BY ANNIE HUSTON,  BIRDSALL & CO.

Wash Park is getting more into the outdoor decoration spirit, year after year. We used to have to fill hot chocolate in a thermos, pile up in the car and take drives in the southern suburbs to gawk at the light displays. Now we have our own holiday lights and we can just wander on the sidewalks to admire what homeowners have concocted this winter. On our block, there is even a contest for the best house decoration! My husband did not win last year, to his great chagrin. 

LED lights are the royalty of the outdoor or indoor holiday lighting! They come in different sizes, shapes, and colors, and last forever. The big C9 bulbs following the roof-lines used to be the craze; now, the smaller the bulb, the better. It makes for more intimate lighting that is less commercial looking, and they are so bright you do not need the larger size. These little fairy-style bulbs are so versatile, you can literally wrap them around anything and they will look festive. Here are my favorite ideas that are also really simple to implement and install.  

Containers

Use the annual containers for your lights display.  

Rooftop lights are reminders of our grandparents’ houses or even a generation closer. That’s when options were not as varied as they are now. The lights will attract attention to a house no matter where they are, and you don’t get extra points by having to use an extension ladder. I suggest using what is already a focal point on your house. Containers are in the front of your house, empty of annuals, and begging for attention. Plant a small shrub (5 gal. at least) such as Dwarf Alberta Spruce and wrap it with really small LED strings. The size of the bulbs will match the size of your plant and it will be adorable.  Plus even tiny bulbs have bright lights and they will twinkle when you come home!

If you do not want to plant anything, there are artificial shrubs for outdoor use that are UV protected and that will look so real, nobody will know the difference. Wrap them with lights and the result may be so pleasing, you’ll want to keep it out and the lights on all year. Warm white or cool white should be your choice of colors, or multi colored for a typical holiday season theme.

I love the LED light spheres that you only have to deposit on top of the soil in the container and plug in. It is still a new concept but well worth adopting for outdoor decorations. And they fold for ease of storage. 

Outdoor Lights

I love creating scenes for outdoor holiday lights. The recent trend of  Christmas trees with white or brown branches and little LED lights at the tips is perfect for grouping on the front porch or lawn. 

Play with sizes and shapes to create a mini forest of magical trees. If you covet the look of the Eiffel Tower, you should mix warm and cool whites and the results will be brilliant.

If you are lucky enough to have a fountain in the front yard, make sure you wrap it in lights to accent the structure by following all the edges. Or pretend there is shiny water coming down with icicle lights around the top basin.

Whatever art or structure or furniture you usually keep out, take advantage of it and install lights in and around it. Adirondack chairs? Follow the shape of it with mini lights and it will create an enchanting display. Same concept with a bench or table. Or a pair of old skis leaning against the façade. Or a wheelbarrow if you are a gardener.  Maybe a bicycle. Show your interests and hobbies by personalizing your decorations. 

And if you end up with a ball of snarled holiday lights strings, then plop them down in a basket on your front porch, some of it trailing artfully on the sides. It will look spectacular!

I hope that this year my husband will win the block contest. He should if he reads this!

Have a brilliant holiday season!

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