In planning your holiday decorations, remember to include the outside of your home.
You'll have more space in which to create your fantasy, and there's nothing more inviting than to walk or drive up to a house that is decked out in special festive attire.
One possibility is to stage a little vignette like the one shown here with "pretend" wrapped presents and small fresh or fake evergreen trees. Begin on the front porch with cedar topiaries and continue inside by using miniature classic shapes on the fireplace.
Start with garlands of bay leaf and fir. Williams-Sonoma carries fresh lemon leaf, bay leaf and Douglas fir, grown in Northern California, that are tied and twisted by hand for seasonal displays. You can order these online at www.williams-sonoma.com or by calling (800) 334-9790.
What is especially nice about this type of garland is that it is not so specifically Christmas-oriented but works well into any winter decor.
You also might consider English ivy as a suitable plant base since it has an equally sophisticated presence. Ivy can be dressed up with fresh roses and clear votive candles or festooned with tulle. Add gold, orange and brown ribbons or nuts and small squashes to the garlands for Thanksgiving, then change the impact with red, silver or gold of Christmas. Red-and-green plaid ribbon is another good addition to the finery.
Fresh mixed garlands range from $60 to $76 for a 6-foot length, and Douglas fir garlands in the same length can be purchased for around $45. Artificial holly and berry garlands and wreaths, as shown here, are a good investment since they can be used year after year.
Evergreen garlands are available in varying quality from local drugstores to specialty silk flower stores. If you plan to keep such a garland, it makes sense to invest in good quality.
Again, ribbons are a simple way to pull the real or fake plants into a particular holiday color scheme. That way you can bring these out in November and use them until spring.
Extend the warmth and coziness from your living room right out to the front step by using an area rug. Borrow one from the inside for a month, realizing that it might get wet and need cleaning after the holidays.
Or check out one that is made specifically for inclement weather like the all-weather patio rug sold by Smith & Hawken. The 5-foot by-8-foot patio rug has a handsome looping wrought-iron pattern that will fit in well with your holiday designs. It's weather-resistant and will dry quickly after a rain or snow.
Another possibility is to buy a cheap secondhand rug at a thrift shop or a faux Oriental at a discount store and dispose of it when the season is over.
Think bigger than just one wreath at the door. If you have a double entry, be sure to hang a wreath on both doors. Otherwise your entry will look like a kid going to a party with only one shoe.
Apply garlands on the face of the house above the front door or on the underside of the overhang. Add twinkle lights or hanging icicle lights. Change the bulb in the porch light to a red or green one.
Place battery-operated candles in all of your upstairs windows to signal your greeting to people passing by.
This is one instance where more is truly better. The goal is to create a spirit of warmth and celebration to welcome holiday guests - and to spread the season's cheer to strangers who might pass by.
Christine Brun is a San Diego-based interior designer and the author of Big Ideas for Small Spaces. Send questions and comments to her by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or to Copley News Service, P.O. Box 120190, San Diego, CA 92112.