyard. I topped a black iron urn with a similar wreath dotted with multi-colored balls, then I finished it off with a bright red gazing ball. Cheerful and dazzling, the urn display popped out from the winter stillness of my garden, offering just the kind of simple but dramatic focal point the spot needed.

You can easily replicate this look at your home this winter. Clean up your garden urns, then top them with old wreaths you no longer want to use inside or purchase new weather-resistant wreaths. Scout for gazing balls at a garden center or use a huge Christmas tree ball, making sure to secure it carefully so it can't blow off in a winter gale.

Once my urns were dressed up, I turned my attention to my front door. I wanted to complement the metallic palette I introduced through the urns, so I hung a gold laurel-leaf wreath on my door, embellishing it with faux greens to match the wreaths in the front urns.

This holiday season, one of my favorite front-door looks is to hang a lantern from the doorknocker or a door hook. To create a display that looks fabulous both day and night, fit the lantern with a battery-operated candle that features an automatic timer, which will turn the candle on at the same time each night. I love these fake candles because they make your door twinkle and shine in the dark winter night.

Next, dress up your lantern by embellishing the outside with a wonderful holiday bow, like a black-and-white check or a red-and-green plaid. Add in some greens that complement the wreaths you've placed atop your garden urns. Or, if you're strapped for time, just insert a few festive pine picks inside the lantern, framing but not obscuring the candle.

Mary Carol Garrity is the proprietor of three successful home-furnishings stores and is the author of several best-selling books on home decorating. Write her at

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