Decorate Your House Without Blinding the Neighbors

Somewhere inside all of us lies childlike admiration for over-the-top holiday gaudiness—animatronic reindeer galloping across the roof, forests of glow-in-the-dark candy canes, a house so bejeweled with lights a cosmonaut could spot it from space. That does not mean, however, that you should actually go all Griswold on your own home (unless of course, God help you, you live on SE Peacock Lane). Instead, consider heeding the advice of Ink & Peat owner and floral designer Pam Zsori: “If it’s inflatable or requires a motor, walk away.”
Zsori recommends eschewing tackiness in favor of elegance by taking a natural approach to outdoor décor. That 1970s-era plastic Nativity scene, the one with the kneeling camels and the glow-in-the-dark Virgin Mary? Put it on eBay. Trust us.

Here are five helpful tips, courtesy of Zsori:

1. Use light sparingly lest you blind the neighbors and yourself. Pick one color, preferably white, and use it only as an accent. Avoid those dangling icicle lights, which appear messy.
2. Let Christmas emanate from the earth. Consider planting giant green-and-white kale, which has a frosty, snowball-esque look, or scatter potted dwarf evergreens throughout your yard.
3. Make wreaths from nature, not plastic. Gather branches and shape them into wreaths that can be hung on the door or from trees. With glue or wire, attach a few pinecones and buckeyes, which you should be able to find easily on walks through your neighborhood. If you wish, paint the wreaths white (with low-VOC paint, of course).
4. Consider avoiding the traditional yet potentially garish red and green, and instead try modern Christmas hues. Zsori likes to use ribbons in muted colors, like sage green, subtle shades of silver, and even rich browns.
5. It’s best to under-do it than to overdo it. Keep it simple. It’s prettier, and it’s also a lot less work when it comes time to take down the décor.
—Jill Davis