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A Welcoming Sight

Decorate Your Front Porch for the Holiday Season

It's the first thing your guests see when they come to your home and the last thing they see when they leave. When you come home from work or errands, it either welcomes you or sends you into a tizzy of guilt because it needs to be swept or the pile of shoes and sports equipment are blocking the entrance to your home. It is your front porch, and during the holidays it can make a statement about the holiday spirit within.

Gina Ritter, mother of three from Poughkeepsie, N.Y., decorates her front porch for a variety of reasons. "We decorate because the kids get a kick out of it, and it's an easy way to decorate beautifully without the dogs or baby getting into things," she says. "The mess stays outside and doesn't interrupt indoor life."

Decorating the porch is a family pastime at the Ritters', something everyone can do. "The kids help us as much as possible with whatever duties and creative freedom we can give them," says Ritter.

Nancy Golden, host of Decorating & Design on the Do It Yourself Network, believes that we decorate porches for the same reason we put on a clean outfit and comb our hair. They make the very first impression of our home. Golden suggests that you put focus on your front door. "Rather than hang a wreath and call it a day, surround your door with lights, greenery, or even wrap it like a big gift," says Golden. "Color makes a big first impression. A well-lit, clean porch is welcoming and thoughtful."

The First Step
Start out by cleaning up the clutter! Sweep up the leftover fall leaves and put away any remnants of summer, such as scooters and old play shoes. Golden says to make sure your porch hasn't been ignored or used as a "catch-all" during the year. That way, you start off with a clean canvas to decorate.

Golden gives the following ideas to make the most of your front porch during the holidays:

  • A fun family project would be to cut a piece of tag board the size of your side door window panels or entry window. Decoupage last year's holiday cards to the board. You can even combine past holiday photos. Once that's loaded up, simply press it into place. The weather won't affect it, and you can use it year after year, adding or subtracting as desired.
  • If you have a glass window in your front door, do the same thing on a smaller scale. Use a holiday family photo. Blow it up at the local print shop. Decoupage it to tag board and press into place. That can be changed yearly as well.
  • Re-pot your planters with spruce tips. They're an economical solution, as they can be left in place all season. Add lights, ornaments and weather-proof garlands for a specific holiday design.
  • Finally, have a bucket of candy canes (or the sweets of your choice) at the front door. As each guest leaves, give him or her a piece. Your kids can make a cute sign saying, "Thanks for coming, have a sweet night."

Holiday Flair
Leslie Linsley, the author of Crafts for Dummies (Hungry Minds, 1999) and more than 30 other books on crafts and decorating, has a beautiful idea for decorating your front porch. Flank your porch with two trees set in decorative planters. Each side of the planter can be decorated for a different holiday or season.

"For Christmas you can have holly leaves or a wreath," says Linsley. "For the spring you can have a tulip and for the autumn, some leaves might be nice. Then as each holiday or season comes up you can simply turn the planter to its corresponding decoration."

Linsley also suggest using those tiny white lights for dressing up the trees. "I have found that white lights make the biggest impact for the least amount of money and effort," says Linsley.

Linsley has a small bench on her porch and finds it an easy prop for her decorations. Faux presents wrapped in gaily-colored paper or a basket of bright Christmas tree bulbs set on the bench make welcoming and attractive holiday decorations.

One thing to remember is that decorating your porch for the holidays isn't just for company – it's for your family. Your entire family will find it easy to get into the holiday spirit if the front porch is decorated with style and flair, and nothing is nicer than coming home to an entrance that draws you inside with welcoming arms!

Easy-to-Make Holiday Planters
By Leslie Linsley, author of Leslie Linsley's Decoupage (Bulfinch Press, April 2004)

It's easy to decorate an unfinished wooden planter to dress up your front entryway for the holidays. If you simply stain the planters with Thompson's Water Seal exterior stains, you won't need additional protective coating. The stains waterproof and add color all in one step. However, we decorated these with a decoupage motif that requires a protective coating of polyurethane if the planters are used outdoors.

Materials needed:

  • Ready-to-finish wooden planters
  • Thompson's Water Seal Deck & House Stain (we used Arbor Green, but there are 114 colors to choose from)
  • Sponge brush
  • Craft glue
  • Holiday design (can be cut from wrapping paper, greeting card, old book, etc.)
  • Scissors (if your design is intricate, you may need a pair of nail scissors to trim in small/tight areas)
  • Sponge
  • Polyurethane

Directions:

  • Using a sponge brush, coat the entire planter, inside and out, with Thompson's Water Seal Deck & House Latex Stain in the color of your choice. Let dry.
  • Cut out the paper design and glue to the front of each planter. Smooth down firmly with a damp sponge.
  • Allow to dry for two hours. Coat the front of the planter with polyurethane to protect the paper design.
  • Let dry and re-coat for extra protection.
  • For a different design idea, try stenciling a Christmas motif using two colors of Thompson's stain. First stain the planters as in step 1. Once dry, apply a contrasting color to the stencil on top of the first color. Once the second color dries, the planter can be used outdoors.
  • Place a plant or small holiday tree or topiary in each planter to create a festive environment. These planters can be re-used for years to come!

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