Creative Lighting

Illuminate your porch with seasonal decorations for a warm holiday welcome.
Charlie Thigpen

Foliage and fabric, backlit by Christmas lights, can make your front porch shine for the Yuletide season. Among the possibilities:  A topiary frame wrapped in fabric gives a warm red glow for a neat nighttime effect, while tiny lights illuminate a wreath of beech leaves. These simple projects will help you use lights for a different, festive look.

Lit From Within
We created a twinkling decorated topiary form that resembles a miniature Christmas tree. Filled with a swag of red lights and draped in burlap, the metal frame emits an inviting glow from dusk till dawn. The small rays of light shining through the cloth look like tiny red stars.

Topiary frames come in all shapes and sizes. This project calls for one with a pyramid shape. (The metal frame used is topped with a decorative finial.) Start by attaching the red lights to the inside of the frame. Then wrap a piece of burlap around the outside, and attach with florist wire. (We used burlap, but any sheer fabric will do.)

Place the covered frame in a short, wide container, stuffing excess material down out of sight. (The container is also a good place to hide the electrical cord.) Finally, hang sweet gum balls by their stems from the cloth, and cluster magnolia leaves and pinecones around the base.

A Sparkling Wreath
Our foliage wreath looks good during the day, but as night falls, it turns into a circle of gold accented by clear lights. It's simple to make, and you don't have to use beech leaves. Evergreens, such as holly or magnolia, work just as well. In fact, leftover clippings of greenery from your Christmas tree can also be used to wrap the circular form.

First, make or purchase a simple vine wreath. Wrap a string or two of lights around the wreath's frame. You may need to use thin-gauge wire to secure the lights to the wreath. Next, clip 16- to 18-inch branches with nice foliage, and layer them over the lights. Freshly cut branches are flexible and can be bent to conform to the circular shape. Use wire to secure branches to the form. A small pair of pliers with wire cutters comes in handy for cutting and bending the wire. You'll need hand pruners to trim and shape branches as you work them onto the wreath.