How to: Dress Your Front Door

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One of the best things about decorating your home for Christmas is that it’s a great way to get the whole family doing something together. Far from being another chore to cross off the list of things to do, it can become a key part of the ritual. And when you’re decorating, it's nice to include your front door as it provides a warm, festive welcome whenever you come home or have guests round.

When there are so many ways that you can decorate your home at Christmas, it's easy to get carried away. The simplest way to achieve a stylish, coherent look for your front door is to pick a theme. The classic look, with lots of evergreen foliage, colourful berries and pine cones, is ever popular, easy to achieve and can be adapted to look as traditional or modern as you like. For this reason it complements every home whether it’s old or new, in the middle of a city or out in the countryside.

For a contemporary take on this style, look to Scandinavia for inspiration. Combine the cool tones of metal planters with rustic wood, bare stems, glistening red berries and red and white gingham ribbon. This works especially well with modern homes – the key is keeping things simple, with a limited palette of colours inspired by nature.

Natural inspiration

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Using nature’s bounty can be a simple, thrifty and environmentally friendly way to decorate your home – both inside and out. It wouldn’t be Christmas without evergreen foliage and berries, so hunt out plants like ivy, osmanthus, euonymus, holly and pyracantha, which can be used in wreaths and garlands or planted in pots by your front door. The fiery-coloured stems of dogwoods (cornus) will also add a shot of vibrant colour to container displays if you have any stems you can snip off and use.

A splash of colour will raise the spirits when it’s dreary outside, which is a good reason to plant up pots with festive reds of polyanthus and the berries of wintergreen (gaultheria); or choose cool whites and silvers with white-flowered violas, blue fescue grass and cineraria.

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Metallic tones also feature at this time of year. Gold gives a warmth to festive decorations and really sings when combined with reds and greens. Silver, on the other hand, has a cool, contemporary feel. Both tones reflect light, which is especially welcome during the winter months when the nights are long. Evergreen herbs such as rosemary, thyme and bay can be potted up and placed by a door so that they release their fragrant oils when people brush past. Or you could pick some aromatic sprigs and add them to your wreath.

For even more fragrance, you could grow winter-scented plants around your front door – either in large containers or, if you have space, in the ground. Look out for winter-flowering plants like Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’, Christmas box (sarcococca) and mahonia, which will fill the air with their delicious fragrance.

An indoor Christmas tree is the focus for the festivities, but why stop at one? A smaller container-grown tree, or even a collection of them, will add a seasonal touch outside by your front door. A few logs around the base gives a rustic feel, and it can be dressed with outdoor lights and decorations that will withstand the weather, such as foraged pine cones. Alternatively, place some twisted stems of contorted hazel in a tall container and drape them in plain white lights.

Let there be light

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Christmas would not be the same without decorative lights, which give front gardens an inviting festive sparkle. The warm glow of a lamp-lit porch always feels very welcoming when it is dark outside. A luxuriant garland of foliage in your porch or canopy will come to life in the fading light with some lights woven through it. Transform trees, bushes and topiary around your door with strings or nets of lights, too. Whether you prefer multi-coloured bulbs or plain whites in either warm or cool tones is up to you, but whatever you choose, make sure they’re suitable for outdoor use.

Using battery-powered LED lights is an easy way to make your doorway feel inviting without worrying about electricity. Coil strings of lights inside large glass preserving jars, close the lids to keep the rain out and group them together to create a soft glow. Alternatively, drape them across container displays. LED candles are very effective and much safer for children and pets than the real thing. You could put some inside lanterns along the path and steps to your door for an extra warm welcome. And that, after all, is the aim at this time of year.