StyleBlueprint is thrilled to have Jeannette Whitson joining us today for a little how-to on making easy work of decorating for the holidays! Jeannette’s passion for the garden and design, combined with 20 years’ worth of experience in the antiques business, gave rise to her most recent venture, Garden Variety Design, an online garden-inspired antiques company specializing in unearthing outdoor treasures and repurposing them for use inside the home. (We’re pretty sure today’s post will only whet your appetite for more…and good news, you won’t be disappointed. So stay tuned!)

All of today’s beautiful photographs are courtesy of Wiff Harmer.


Jack, one of our two King Charles spaniels, peeking around the door to say hello.

It’s the most stressful wonderful time of the year!!

Chin up little elves and don’t despair – holiday decorating CAN be fun and easier than you think. Just arm yourselves with the right tools (sturdy shoes + clippers and floral wire + adventurous attitude + credit card) and off you go!

First go get or, even better, order your greenery. (Comes right to the door!) My wreaths are from The Magnolia Company and the cedar roping, which you’ll see later in the post, is from Home Depot. (I like plain cedar roping because it’s easy to work with and has a great droopy effect – it’s thin, so I doubled it on the mantelpiece). Now it’s time to put your personal spin on it:


Make your wreath about YOU! Gather some things you like and use all the time. I am all about the garden, so I grabbed some tools out of my kitchen garden, tied them with burlap string (you can buy this at any hardware store) and viola – my Gardening Wreath.



I also love to hear sleigh bells every time someone comes through the door, so I draped some old Amish bells on the bottom of the wreath. (See resources below). Are you a cook? Tie on some pretty measuring spoons or a copper cookie cutter. A new mom? A pretty silver babycup. Wedding in the family this year? A bride and groom cake topper. An officer of the law? Some pretty silver handcuffs. (Warning – this one may be subject to misinterpretation.)



So where’s the bow? I kept it simple and didn’t use one this year, but if that feels naked to you, by all means, tie one on! (Then go get some ribbon.) The best place to get ribbon, in Nashville, is Textile Fabrics. They literally have a giant wall of ribbon in every color – satin, tartans, velvets, pompoms – you name it. (Great for wrapping presents too).



I’m a big believer in using what you have already. No need to swoosh everything off your mantel. The books, candles and terracotta fragments are always on my mantel so I layered it with cedar roping (doubled for thickness) and brought in some stacked garden pots from the potting table. I stuffed a little moss in those and randomly placed some of my antique silver ornaments in the pots and pinecone Santas on the shelf. The ornaments make it say “holiday” to me. (The gliterryer the better – yes I just made up that term for the holidays – feel free to use it.)



Now in the center of the mantel, I made a flower arrangement because I was having a party the night we shot the photos for this, but this will rotate over the next three weeks. Mostly it will have glass vases with rocks and forced* paperwhites – they last for weeks and are pretty even before they bloom. I keep various glass containers of them growing and put them around the house when needed.

Pinecone Santa, keeping watch from the mantel to see who’s naughty or nice.


*A note on forcing paperwhites: I do love this term, “forcing” paperwhites. As if I bent them to my will. My husband comes home with a “What’d you do today?” Me? “Well, I sure forced some paperwhites into doing what I wanted.”

Paperwhites, or narcissus, are just a fragile type of daffodil that you can trick into blooming by putting them indoors on a layer of pebbles with water just below the surface. Keep them in a dark area for a week to encourage root growth, then move them out when roots develop. No need to put them in the sun. Too much sun will make them grow tall before they bloom and droop over.

Glass containers from TJ Maxx. Paperwhite bulbs and bags of already washed pebbles – thank you! – from Creekside Garden Center in Nashville, TN.


“Isnae a rright bonnie table settin?”
Apologies for the inevitable Scotticism, but I do love me some tartan, especially during the holidays. This tartan runner was made by Nina Davidson of ME SEW CRAZY (see resources), but you can find all types of tartans online and at Textile Fabrics.



When you are thinking about what to put on your holiday table, I say get your good things down off that high shelf and USE them. Even things like good china and silver don’t seem formal if you use them in an informal way; stack the plates and silverware and let people serve themselves – it takes all the pressure off making the “perfect” table. I used a tartan runner, but you could use a Christmas tree skirt around a big bowl of paperwhites. Have fun with it!

I used an antique handkerchief planter and put a plastic Tupperware bowl of rocks inside and covered it with clump moss and paperwhites for a centerpiece.


Here’s a close-up of those paperwhite bulbs arranged on a bed of moss. I love that this centerpiece is low maintenance (just a little water periodically to keep everything moist and green) and looks great for two or three weeks. I actually prefer the look of the bulbs before they begin to bloom!


I took one of the paperwhites and made a sharp cut to make a place card holder – the roots help it stand up straight and believe it or not, you can put it back in the bowl after dinner and it will still bloom.


The snowman dessert is so simple and can be made ahead and frozen – two scoops of vanilla ice cream with chocolate morsel eyes, whole clove buttons, a real carrot tip nose and rosemary (or boxwood) sprig arms. You can cover them loosely with plastic wrap and put back in the freezer for up to 2 days. I sprinkled coconut on him for snow and right before serving you can pour some chocolate sauce around him. (All ingredients from Kroger).


I’ve been a collector of, well, everything most of my life. And no need to worry about making sure pieces match perfectly – the fact that these antique silver mint julep cups are mismatched makes them all the more interesting!


This is command central where all the messy work gets done.

I took an old table I got at the flea market and stapled some outdoor fabric around it. It hides all sorts of things underneath I use for centerpieces – marble statues – bags of gravel – chicken feeders. Anything can be used for a centerpiece. For the holidays I am planting some birdcages with amaryllis, paperwhites and moss for a living display that will last for weeks. (The trick is that I can only get one arm inside that little bird door, so it all has to go in one at a time!). You can plant just about anything, so be creative and have fun and Happy HoliDIY!!



P. S. Here’s our other spaniel, Charlotte, who didn’t want to miss a photo op, saying, “Come back soon!”

Thank you, Jeannette for sharing all these wonderful ideas! 


And thank you, Wiff, for the gorgeous photographs! To contact Wiff about photography, visit her website: