Take the Holiday Party Outside

No soggy bows here. These decorations will stay merry throughout the holidays.
Rebecca Bull Reed

It's time to hang stockings, roast marshmallows, and reminisce by the fire. But everything doesn't always have to happen indoors. Move the decorations outside to play up great views, and the party will be sure to follow. This is a real bonus when the space indoors is tighter than a minivan headed to grandma's house. Step out onto this patio, and take home three weatherproof ideas that will turn your thoughts on holiday decorating inside out.

Room With a View
The owners of this home enlisted Randy McDaniel of McDaniel Land Designs to help them create this cozy scene that's visible from their family room. The solution was as clear as the view through their French doors: Build a fireplace outside, and gain exterior living space.

Using stacked moss rock, Randy designed a substantial outdoor fireplace that became the focal point for the homeowners’ family room. Generous steps lead from the French doors down to a Pennsylvania bluestone patio, creating a comfortable sitting area that is perfect for parties any time of the year. "We use our fireplace all the time," says the homeowner. "Because it’s outdoors, we don’t have to worry about making the house too hot." During holiday events, friends naturally migrate outside to the fireplace, giving the family even more room for entertaining.

"This fireplace was designed not only for warmth but for cooking as well," says Randy. Two parallel brick ledges inside the firebox accommodate a pair of grates that can be used together or separately: one for cooking and the other for holding ashes. When their sons get ready to roast marshmallows, they won’t have to wait very long. A gas starter makes lighting the logs a snap for mom or dad.

Decorating the hearth for the holidays is a top priority, because the view of this area is so prominent from inside the house. Traditional cloth stockings and fabric ribbons were not options, as they could become soggy and sag in harsh winter weather. To complement the warm earthiness of the stone and the casual lifestyle of the family, various mosses, young conifers, and an unexpected element--plumbing strapping--were combined to create this look.

Cute-as-Can-Be Conifers
A dwarf Alberta spruce placed in a copper pot makes a good balance for the bigger tree inside. Burlap-wrapped false cypresses and cedars, nestled in the kids' wagon, do double duty, serving as decorations and then going home with guests when the party is over. Just let folks know that, after the holidays, these little guys will gladly spend winter outdoors in a pretty pot.

"Plumb" Pretty Bows
Your eyes don't deceive you. This shiny red bow is made from plumbing strapping. Found at hardware stores everywhere and costing less than $2 a roll, it's the best "ribbon" for making an outdoor bow. True, fabric may be easier to handle, but, once you know a few tricks, this bow isn't hard to make and can be reused for years to come. Spray-painted a high-gloss red, it can be used alone, on a container such as a galvanized bucket, or with greenery, as seen on the chimney.

Metal Bows Made Easy
1. Wearing gloves, cut 5 feet of plumbing strapping with wire snips. Loop strapping back and forth to form a figure eight, holding the center between your thumb and index finger.
2. Insert 8 inches of wire through the two center holes in the strapping, and twist to secure.
3. Repeat process with a second 5-foot length of strapping. Place sets on top of one another so they make an X, and wire them together well. (This two-part method is a lot easier than handling all of the strapping at once.)
4. Open loops, and bend as needed to form the bow. End pieces can be wrapped around a broom handle to make spirals. Spray-paint with a high-gloss enamel in a well-ventilated area, and allow to dry.

Magnificent Mossy Stockings
Santa would be sorely disappointed to come down this chimney and not find stockings hung with care. These weather-tolerant booties are fashioned from chicken wire and then covered with assorted mosses. Sprigs of holly and nandina berries provide the finishing touches. Because the stockings are three-dimensional, they can be filled with goodies.

1. Make a stocking form from chicken wire. Wearing gloves and using a pair of wire snips, cut a 24- x 24-inch square of chicken wire, and fold it in half. Eight inches from the bottom, on the unfolded side, cut out a 5-inch V. Fold the top two-thirds around (folding one raw edge to the inside and the other back around to the outside to form a cylinder). Secure by twisting closed the raw edges of wire using the tip ends of the wire snips or a pair of pliers. Overlap the edges of the bottom one-third of cut wire to form the toe and heel of the boot. Secure using the same method.

2. Use a glue gun to attach moss to the chicken wire. A hot-melt glue gun works best for this project because it offers more holding power. Start at the top, and work down. For this stocking, we used Spanish moss for the cuff and alternated bright green reindeer moss and dark green decorative sheet moss for the stripes. The toe and heel were finished with Spanish moss. Berries and variegated holly can be added too. Note: Can't find the moss you want? Spray-paint what you can get in your yard or from the crafts store.

Sources:
Pages 62-64: Reindeer moss, decorative sheet moss, and Spanish moss are available from Crafts, Etc!, 1-800-888-0321 or www.craftsetc.com; Hobby Lobby, www.hobbylobby.com; Michaels, 1-800-642-4235 or www.michaels.com; and Smith & Hawken, 1-800-940-1170 or www.smithandhawken.com. Plumbing strapping and chicken wire can be found at your local hardware or home-improvement store.

This article is from the December 2005 issue of Southern Living.