Holiday welcome revolves around decorative wreath MAKING A GRAND ENTRANCE

November 28, 1993|By Beth Smith | Beth Smith,Contributing Writer

A fragrant balsam wreath decorated with a rich red bow makes even the dullest door Christmas-card pretty. Handsome, traditional, "it is exquisite and always in good taste, like a woman in a black dress with pearls," says floral designer Andrea Stieff. But this holiday season many homeowners are looking for a door design that pops with individuality and creativity and says "welcome" with a style that reflects not only the season but also the family whose door it graces. Responding to the demand, the holiday market is loaded with choices in evergreens, ribbons and ornamentation.

You can select wreaths, still the most popular shape for the door, made from a variety of greens including fir, spruce, juniper and other evergreens. Dogwood wreaths are still favorites with traditionalists, and grapevine wreaths have crossed over to the holiday season.

Twisted twig wreaths, usually made from thin sticks of birch, willow, honeysuckle or wisteria, are also appearing on doors. Delicate, yet somehow sturdy, they look like grapevine wreaths that short-circuited. You can't miss them in Christmas shops -- they are wreaths whose tiny brown branches seem to dart and dance in pandemonium.

To bow or not to bow? "I really don't think a bow is necessary," says Eleanor Oster of Whitin & Oster, a floral-design shop in Wyndhurst Station. "Other things, such as fruit, dried flowers, special ornaments or clusters of plants like bittersweet, can act as a focal point."

But if you rate bows as holiday essentials, you are in luck this year. The stores are flooded with an array of bright ribbons in colors like fuchsia, magenta, burgundy and gold -- the hot color for holiday 1993. While the No. 1 wreath ribbon is still a solid red velvet, even that takes a new, double-sided turn -- red velvet on one side, gold on the other.

Also look for stripes -- navy, hunter and burgundy are favorites -- plaids in traditional colors or jewel tones, and glittery paisley. One of the most popular ribbons for outside door decorations sold at Valley View Farms in Cockeysville is a foil-like metallic material that is lightweight and waterproof. It comes in different widths and in colors of red, gold, green, silver and purple.

The biggest news in ribbons is the popularity of the wire-edged variety. "You just can't beat them," says Valley View spokeswoman Suzanne Foard. "They retain their shape extremely well, and if you somehow mess them up, you can just smooth the ribbon out."

This holiday season you are going to see all types of ornamentation, with an emphasis on lush plant material used as decoration. Birds, feathers, foxes, hunting horns, gilded angels, plus anything heavenly -- shiny moon medallions or glittery star ornaments -- are strong holiday motifs that have been transformed for door use.

To get an idea of the great variety that's possible for doors this holiday season, we asked five area floral designers to each create a door display.

Andrea Stieff of Wildflowers used two bushels of boxwood to form the base of her opulent and formal wreath and then added winterberry branches sprayed gold; purple and green California hydrangea; and magnolia leaves. The elegant bow is made from two wire-edged ribbons -- both in burgundy, but one edged in gold filigree; the other in pleated satin. For additional decoration, she added gold cord and gilded cherubs playing musical instruments.

"Whenever I plan a door decoration, I always consider the size of the door, the scale and style of the house, and the personality of the client," she says. "For a Georgian mansion in Guilford, I might do something very traditional in boxwood with reds and greens and gold pine cones. But for a cottage in the country, I might use a burgundy plaid ribbon and decorative pheasants."

Although she sometimes prefers simplicity, Ms. Stieff believes that the holidays lend themselves to "laying it on thick" in decorating. She says it is one time when more might be better than less, especially if a party is planned. Her best advice is "to make the wreath special to you rather than going along with trends."

Daniel Proctor of Kirk Designs is an interior designer who also does floral arranging for his clients. For our door decoration, he chose to go for an opulent look that dripped with natural plant material and dried flowers. The backing, which is intertwined on a chicken-wire frame, is a combination of assorted greens, including lemon leaves, white pine, yew, ivy, juniper, seeded eucalyptus and fuzzy little leaves called lamb's ear.

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