When I was a kid, my mom’s annual post-Thanksgiving shopping trip to Maine signaled the start of the Christmas season. She and a friend would leave early in the morning, hit the outlets in Freeport and Kittery and drive home the following day, their backseat laden with boxes, bags and a holiday wreath. The wreath was never an ordinary wreath. It was always a behemoth, a bushy halo that made my dad close his eyes and breathe deeply in anticipation of having to hang it. Eventually he’d engineer a method, but the wreath’s girth always prevented the storm door from closing properly. After a few weeks, discarded needles cluttered the entry and dotted the house. This pattern would continue until a week or so after New Year’s when my dad would finally take the wreath down and haul it to the dump.
The moral of the story: Wreaths don’t have to be monstrous to be festive. This perfectly proportional cedar and pine wreath is accented with pinecones, a silk champagne triple ribbon and vintage-inspired bells. It’s simple, elegant and classic, something I’m sure my dad would have loved to hang on our front door, especially since it’s made with artificial materials that won’t shed and will last well beyond a single season.
When people hear “faux” they get nervous.
“I used to be one of those people,” admits Jessica Billings, owner of the Accidental Farmgirl, an Etsy shop that specializes in artificial wreaths and garlands. “I remember going to a wedding, seeing a fake flower centerpiece and thinking, ‘How tacky. Who on Earth would have fake flowers at their wedding?’ ” But, says Billings, it was the bridal market that created a demand for higher quality faux florals. “You spend so much money on flowers for them all to die. Because it’s becoming more of a practicality for brides the artificial floral industry has really, really honed in on details.”
Height and dimension are the keys to creating a successful garland, says Billings. Lay the garland out first and then stick in extras such as fruit, flowers and berries. This six-foot garland combines frosted and silver dollar eucalyptus with wild berry stems; bright pomegranates nestled into the greenery add a punch of color. The garland can also be draped over a banister, a window or on a dining table.
Long Term Investment
One of the best parts of decorating with artificial flowers? “They’ll last forever,” says Billings. “It’s an investment, but you’ll spend less over the years, especially for seasonal decor. Year to year, all they need are a little fluffing. Stick your fingers in there and move it to where you want it.”
Add (enduring) drama to a tabletop with a faux centerpiece arrangement in a compote vase. The low, wide mouth allows the flowers to spill over the edge of the vessel. “I like to try new things, so I’ve been doing centerpieces,” says Billings. To coordinate with the mantle garland, Billings designed this arrangement with white cabbage roses, mixed eucalyptus, wild berry stems and pomegranates.
Fake It ’Til You Make It
For creative types looking to make their own faux decorations, consider the following pointers:
Go easy with fruit. Incorporating fruit is one of Accidental Farmgirl’s design signatures, but Billings recommends using restraint with faux produce. “Fake fruit tends to have a shiny, smooth surface and if you use too much, it looks cheap,” she says. “To balance that, you want to use something softer; mix textures.”
Materials matter. Artificial flowers are like anything else: You get what you pay for. “The cheap stuff looks cheap,” Billings says. “You can pay almost as much for artificial flowers as you can for real ones.” But, real touch varieties are virtually indistinguishable from their perishable counterparts. “I’ve used real touch dahlias, real touch roses and real touch peonies. It’s crazy how realistic they look and feel.”
Color and contrast. A limited color palette makes it easier to create contrast; contrast will add depth and make your colors pop. Billings says, “I try not to use more than two or three major colors and I either want the background to be deep or light depending on the colors I’ve chosen.” For instance, when using bright white flowers, opt for deeply hued greenery. If you’re using dark red or plum accents, go for lighter greens.