Tuesday, December 21, 2010

...about wreaths.

I'm big on wreaths as a way to bring holiday greenery, color and festivity into your home. They put the cheer just where you need it, are budget friendly, relative to a full tree (allowing you to splurge on some of the elements), can be hung where a photo or painting is right now easily transforming a room, and they slide right out of sight after the holidays.

Here are some hints and inspiration to making the most of your holiday wreath, if you're still looking to expend a little holiday creativity.

Make it Personal
For a family with three boys and a mom who liked to bake, I integrated three little copper gingerbread men cookie cutters to make this wreath extra special (and pulled the remaining color palette from that coppery starting point, including copper jingle bells!). I've also used seashells, birds and birdhouses, and architectural elements to make wreaths that were perfect for their owner or the interior where I know they're headed. For a charity auction, I also created a wreath with exotic Arabian elements for a Three Kings-inspired wreath. Just have fun with your inspiration!

Fake It
My love affair with artificial wreath bases began with my South Florida roots... where even in December, tropic heat wreaked havoc with live greens. I also quickly realized that the pliable wire foliage and a solidly constructed base of faux wreaths gave the perfect starting point for wiring and hot gluing. Plus, it's sort of like decorating an already baked cookie... you get to worry just about the fun and pretty parts! Look for a fairly plain form, since you'll be adding all your own personality.

And pick a wreath base that matches the character of the finished look you're shooting for... lush and deep green for a traditional or woodsy look, pale and pine-y for a more rustic country look, frosted or flocked for wintry or fairy-tale inspired ideas.

Think Outside the Aisle
Don't just scan the Christmas d├ęcor section of your craft or hobby store. Many of the elements for this winter-white wreath came from the Bridal aisle. To keep it from looking too bridal, I made sure it had wintry elements in it... and was very lucky to find the frosted translucent pine cone ornaments.

Jingle, All the Way!
I'm a big fan of using jingle bells on just about every wreath I do. Jingle bells come in giant sizes you can use as focal points, or tiny size, which I like to use like sprays. You can spray them out in a color, but lately, I've found them in all sorts of hues. And bonus! When the wreath is hung on a door, the bells jingle their greeting with every entrance and exit!

Pull Things Apart
Don't be afraid to deconstruct the elements from things you buy if they're not exactly right the way they are. Here, I pulled apart pre-assembled rose sprays, and used foliage and flowers separately.

Knowing I was making this wreath for a woman who decorated her tree with whites and silvers, I looked for a form that already had a touch of white on it.

Work from Big to Small
Like most flower arranging, place you biggest elements in first. Get these anchor points in place (see "Dry Fit," below) and then work down to your smallest elements. I also tend to start with shape, and move to line... so, ornaments and pinecones find a home first, sprays and stick-like items get woven in last.

Add to the Green
I love using other preserved evergreen or silk botanical elements to beef up the wreath itself, and to take store-bought forms over the top, giving even a bargain basement starting point a high-end boutique florist look. Eucalyptus is a favorite botanical element, since in addition to adding depth, it adds fragrance.

For a bit more fauna than flora, peacock or pheasant feathers also fluff up your form, naturally.

It's About Balance
The temptation when creating or decorating a wreath is to make it completely symmetrical. Sure, that works, but it also gives you a wreath that looks a little like a clock face. It's more about even balance, not identical sides.

Focal Point
I like adding a focal point to a wreath where a bow might go (I find that bows don't weather the storage process too well... and, to be honest, I am really bad at tying great bows!). My favorite places are at the four o'clock, six o'clock, or eight o'clock positions... but again, without making the finished product as evenly spaced as a clock face.

Here, the homeowner's own large tin barn star inspired this cluster of twig and tin stars (and, how crazy-lucky to find the beaded wire star ornaments!) You'll also find another favorite wreath element here... cinnamon sticks. Love 'em, for the shape, color, and especially, scent!

Dry Fit
It may seem like double the work, but I ALWAYS start by composing my wreath elements before gluing or wiring to the form. That way, you can play with pieces and doublecheck how much stuff you have to work with. Once you like what you've got going on, then you can work to secure it.

What's on YOUR Christmas wreath this year?

Read all about my 2011 Custom Wreath giveaway here! Happy holidays, all!

All wreaths and photography: Patrick James Hamilton Designs


  1. Hey Patrick! if you ever need wreath-making supplies, there's a great place in NJ called G & G - gandgwebstore.com - with every kind of supply under the sun. Sort of like Michael's on crack.

  2. One of my favorite wreaths included clear glass ornaments with family/friend photos taken during the current year inserted inside! Little bits of "time in a bottle" so to speak!The photos were reduced in size and rolled up into a tube and inserted into the ornament..they unroll once they are inside!

  3. Nice work, Pat! My brother keeps bugging me to get you to come to PA... He thinks you'd have a monopoly down here with "redneck" design *shudder*
    I can't see you trying to channel your inner redneck lol

  4. Really beautiful work... who wouldn't want a wreath you made?

    wreaths and hugs

  5. My grandmother used to make wreaths with a green foam base. She used pine cones she found in her driveway. They were simple. Aside from the pinecones there might be a bow on it. I can't remember if she varnished or spray painted any of the pinecones. I'd forgotten all about them until this post. I wish I'd paid attention when I was little to how she made them so I could make my own.