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Deck the hall doors...

We may have to keep the front door shut more than we'd like to this Christmas, so why not make it a cheery sight? Nathalie Marquez Courtney gets some pro tips on outdoor decor

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Wreaths, from €65, from a selection at The Garden; thegarden.ie

Wreaths, from €65, from a selection at The Garden; thegarden.ie

Red berry twig wreath, €54.95, Avoca

Red berry twig wreath, €54.95, Avoca

Large Silver Bead Wreath - €27; Dark Green Velvet Bauble - €5; Plenty Gold Snowflake Decoration - €5; Raw wing iron candleholder - €5, all April and the Bear, see aprilandthebear.com

Large Silver Bead Wreath - €27; Dark Green Velvet Bauble - €5; Plenty Gold Snowflake Decoration - €5; Raw wing iron candleholder - €5, all April and the Bear, see aprilandthebear.com

Star, €3.50, Penneys

Star, €3.50, Penneys

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Wreaths, from €65, from a selection at The Garden; thegarden.ie

There is something hopeful and delightful about a decorated home at Christmas, viewed from the outside in. The twinkling of fairy lights through fogged-up windows, the cheery berry-studded wreaths, the home-made garlands and yes, even those loud, trippy Santa sculptures - this year, I'm here for it all.

So too, it seems, are lots of people: pre-orders of Christmas trees are through the roof, decorations have been flying off virtual shop shelves for weeks now and Mariah Carey's All I Want for Christmas was dubbed 'the unofficial Biden-Harris anthem' following the duo's historic US election win, when it was blasted at joyful street parties from LA to Philadelphia (with the fact that it was still early November seeming to only add to the magic).

The reason why so many of us dragged the boxes of Christmas decorations out of the attic early this year lies in the power of anticipation; we may have got used to the new normal that is lockdown life, but its rhythms and routines risk leaving us in a perpetual Groundhog Day, with few joy-sparking outings on the horizon. "We're all really missing something to look forward to," says stylist and wedding planner Kate O'Dowd of Love & Gatherings (loveandgatherings.com), who has noticed a jump in demand for her Christmas residential styling services. "We haven't got a holiday or the dinner with friends at the weekends, but at least we know we have Christmas, however it manifests."

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Large Silver Bead Wreath - €27; Dark Green Velvet Bauble - €5; Plenty Gold Snowflake Decoration - €5; Raw wing iron candleholder - €5, all April and the Bear, see aprilandthebear.com

Large Silver Bead Wreath - €27; Dark Green Velvet Bauble - €5; Plenty Gold Snowflake Decoration - €5; Raw wing iron candleholder - €5, all April and the Bear, see aprilandthebear.com

Large Silver Bead Wreath - €27; Dark Green Velvet Bauble - €5; Plenty Gold Snowflake Decoration - €5; Raw wing iron candleholder - €5, all April and the Bear, see aprilandthebear.com

 

Anticipation is a powerful mood-boosting tool. Social psychologists Liz Dunn and Mike Norton describe a period of anticipation as "free happiness". It doesn't cost you anything, but can add so much more to an experience - which you should take as your free pass to decorate as much as your heart desires. "I feel really compelled to decorate a lot this year," says Kate. "I usually keep it quite subtle, but this time we're going full-on grotto - think Scandi cabin in the woods, but in the middle of Fairview," she says, laughing.

Decorating the front of your house may be just a bit of frivolous fun, but it'll also serve as a reminder that even apart, we're all in it together. "As lovely as it is to do it for ourselves, it's something really nice you can do for people around you," adds Kate.

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Red berry twig wreath, €54.95, Avoca

Red berry twig wreath, €54.95, Avoca

Red berry twig wreath, €54.95, Avoca

 

Doors and wreaths are an easy and excellent place to start. Mark Grehan, owner of Dublin floral shop The Garden (thegarden.ie) will be creating beautiful wreaths using Irish foliage - think a base of birch, decorated with bog myrtle and Irish-grown eucalyptus and, of course, holly - as well as selling make-your-own-wreath kits if you fancy some low-stress DIY.

And if giving your front door a makeover wasn't one of the many projects you tackled during the spring lockdown, don't despair. Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to paint a front door in winter (you just need a little bit more weather luck).

"It can be done, but some cautiousness to environmental conditions should be followed - don't paint below 10C and don't paint if rain is forecast," advises Farrow & Ball expert and brand ambassador Patrick O'Donnell. He also recommends you start painting early in the day, to allow good drying time and avoid the condensation that can occur in the afternoon and evening. Lush, dark hues like Farrow & Ball's perennially popular Railings or its petrol-blue-tinged Hague Blue would look handsome and elegant against rich, evergreen foliage and bright brass fixtures.

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Star, €3.50, Penneys

Star, €3.50, Penneys

Star, €3.50, Penneys

 

When it comes to adding a bit of sparkle, Kate recommends dotting big storm lanterns holding LED candles around your door (her pro stylist's tip: buy LED candles with a built-in timer so you don't have to remember to turn them on and off). She also recommends making the most of foraged foliage, both inside and out. "I love a garland in a swag above the door - and keeping it outside instead of on the mantlepiece means it will last much longer," she says. "You could also try a selection of small potted Christmas trees around the door and maybe some stacked-up logs as well." A few mini wreaths hung at different levels can help brighten up windows, or you could run twine or wire across your window frame and hang decorations off it.

Kate is also a fan of making creative use of whatever is left alive in the garden. "We have a small potted olive tree that I'm going to turn into 'a partridge in a pear tree' using some bird and pear-shaped decorations," she says. "I want something that will give people a little chuckle every time they ring our doorbell." l


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