For this year's holiday decor, look outside.
The woods and winter are strong themes this season, with woodland creatures and other outdoorsy motifs, and ornaments crafted from natural materials. Surprisingly, perhaps, these are often versatile elements, equally suited to a rustic snowbound mountain cabin or a contemporary home.
Whatever your style, a chic and welcoming winter retreat is just a few dollars away.
Pottery Barn has a new collection of decorations and candles shaped like foxes, squirrels and other forest denizens. With birch bark-cloaked pillar candles, pine boughs and perhaps a few miniature trees, you'll have an evocative display that will outlast the holidays.
The retailer introduced fun reproduction vintage skis and snowshoes this season, too, wonderful to hang on the wall with or without a cheery blaze nearby to dry wet socks.
Target's also got a couple of nature-oriented decor themes. First Frost features hurricane lamps, candlesticks, and wall art iced with silver and snowy glitter. Birchwood Chalet's trees are made of twiggy bits, and there are reindeer and cardinal snow globes. Punched tin gingerbread-style ornaments and soft felt storage totes appliqued with snowflakes give off a cottagelike vibe. Yet many of the pieces in both these collections would just as nicely set the holiday stage of a modern space.
PB Teen has a deer's head sculpture made of white wire that would be dramatic in any room, especially incorporated into a holiday display with some white lights.
Los Angeles-based artists Anita Mothers-baugh and Marco DiMaccio, owners of Vanishing Creatures Chocolates, have created a line of organic dark and white chocolates in the shape of endangered species such as polar bears and gorillas. The packaging can be repurposed into bird feeders and candleholders, and a percentage of sales goes to the international Wildlife Trust.
A pair of guest hand towels from Wisteria.com are printed with 19th century reindeer illustrations suited to the current antiquarian trend. There's also a sweet pair of tabletop reindeer crafted from birch fibers.
Delight.com is one of several retailers offering clever, low-tech wooden cases for the iPod line. Look too for wooden flash drives, computer keyboards and music components. These are fun ways to bring a sense of eco-hipness to high tech gear and gift giving.
Another creative gift inspired by the outdoors, albeit the urban landscape, is the work of Canadian studio Alphabet Photography. Jennifer Blakeley and her team search the world's cities for evocations of letters in scrolled iron fences, curved windows, gates and architectural moldings. They'll spell out any special name, word or phrase for you; the Web site offers letter choices and methods of framing.
Designer David Stark's holiday collection for West Elm incorporates natural materials in rustic yet pretty pieces such as twine-wrapped trees and star garlands, and softly hued pillar candles embossed with tiny gold flowers. For gift-giving or your own home, consider West Elm's whimsical rabbit and tree snow globes, and the wooden music boxes shaped like fruit. The apple plays Burt Bacharach, the pear Chopin. Now that's music for a cozy room on a chilly evening.