The Festive Front Door

By Sharon Naylor

September 17, 2010 5 min read

Impress your party guests before they even walk through the door! When you decorate your front porch or entryway with your favorite style and theme of Christmas decorations, you give guests the immediate message that they have arrived at a truly unforgettable party.

It's very much the same message that bed-and-breakfast proprietors use when decorating their own front porches. "When our guests arrive, our holiday d?cor conveys a warm and welcoming sense," says Byron McCutchen, co-owner with his wife, Deborah, of The Amelia Island Williams House. Their holiday d?cor has earned their bed-and-breakfast the title of the "Christmas House" on the Florida island. "We want guests to feel as if they've arrived at a home away from home," says McCutchen, so they share their personal, family collection of d?cor at the entrance and throughout the house for that mood-setting first impression.

The first things your guests see upon their arrival will indeed set the tone for your party. Red pillar candles in hurricane lamps paired with lush evergreen garlands and red velvet bows to match a sizeable wreath with a matching bow on the door says, "The scene is set for our elegant dinner party." White lights strung through the trees lining your front walkway and white illuminated topiaries flanking the front door also convey an upscale cocktail or dinner party sense.

In contrast, if your front walkway and front porch are populated by light-up cartoon characters and silly d?cor, such as a painted wooden sign extending the invitation of "Elves Welcome To Party Here!" and bright, multicolored lights, the personality of your party is revealed as more playful and informal, laid-back and relaxed.

According to a recent Unity Marketing report, sales of outdoor holiday d?cor rose 18.9 percent last year, with outside decorating the focus of holiday d?cor this year. Here are some tips for decorating your front walk, porch and entryway to welcome your party guests in festive style:

--Match indoors and out. If the tree trimmings and decorations inside your home are pink and silver with a Victorian flair, building your outdoor d?cor theme to carry that same Victorian effect gives your home and grounds a unified feel.

--Light it up. Invest in light-emitting diodes, which give off a bright glow and also save an impressive 85 percent on energy costs. A string of 100 LEDs uses only 8 watts, and because LEDs do not burn as hot as standard bulbs, their use makes for safer d?cor, as well. Look for LED d?cor in the shape of Christmas gifts, spheres to hang in trees or ropes that can be laid out to line your front walkway and porch steps.

--Go green. Display 2- to 3-foot evergreen trees or shrubs in your ceramic porch planters to add a classic, natural look to your entry d?cor, especially when paired with evergreen garlands lining your porch railings. Accent each garland with either strings of lights or shimmery fabric bows that reflect your outdoor lights, creating a subtle sparkling effect. You can find pre-lit garlands online and at garden centers and discount stores, such as Target.

--Keep it simple. Arrange one major focal point, such as a gorgeous wreath, on the door and lit evergreens on both sides of the door rather than pile up your porch with dozens of animated figures and light-up signs, bows and ribbons. More is not better, so scale back and let your smart simplicity stand out.

--Make clever signs. Holiday catalogs are filled with clever signs, and because it's so easy to make your own with a simple square of wood and paints, pens and accents from the craft store, make it a family project to create one new message sign each year. Yours might say "Reindeer, stop here!" or "Santa's Favorite Hangout" or "Mrs. Claus called. She said to drive safely!"

--Use what you have. Search your attic and clean up heirloom outdoor holiday d?cor for your display. Set out the old sled that you've had in your basement for years, and pile it high with wrapped boxes to look like a gift delivery. The perfect mix of old and new makes your home's entry d?cor stand out, because it's not the same light-up snowman that everyone else on the block has on the front lawn. And that is what impresses party guests the most.

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