There's nothing quite like a winter walk through snowy woods.
This holiday season, trend watchers are encouraging us to bring some of those evocative, foresty elements home to decorate our outdoor and indoor spaces.
It's a look that's soothing and seasonal, and easy to attain without spending tons of money.
Simple and natural are where it's at this year; spike if you wish with a bit of bling or a festive bow. You can buy or scrounge your greenery locally, and add a few found or inexpensive elements.
Even a traditional cedar, pine or boxwood wreath can be given a contemporary tweak if you dispense with the usual embellishments. There is something elegant about a spare, unadorned circle of green. Add a few small apples, oranges, pomegranates or pepperberries for a natural color touch. Wrap or bow-tie the wreath with burlap for a rustic vibe, or use velvet ribbon in an unexpected hue like persimmon, purple or mustard.
Wreaths made completely out of cushion moss look striking, as do those made of bay, sage or magnolia leaves. Freeze-dried fruit or flowers can look beautiful for years; just keep wreaths made of these delicate materials out of direct weather.
Richard Waite, author of the new Decorating with Evergreens (Gibbs-Smith, 2011), hangs twin wreaths on double doors or stacks them on single doors. He also fits a smaller, store-bought wreath inside a larger evergreen one.
Glam up the greenery with metallic ribbon -- copper and pewter are on trend. Add some flair for free by entwining an old necklace through the boughs, or affixing an old brooch.
Wreaths don't have to be round. Find square and star forms at nurseries and craft stores, or use old picture frames. Take apart a supermarket bundle of evergreens and get creative with jute, hemp, wire or a glue gun.
Collect lichen-covered twigs, lashing them together in a geometric shape. Dress with dried hydrangea or roses, tiny pinecones or white lights.
Coastal Living magazine suggests tying shells and starfish to wreaths and garlands -- great for seaside holiday homes. The design team at Country Living magazine fills a flat-sided fisherman's basket with greens and berries to hang on the door. And executive editor Shelley Ridenour says that while white pine and fir are traditional, "we love the chic, free-spirited look of boxwood. Eucalyptus leaves look fantastic with blue spruce when twisted into a garland or wreath. The key is to keep it simple, so the beauty of the greenery isn't overwhelmed."
Sunset magazine's website offers instructions for creating a fragrant snowflake using fir boughs and floral wire.
Swags are easy; ramp up the glamour by tying a handful of boughs together with wire and adding creamy ribbon, clusters of glitter-dusted cones or stars.
And garlands add a pretty frame to doors and a lush, finished look to porch rails and fences. Fragrant cedar and long needled pine are attractively shaggy; boxwood and short-needled evergreens work well for a formal front entrance. Mini lights look great in either, as do simple silver, ruby or sapphire ornaments; keep the frippery like ribbons and bows to a minimum for a clean, contemporary look.
If you're lucky enough to have a big front stoop, fill urns with fir boughs, eucalyptus, ilex berries and branches -- birch, dogwood and even salvaged twigs from around your neighborhood give height and texture to a pot. Add some spray-painted white ones for contrast.
Apartment dwellers might consider a slim florist's bucket, weighted with a heavy rock and filled with good-smelling cedar. Or splurge on a faux-boxwood topiary, which will last for years, and add a lush bow.
Don't forget the backyard. Place a wreath or garland on patio fences and enclosures, and fill empty planters with greens, unbreakable ornaments, a tangle of lights -- or all three.
Continue the nature vibe indoors by keeping the palette muted -- white, cream, mocha -- and go for texture to create interest.
Make a trail of ivy along the center of a table, mixing in hurricane lights and glass votive holders, suggests Ridenour. "Fill terrariums or glass cloches with evergreens or beautiful winter objects, such as pinecones or acorns, and display them on a dining table, mantel or bookcase. Hanging a wreath atop a mirror gives it the refined look of framed art," she says.
West Elm has a wreath studded with white felt balls that look like snowballs. It's available in green or red too, but the white makes an especially striking statement. The retailer also offers an ethereal feather wreath in white or a gentle dove brown. Pair with copper mercury glass or bisque candle holders, some polished pebbles or a twist of shell pink ribbon and you have got an elegant holiday mantelpiece.
Whether you're going with a bundle of bare branches in a pretty pot or a full-size evergreen as your holiday tree, think about decorating it with simple snowflakes made of different materials, such as laser-cut wood or felt. Choose winsome bottle-brush natural fiber ornaments, in animal shapes like foxes, bears, owls and raccoons. A tree full of little birds, perhaps, or a garland of paper snowballs and white jingle bells can be charming.
A home that's warmly dressed with outdoor elements says "Happy Holidays" all season long.