Monthly Archives: November 2011

Jessica | Balsam Hill Designer

Using Baskets to Incorporate Unfinished Holiday Craft Projects into Living Room Décor

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Baskets can hold firewood for a practical and decorative touch

Baskets can hold firewood for a practical and decorative touch

At the beginning of each holiday craft project, we work with fervor and anticipation. However, as the days go by, we lose track of time. Suddenly, we realize that the holidays are upon us and we’ve left our craft projects unfinished. What to do? Don’t worry! I’ve come up with some helpful ideas to incorporate these unfinished holiday craft projects into your living room décor. How? By using baskets!

  1. Autumn Harvest table centerpiece: Ever set out to make a few dozen candles, only to end up with just two or three? Although you can’t give these candles as gifts anymore, you can use them as decorative accents for a table centerpiece. Pick a beautiful round basket and place the candles in the middle. Use some evergreens as filler and add berries and pine cones. Viola! You’ve got the perfect table centerpiece for the autumn harvest season.
  2. Thanksgiving bouquet of flowers: Have you tried making floral arrangements, only to come up with a few dried flowers here and there? There’s no need to fret because your dried flowers won’t go to waste! Collect whatever you’ve been able to make and put them together in one Thanksgiving bouquet of flowers. Display them in a vintage square basket and place them on top of your mantelpiece.
  3. Halloween pumpkin patch display: Do you have some small pumpkins leftover from your attempts at making wreaths or garlands for Halloween? You can still use them! All you’ll need is a wide, rectangular basket and a few yards of green cloth. Put the green cloth in first and arrange it to look like a bed of grass. Next, strategically place the pumpkins on top and make them appear as if they were growing out of the basket. You now have a lovely Halloween pumpkin patch display!
  4. Firewood storage and display: Need a place to store all that firewood? Try placing them in a basket! It’ll double as storage and as a decoration for the fireplace.

Baskets are made from natural materials and are easily available. Besides being used for decorations, they can also be used for storing craft projects. Since craft projects often have unsightly tools with them and straggles of materials, I’d recommend using a beautiful basket (with a lid) for projects in progress. Happy decorating!



Jessica | Balsam Hill Designer

Evergreen Everlasting: The Differences between Fir, Spruce and Pine

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With so many artificial Christmas trees available on the market, it’s difficult it is to tell each one apart. How’s a person supposed to tell the difference between a Norwegian Spruce and a Balsam Fir? And often, we want to make sure that our trees look like their Natural namesakes.

Fir, spruce and pine are three of the most popular Christmas tree varieties, and have their own characteristics that make them special. If you were to look at the real trees, here are some things you would notice. Use these distinguishing characteristics when you shop for artificial Christmas trees, to make sure that yours looks like the real thing:


Fir trees have individual flat needles attached to the stem. The needles grow in a spiral on the tip and lay flat, and this kind of display gives fir trees their full look. The shape of a fir tree is bushy and full, which doesn’t leave much room for ornaments and is perfect if you like a less-decorated tree.


Like fir trees, spruces have single needles connected to the stems. However, spruce tree needles are sharp and square-shaped. On a real tree, spruce needles easily break apart if you bend them. As a whole, spruce trees sport the traditional full Christmas tree shape, thanks to their upturned branches. Their strong branches can hold heavier ornaments, so load them up with your biggest ornaments with confidence!


Unlike the fir and spruce trees, a pine tree has needles that grow in bundles — you can see three to five needles bunched together on a pine tree branch. Pine trees have fewer branches, so they tend to look sparse with their upturned branches. However, this leaves lots of room to hang ornaments at the back and middle of the branches, allowing you to hang all of your favorite ornaments.

With the pointers in mind, you can easily find the perfect Christmas tree!

Jessica | Balsam Hill Designer

Thanksgiving Centerpieces that Leave Room on the Table for a Thanksgiving Feast

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This Thanksgiving, I recommend incorporating some festive centerpieces to add warmth and color to your dining table. Since you’ll still need space for your delicious Thanksgiving feast, I’ve picked out some ideas for table centerpieces that are just the right size (otherwise there won’t be enough room for the turkey!).

  1. Gold pillar candles decorated with sugared orange slices or green vegetables: For a lovely combination of form and function, use pillar candles as table centerpieces. In line with the Thanksgiving theme, choose gold pillar candles and jazz them up with a few slices of sugared oranges. An alternative decorative accent would be green vegetables, like artichoke hearts or asparagus stalks.
  2. Clear glass containers filled with votive candles and orange Fall flowers: Add a touch of whimsy by filling clear glass containers with water and placing pretty votive candles and orange Fall flowers to float on top of it.
  3. Butternut squash vases topped with red berries and sprigs: As a tribute to the harvest season, you can create an all-natural vase filled with Nature’s bounty! Select some butternut squash in different sizes and remove the flesh. Afterward, gather some red berries and sprigs from the yard and place them in your charming, home-made vases.

Somehow, seeing a beautifully laid table just makes dining much more pleasurable. To make this even more fun, you can create these Thanksgiving centerpieces together as a family. Happy decorating!

Jessica | Balsam Hill Designer

Simple Ways to Decorate for the Holidays Using Natural Objects

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I really like dressing up my home with all sorts of decorations during the holidays. Why? Simply because I just love how holiday decor makes my home feel so warm and inviting! I’ve realized that using natural objects as decorations really makes a difference.

Christmas wreath


On that note, I’ve got some simple ideas on how to incorporate these natural objects into your own decor.

  1. Winter flowers and plants as table centerpieces: Take advantage of the beautiful winter flowers and plants by using them in a table centerpiece. Artfully arrange the flowers and plants in a nice big vase or bowl. For this, you can use traditional poinsettia flowers and just add natural accents like ivy and mistletoe.
  2. Wreaths and garlands as mantelpiece displays: Who can resist the classic combination of a wreath and garland on display? Place these on top of a mantelpiece and create an instant hit by adding some festive Christmas lights and natural accents like holly berries and pine cones.
  3. Seasonal produce as bookshelf and cabinet decorations: Liven up your bookshelves and cabinets with a burst of color, courtesy of seasonal produce like apples and cranberries. Combine them in different colors, like using both red and green apples at the same time (not only will these be lovely to look at, but you can even eat them afterward!). To add holiday nostalgia, incorporate charming orange and clove pomanders in elegant silver bowls.

Natural objects bring the outdoors into any home, along with all their lovely charms like vibrant colors and aromatic scents. For more ideas, you can read my earlier post on creative ways to use pinecones and other natural objects. Happy decorating!

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Jessica | Balsam Hill Designer

Overlapping Holidays: Decorations You Can Keep out from Halloween until Valentine’s Day

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I love decorating but I find that it can get stressful whenever holidays start to overlap with each other. Here are a few decorating tips I’ve found to be helpful to keep in mind during the holiday season.

Decorations You Can Keep Out:

  1. Seasonal decorations: These days, “season-less” decorations are pieces that avoid being strongly associated with any single holiday. For example, instead of adding decorations that heavily use images of Santa Claus, reindeers and elves during Christmas, you can simply choose items that are color red and white instead. This will carry you from Christmas to Valentine’s Day!
  2. Overly ornate decorations: Stay away from decorations that are over the top. It’ll be hard to coordinate pieces to go with them and they might even end up clashing with your existing decorations!

Some Decorating Tips:

  1. Keep your palette monochromatic or neutral: Choose a monochromatic or neutral color scheme. This can serve as a backdrop for bolder, brighter colors or lovely, intricate pieces.
  2. Add holiday decorations strategically: It’s best to strategize where you’ll be placing your holiday decorative pieces. Think of where they would make the most impact without clashing with each other. Remember, less is more!

Think classic rather than trendy to keep your holiday pieces from clashing and remember to use whatever feels right for you. If it makes you feel happy and festive, then go for it. Happy decorating!

Jessica | Balsam Hill Designer

What Makes a Room Feel Warm?

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Your home is your refuge from the outside world. It’s so nice to come home to a warm, inviting room — I look forward to it myself!

The Vermont White Spruce Tree from the Vermont Signature™ Collection

The Vermont White Spruce Tree from the Vermont Signature™ Collection

Here are a few of decorating tips to achieve this feeling in any room in your house:

  1. Bold colors: Using bold colors like red and orange add warmth to a room! A good way to incorporate these colors is to use them in window treatments, throw pillows and area rugs.
  2. Ambient lighting: Ambient lighting is created by using layers of light, such as candles, table lamps, floor lamps and dimmed ceiling lights. This layering creates ambience and depth, which results in a feeling of coziness! Ambient lighting works best at night, especially during the holidays. For those who’d like something longer-lasting and equally warm and inviting, we offer our special Candlelight™ LED lights (noted for being much warmer in color than the cool blues of traditional LED lights) which come on our LED Prelit Artificial Christmas Trees. You can use these artificial trees as sources of light and as decorative focal points in a room.
  3. Stylish accessories: Using the right accessories will complete the overall look and feel of your room! Choose accessories in colors that go well together. For example, you can use orange and black accessories for Halloween and orange and yellow accessories for Thanksgiving.
  4. Different textures: Different textures add a sense of warmth and luxury. For fall, think velvets, cashmere, chenille, and silk! Natural fibers are best because they have a sense of luxury, and some are less expensive than others. This look can be achieved with just a few objects, like a chenille throw blanket, velvet pillow covers or a bolt of silk gathered and draped across the mantle.

After all that hard work, why not enjoy your warmly decorated retreat with a cup of hot cider by the fireplace? Delicious!

Jessica | Balsam Hill Designer

Creative Ways to Use Pine Cones and Other Natural Objects in Your Home Décor

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Pinecones and other natural objects are fun yet inexpensive decorations you can use in all sorts of ways. Buy them from a craft store, or better still, gather some right from your yard for a nice way to spend a fall afternoon!

Pine cones: Gather pine cones and paint them in traditional autumnal colors like gold, red and orange. Turn them into holiday décor, table centerpieces or tree ornaments. You can also use them as natural accents in any wreath or garland.

  1. Pine cone wreaths: Spruce up your holiday wreaths with recently dropped pine cones.  Attach clean, dry pine cones with some hot glue and you’ve got yourself a lovely pine cone wreath. You can also check out our Autumn Harvest Holiday Wreath, one of our timeless pieces.
  2. Pine cone garlands: Liven up your garlands with some strategically placed pine cones. They’re so easy to do! Using some hot glue, attach the pine cones in clusters; complement them with red berries and dried leaves.
  3. Pine cone table centerpieces: Make the most out of your empty baskets by filling them with pine cones. For variety, use pine cones in different sizes! If these aren’t readily available, you can get our big pine cone kit (which already comes packed with thirty medium cones and twenty large cones).
  4. Pine cone ornaments:  Add a charming, natural accent to your artificial tree by making some pine cone ornaments. Just spray paint them in gold and add some holly and traditional ribbon.
  5. Pine cone Christmas Trees:  Easy and cute! Spray paint pine cones in green, attach them with floral picks to cone-shaped foam, and then place it in a flowerpot.  Dust them with a little glitter and voila!

Other natural objects: There’s so much you can do with Nature’s bounty. Besides using pine cones, there are other natural objects to use in home décor.

  1. Flowers: This Thanksgiving, make your own floral arrangements by drying some flowers and dusting them with gold glitter. For Halloween, you can use bouquets of fresh pumpkin flowers.
  2. Fruit: Buy fruits in season, like apples and oranges, and place them in nice wooden bowls. You can use these as centerpieces for your dining table.
  3. Gourds: What would Halloween be without pumpkins? Place small pumpkins around your trees or garlands for that uniquely Halloween feel. (We know, pumpkins are fruits!)
  4. Natural fiber: Use rugs and tapestries made from jute, organic cotton or hemp and in fall colors like gold, red or orange for a festive Fall touch.
  5. Stone: Use candleholders or fountains made from stone. You can also gather up some pebbles and use them as decorative accents on your mantelpiece.
  6. Metal: Use wall decorations and lamps made from copper and iron.

Try flexing your creative muscles by making these decorations with your own unique twist. Happy decorating!

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Jessica | Balsam Hill Designer

I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas: Eco-friendly Holiday Decorating Strategies

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There are so many ways for us to treat the environment well while keeping the Christmas spirit alive. I’ve developed some eco-friendly holiday decorating strategies over the years and they haven’t failed me yet! I’m sharing some of these strategies so that we can all have a wonderful, green Christmas this year (and maybe get a reward from Santa Claus!).


  1. Incorporate Natural Objects: Use pine cones, berries, evergreens or fruits in season as decorative accents or table centerpieces. You can paint them or add glitter to match your wreaths, garlands or Christmas tree decorations.
  2. Use Cloth Napkins: Add a touch of Old World sophistication by using cloth napkins for the dinner table. Buy these in traditional holiday colors and tie them with some twine. Not only is it a classy look, but you can reuse them every year!
  3. Use Burlap Bags: Stylish and eco-friendly, you can buy burlap bags at a local store. Use burlap bags to cover your Christmas tree stands or as gift wrappers and candleholders.
  4. Reuse Old Greeting Cards: Don’t throw away those greeting cards from last year! Make some lovely place cards by snipping off the front page of your old greeting cards. Decorate them with some gold ink and use some pretty ribbon to attach them to small potted plants. These will look beautiful on your table and can even double as party favors!
  5. Choose LED lights: How about using LED lights for your Christmas trees? They last twice as long and are ninety percent more efficient than traditional bulbs. If you’d like some options, you can check out our Multicolor LED or Candlelight LED light strings.
  6. Reuse Old Greeting Cards: Don’t throw away those greeting cards from last year! Make some lovely place cards by snipping off the front page of your old greeting cards. Decorate them with some gold ink and use some pretty ribbon to attach them to small potted plants. These will look beautiful on your table and can even double as party favors.
  7. Reuse Gift Wrapping Paper and Ribbons: Ever wondered what you should do with old gift wrapping paper and ribbons? Try using them to wrap presents (just make sure to remove any old tags!).

These holiday decorating strategies are eco-friendly, economical and you’ll be breathing new life into those beautiful materials (you’re totally hitting three birds with one stone!). Happy decorating!

Jessica | Balsam Hill Designer

Preparing to Fall Back: Outdoor Lighting Plans for Darker Evenings (Preparing for Daylight Savings)

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Daylight savings time will come to an end in November. The evenings will be colder and darker. Brr! Don’t worry though, I’ve put together a list of the best winter lighting options for this year.


Take a look:

  1. Outdoor Pendant Lights: Outdoor pendant lights in classic silhouettes and matte white, black or bronze finishes grew popular this year. To add a romantic touch, hang these outdoor pendants lights from trees in a technique called moonlighting.
  2. Outdoor Sconces: Trendy and sophisticated, hang outdoor sconces in deep metal tones in front of entranceways. Perfect for Winter, they’ll work well with a vintage or antique look. To add your own unique touch, use some beads or crystals as decorative accents!
  3. Outdoor Track Lighting: Outdoor track lights are good options for lighting up your porch, patio or gazebo. Choose outdoor track lighting with LED bulbs, since these are brighter and last a lot longer than traditional incandescent bulbs (they’re eco-friendly too!).
  4. Recessed Outdoor Lights: Use recessed outdoor lights to illuminate pathways, stairs or exterior walls. To highlight garden fountains and statues, install recessed outdoor lights at ground level and pointed them upwards in a technique called uplighting.

One final tip: For a more festive touch for the season, decorate your entryway with pre-lit wreaths and pre-lit topiaries. Although it’s nearing the end of 2011, it’s never too late to update your look. Happy decorating!