7 Ways to Upgrade Your House’s Outdoor Holiday Decor, According to Pros

published Dec 3, 2020
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This year, abiding by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s holiday season recommendations means you won’t be able to show off your home’s festive indoor decor to in-person guests. With that in mind, it’s the ideal time to step up your house’s holiday curb appeal!

To help you dazzle the neighborhood, we’ve enlisted the advice of a professional holiday decorating company owner and an interior designer. Read on for tips and tricks to twinkle into the New Year and create a community of cheer on your block. 

Stick to a Color Scheme

One major way to make your festive decor look polished? Use specific colors. Go for a traditional color scheme, like red and green or all white, or mix it up with colors like pink or purple. 

And those colors can apply to more than just lights. Kelly Fitzsimmons, owner and designer of Chicago-based holiday decorating company Light Up Your Holidays, recommends matching the colors of your twinklers to any bows you hang on the house.

Choose a Theme

If you decide to go big on the decor this year and expand beyond strings of lights and wreaths, make sure you’re also intentional when you select elements for your display. Whether you want to create a scene at Santa’s workshop or a winter wonderland with lots of snowflakes, your setup will look more cohesive if you embrace a theme. 

“Think of the composition, basically. If you’re going to buy these extra things, make sure that they go together, tell a story, and aren’t just random,” says Tiffanni Reidy, interior designer and head of Baltimore-based Reidy Creative. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Pick Specific Architectural Elements to Light

You may think more is more when it comes to lights, but take a beat before you blanket your entire house in twinkly stuff. Reidy recommends giving a good look to the front of your property and choosing an architectural detail you want to accentuate. Perhaps that space is your porch, or even a railing. Maybe you can deck out a few columns, or outline your windows to create a clean, uniform effect. 

“I think that’s what makes the visual look more appealing,” she says, “when you can tell it was intentional.” 

DIY Your Own Objects to Light

Of course, the building itself doesn’t have to be the only thing that glows. With some tools from the gardening section of your local home improvement store, you can make identifiable shapes with extra strands. Reidy suggests creating a Christmas tree shape by wrapping your lights around a tomato cage. Or look for a square flower box and wrap it in lights to generate the shape of a present. 

Have Fun with Oversized Decor

Since you won’t have as much foot traffic on your porch this year, another great way to catch the eye of those driving or strolling by is opting for oversized decorations, which you can buy or DIY. 

For example, Reidy recommends making large bulb ornaments by gluing together childrens’ balls and small pots, then spray-painting if you want to change up the color. If you have large planters that look a bit bare during the winter, Reidy says one of her favorite ways to cheer them up is to plop in a few fake Christmas trees. You could leave them as is or wrap them in lights. 

Treat Your Windows Like Store Displays

“When you see [holiday] retail windows, what’s so magical about them is the lighting and the things that they brought in that are unexpected,” Reidy says. So take a page out of the book of your favorite stores and dress up your windows for all to see. 

Bust out some removable hooks and deck the exterior frame with garlands and twinkly lights. Then place items like a Christmas tree or menorah in the window, showing off the silhouettes to passersby. This is another spot where you could also highlight a few oversized, DIY decorations, Reidy says. Create large, fake bells by stringing plastic flower pots together and putting an ornament in each. Or take some empty boxes, wrap them in paper, dress them up in ribbon, and arrange them as a stack of giant faux presents.

Bonus: This idea works for apartment dwellers, too!

Make Sure You Enjoy Your Upgraded Decor (And Your Loved Ones Do, Too)

According to Fitzsimmons, the big idea behind putting up holiday decor is creating a “vehicle for connection”—displays usually stay up for weeks and can give the warm and fuzzies to anyone who walks or drives by again and again. 

And that connection doesn’t have to start only after the garlands have been strung and the lights have been plugged in. For example, you can schedule a time for you and your neighbors to decorate your respective homes simultaneously. “I think that is a super easy way to rekindle the friendships and vitality of the neighborhood itself,” Fitzsimmons says. “Because we’ve all been inside so much, maybe we haven’t been connecting as much to our neighbors.”

Another option, if you want to include people who don’t live on your block: “You could do some sort of a drive-by event,” Fitzsimmons says. 

The Home for the Holidays vertical was written and edited independently by the Apartment Therapy and The Kitchn editorial teams and generously underwritten by Cointreau.