decorating for the holidays – the stairway

by Sharon Santoni

blaustrade decorated with Balsam Hill garlands

 

As usual, this year the very first part of the house I’m decorating for the Holidays is the staircase.    It is central to the house, the first thing we see when we walk into the hallway, and it winds itself up four flights of stairs to the top floor.

In the past I have spent a lot of time making garlands from natural foliage, such as bayleaf, cypress or eucalyptus.  This looks pretty and smells divine for the first few days, but it is very long to put together and requires some maintenance if I want to keep the decorations in place for the whole of December.

blaustrade decorated with Balsam Hill garlands

So when Balsam Hill got in touch and asked me if I’d like to try their  Christmas garlands in my home, I was very happy for the chance!

My balustrade is fairly long, but with sufficient garlands I am able to go from top to bottom of the staircase, filling the house with not only the pretty greenery, but also the small discreet lights that are part of the garland.   They run on batteries so no need for annoying wiring. Decorating for the holidays just got a whole lot easier!

blaustrade decorated with Balsam Hill garlands

If I wanted I could have added some additional decorations such as pine cones or baubles in the garland, but actually I’m loving this natural look.

blaustrade decorated with Balsam Hill garlands

 

And because we had friends to dinner last night, I added some candles and outsized pine cones to the stairs for greater impact – they loved it!

blaustrade decorated with Balsam Hill garlands

What about you?   Do you like to mix a little faux into your Holiday decorations?    Do you maybe do all faux?    I’d love to know.

 

blaustrade decorated with Balsam Hill garlands

This post was sponsored by Balsam Hill, all the photos and opinions are of course my own.

If you’d like to read this post again, pin this image now and enjoy later!

faux garland and candles on wooden staircase - decorating for the holidays

43 comments

Rachel December 1, 2018 - 6:56 pm

I don’t prefer faux greens but this looks stunning.

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Sharon Santoni December 1, 2018 - 7:16 pm

thank you Rachel!

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Loretta December 2, 2018 - 3:49 pm

Balsam Hills products are so real looking one might add a few drops of scented oil to infuse the air on the staircase.
Ah-h-h I can imagine it now.
Loretta

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Anne-Marie Cartier December 1, 2018 - 7:32 pm

I can’t believe that is a faux swag….I use a lot of natural greenery, however, I learned a trick from a designer to mix both….I use faux swags and poke cedar branches and when they dry up replace them over the holidays….I did that last year and it worked beautifully and your arrangement stays intact…. Thank you for sharing this most beautiful photo of your Christmas décor

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Wendy Peat December 1, 2018 - 8:17 pm

Beautiful Sharon! Faux is so clever now, sometimes only a keen eye can tell. Trickery with fresh & faux. I use pine scent sticks poked in secret places so even smells convincing!
Too hot downunder for fresh foliage, although NZ Christmas tree called Pohutukawa which is plentyful with big red flowers leading up to Christmas is traditional go to.

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Carole J December 1, 2018 - 6:59 pm

Sharon your holiday staircase is so beautiful! The candles add that warmth and glow. I mix both but prefer a more natural look as it’s soothing and to much bling feels to fake, harsh, and stale to me. I think what works for ones home and comfort is key.

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Sharon Santoni December 1, 2018 - 7:18 pm

I agree Carole, I prefer the natural look too, thank you for your kind comment 🙂

Sharon

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Lisa D. December 1, 2018 - 7:14 pm

Every year I debate whether or not to go faux or natural. So far, natural has won out, but since I have a large living room with high ceilings, the room requires a large tree. A small tree just looks sort of silly. However, I do it myself and it is a major undertaking! One reason I have not opted for a faux tree, is because they look so, well…faux. It seems as thought they could make artificial trees and greens that look more realistic, but maybe I am just searching in all the wrong places. I’ll have to check out Balsam Hill.

Your stairway is beautiful, Sharon…the green garlands, with a little gold and the small sparkly lights along with the candles in brass candle sticks and pine cones. It looks festive without being overdone.

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Barbara December 1, 2018 - 7:20 pm

Elegant and charming. Simplicity is always the way to go. Very soothing and inviting.

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david terry December 1, 2018 - 7:22 pm

Oh, this is an easy one, Sharon, and you’ve made the right decision. For years, I made all the garlands and wreaths (etcetera) out of hemlock (primarily) and firs and pine. It was laborious (if fun, given a few glasses of wine and a good Christmas mixtape) to sit on the front porch with the bothersome dogs and do this every year. However?…..it also becomes simply dangerous when you’re living in a 220 year old, rambling, wooden house. Folks (300 hundred or so strangers, to be precise) moved candles about during the “Historic Homes Candlelight Tour!” every year. At the end of the tour, I would have to go back through the entire house, inspecting every room and staircase to make sure that we didn’t burn down that night. There’s a good reason that so many old houses burn down on Christmas Eve (and, yes, they did and do; look at the historical record).

I got lucky, though, two years ago……the town’s historic commission arranged things so that various sponsors (all local businesses or organizations) competed to win “Best Decorated House”. I got the local florists shop (which, I knew instantly, was better than being assigned to the local chiropractors’ association)……a mother/daughter team who were as country as it gets (ours is a very small town), delightfully old-fashioned southern, and MEANT BUSINESS!!!!! They and four of their gal-pals (all of them over the age of sixty) barged into my house on a Saturday morning, pretty much politely-shoved me out of the way, introduced me to “faux fir” roping and wreaths, and ropes of glittering pearls and gold beads and god knows what else…….and I had enough inner Martha-Stewart to go back and simply embellish it with nandina sprays/scarlet-berries (do you have these in France?), gilded Magnolia pods (thank you, whoever invented spray-paint), a thousand sprigs of holly and bridal-wreath (“babies’ breath”, according to old ladies), and other things from the garden. I got OUT OF THE LADIES’ WAY, and it was BEAUTIFUL (we won), and I didn’t have to spend the next three weeks watering and worrying every night. In essence?…..the base was all artificial…..and the natural embellishment were replaceable or inflammable. In any case?………..if you want trouble-free (unless you have cats, which I don’t) and beautiful Christmas decorations?…….ask a couple of Southern, old-lady florists about the matter. As one of them told me “Oh, we’ve been doing First Presbyterian’s candle-light service for twenty years, and it hasn’t burned down yet…….”

I wish I could post some pictures of the Webb House in its Christmas finery here, but I can’t. In any case, here’s wishing you and your fine family the merriest of Christmases. Your house looks lovely.

Sincerely
David Terry
Quail Roost Farm
Rougemont, NC
USA
http://www.davidterryart.com (someone asked, so I’m posting it; hope you don’t mind)

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Judith Nigh December 1, 2018 - 7:35 pm

As much as I love ‘fresh’ and the wonderful scent of evergreen, I watched as a fireman friend tossed the match into a large ‘live’ tree in the driveway after Christmas. It literally exploded and flames rose 20 feet in the air. I decided family, pets and home were not worth the risk of a cut tree.
Happy, blessed and safe Christmas to all. JN

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Elizabeth December 1, 2018 - 7:55 pm

It looks real. Being faux it probably isn’t sticky, and you won’t have needles on the stairs causing falls. I think it looks fantastic!

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Judi Castille December 1, 2018 - 8:08 pm

Lovely. Faux is fine as the real thing doesn’t always last. Mixing the two works well and hoping next year to finally finish my stairs so I can decorate. At the moment we have the shell of the barn done and roughing inside with a cooker, a couple of chairs and a wood stove. But next year we will be fully installed and Christmas pudding and mince pies will be ready and plenty of decorations.

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Kathy December 1, 2018 - 8:13 pm

Balsam Hill is awesome. Best decision in buying our tree from them a few years ago. I may add garland for our stair railing after seeing yours. It’s beautiful.

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Chandra December 1, 2018 - 8:14 pm

I was forced to switch to all faux 26 years ago when we discovered our then 4 year old was allergic to greenery (he still is at 30 ). This broke a lifelong tradition of cutting trees and greenery from family property and creating beautiful and meaningful decorations with them, so it was initially a perplexing challenge. I quickly learned that it was a blessing in disquise! No more messes, easier to decorate, etc. Balsam Hill has beautiful faux trees, garland, and wreaths. I usually add more lights than they come with though since we like them brighter. We also like color, so for some of our spaces I get things prelit with white lights and add colored lights. Believe it or not, the mixture is gorgeous. I stll use just white for our front door and formal areas but the mixture is better in our den (tree and mantle). Your staircase is gorgeous!

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Lina December 1, 2018 - 8:26 pm

I also love how you decorated your staircase. I used to use real branches to decorate my home but because I use wood heating they would dry out so quickly and looked like dead nature and very dangerous with wood heating so for the last years I have been useing faux … but I try to buy good quality stuff that mimics the real thing .

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Emm December 1, 2018 - 8:51 pm

I’ve been reading recently about using faux greenery, which is now so much more realistic than it used to be, and mixing in sprigs of “real” for the scent in a good mix of tradition and wisdom. The Balsam Hill pictures are lovely.
Being somewhat nervous about fires, I wonder at your use of candles on the stair. Or are your walls made of plaster and thus a bit more fire-resistant?

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Bronwyn Lee-Coward December 1, 2018 - 10:31 pm

I do envy you all in the Northern Hemisphere with your beautiful garlands and candles, the chill in the air, snuggled around the open fire, lights twinkling and the fire crackling. Think of us down here in Australia today is going to be 85F, bush fires in Queensland have been burning for over a week and it is just the beginning of Summer. I know that the fires devastated California this year, I feel for those people. Enjoy Christmas everyone and happiness to you all, especially to you and your family Sharon I think I can say on behalf of all of us that we are looking forward to sharing 2019 with you.

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Vicky (from Athens) December 1, 2018 - 10:51 pm

Sharon, your staircase is lovely, festive, warm and welcoming. I find that a mix of faux and real works well for me. My tree is always real but I use a mix on both of my mantles. I have some beautiful faux pine swags that I place on the mantles first and then I add other branches and berries…yes, David, I, too, rely on nandina! On the tops of a few of my high pieces of furniture I use smilax. If you aren’t familiar with smilax, its a vine that grows wild in the woods here in the South and is frequently used when decorating for weddings and Christmas. I also use magnolia leaves to fill in the gaps. I just love the way the house looks and smells when it’s decorated for Christmas. I would love to see more pictures of your house while it’s all dressed up for Christmas and the New Year.

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Esther George December 1, 2018 - 11:04 pm

Hi Sharon, that looks so elegant, I Would love to use beautiful smelling greenery, but Christmas in Sydney tends to be a scorcher, so out comes the faux everything and thank god for battery operated fairy lights. Our home is a small family home I gave away our beautiful big tree and downsized to a what I call a stick tree I know it doesn’t sound great but believe me it turns out beautifully once it’s decorated, and the house doesn’t feel stuffy. Thank you for sharing beauty. Regards Esther from Sydney….expected temps for today 35C and very windy. PS I love Balsam Hill

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Our French Oasis December 1, 2018 - 11:21 pm

I think faux can look incredible these days, especially when left very natural, your staircase is proof of this, just gorgeous. Because faux looks so good it seems a shame not to take advantage of it, but in moderation, I use it as a base and then add to it all the greenery I cut from the garden. Its the best of both worlds and as you say it means everything lasts so much longer.

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Audrey December 2, 2018 - 12:20 am

As we have Frnch staircases similar to yours, Sharon, you have given me the lovely idea of adding pine cones and candles to the steps for special occasions during the Christmas season, and even continuing on during the Winter season.

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Susan December 2, 2018 - 12:52 am

I use faux on our mantel but mix in many cuttings of fresh from my yard, and replace it as needed. Never any candle up there- I am a former building inspector so cannot have live flame unattended. I also for that background never twine anything around a handrail that could interfere with its use by someone who might be unsteady or unfamiliar with my stairs. It can hang in festoons instead and the rail is still grippable.
Sorry but safety trumps everything to me!

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Lillian December 2, 2018 - 1:07 am

Love the faux, it looks natural and lovely. I am with Susan above, I never leave candles burning anywhere other than a
dining room table and then watch that like a hawk and extinguish at the first opportunity.

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Nancy Edwards December 2, 2018 - 1:17 am

Balsam Hill is great & your garland looks real. Just received a tree from them since our old tree was drowned by Hurricane Michael & we’re very pleased with it. The only time we were able to use fresh greenery was in an older home we had in Pennsylvania that had real plaster walls – it lasted forever. Now I live in FL &fresh can only be used in places where you can change it out every week. I used to be a fresh greenery snob, but no longer!

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Leave it to you sharon to get me in the holiday mood December 2, 2018 - 1:24 am

Leave it to you sharon to get me in the holiday mood

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david terry December 2, 2018 - 1:27 am

how stupid of me…..I meant to include this link for Esther and her supposed “stick tree”…………..it;’s lovely…….go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEMIugqZYfM

sincerely,
David Terry

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Esther George December 3, 2018 - 12:26 am

OMG David, Sharon always makes my mornings with her beautiful blog and this morning Bonus! you send me Charlie Brown, I love Charlie and the gang and the tree….beautiful. Thank you, regards Esther from Sydney. PS Wishing you and your loved ones A Beautiful Christms and New Year.

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Carol December 2, 2018 - 3:35 am

Love the faux decorations. They look so life-like and are so easy to keep for a long period of time! Please show us more of your home and decorations!

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Marilyn December 2, 2018 - 5:01 am

Love this faux garland. This is the first year I am considering a faux tree, but so far I haven’t found one I can live with. The search is on.

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Julie Robertson December 2, 2018 - 12:52 pm

Christmas what a beautiful time of the year!
I use both faux & real in my Interiors shop in Scotland though the one thing that has to be real is holly!
So thank you for showing us what can be achieved with this lovely faux garland.

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Dee Poquette December 2, 2018 - 2:22 pm

The only place I use faux is over the fireplace for safety reasons. Because people seem to be decorating earlier and earlier each year, faux makes sense, but there’s nothing like that fresh tree smell. I will not go there until I am to old to put a fresh tree up. Merry Christmas.

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Tara @ Stilettos and Shiplap December 2, 2018 - 3:40 pm

I love the natural and simple look this year. Makes me wish I had an open staircase so I could decorate it!

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Richelle Tremaine December 2, 2018 - 10:02 pm

Sharon, your staircase is just lovely. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful image. The warm wood stairs are the perfect backdrop for luscious greenery aglow with white lights. Balsam Hill does an exquisite job of mimicking nature. Over the years, we’ve opted for a mix of faux and real. Often I embellish my faux garland with eucalyptus and gathered pine cones. Some years, I use fresh roses, and bits of evergreens, each tucked in to florists’ tiny vases to ensure the live cuttings don’t dry out. I love a real tree, though for safety reasons, we opted off that path years ago. In compromise, we have a small — three foot — real tree in our kitchen each year. Adorned only with a smattering of glass and crystal ornaments. This way, it’s right where the action is so it gets plenty of water and attention. It’s elevated in a cast iron urn, with a simple pail tucked inside. Works beautifully. You do such a beautiful job with your site. All best wishes for a most merry Christmas.

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Barbara Felix December 3, 2018 - 12:12 am

I love your staicase, the faux Garland looks so real, just add a little scent and no one will know. I love the battery operated lights, every year it’s a challenge to get ours connected. Seeing your beautiful staicase has put me in the mood to begin decorating. Wishing you and your family a very happy Christmas season.

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Dottie Monta December 3, 2018 - 6:49 am

Exactly what I like, Sharon, greenery and white lights! I do tuck in fresh ivy and holly springs in florist water tubes. Our small “formal” tree in living room wears only sterling ornaments and white lights, and large faux tree in dining room is covered with collection ornaments and memorabilia. Fresh pine in tall vases throughout provide scent! Fresh roses for Christmas Eve (not in love with poinsettias, though the white ones enhance certain sidetables). Your beautiful post has prompted many of us to gear up, all over the world! And we thank you and wish you and your darlings a happy Christmas.

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Mary Anderson December 3, 2018 - 12:57 pm

I used to have a live tree until my inlaws Christmas tree caught fire and burned their home down to the ground. My mother and father inlaw got out safely, sadly the dog did not. So ever since, everyone in the family uses faux trees.

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Sharon Santoni December 3, 2018 - 6:38 pm

I’m so sorry to hear that story Mary, but can understand how scared you have all been!

We still use a real tree, but these faux garlands have definitely won me over!

take care

Sharon

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Kelly Dodson December 3, 2018 - 7:23 pm

I do both actually because I love the smell. Here in the USA, fir smells fabulous and fresh and lasts quite a while but I long ago gave up doing a real Christmas tree or garland. So I do a lot of faux and a little real My tree and garland are faux and have the battery operated lights. I go out in the country cut stems of a bright red berry bush that shows up after all the leaves fall off. I think I’ve seen them referred to as Winter Berry but they are so vibrant and have no leaves when I cut them. I intertwine those into my fireplace garland and it makes a stunning presentation. They stay red throughout the season and after Christmas, they get tossed into the fireplace to burn with the wood so they are not wasted. My tree is decorated with ornaments and decorations collected over the years and I use a festive Christmas print ribbon to secure branches of Winter Berry together to make my garland.

I love your photos of your stairway. So beautiful and elegant while remaining homey and beckoning to those who enter your house. The best of Christmas wishes to you, your family and your followers! Joyeux Noel!!

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Kelly Dodson December 3, 2018 - 7:25 pm

Sorry…forgot to say…I hang up two large fir wreaths with festive plaid bows and no ornamentation. I put one at one end of my house and the other on the far end. The entire house smells delightful! They go in the fireplace after the holidays as well and continue to smell wonderful as they burn.

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Liz Godfrey December 5, 2018 - 2:56 pm

What a beautiful staircase! It’s very inviting, cosy and festive. I favor real but do a mix of both. Lately, I’ve been replacing my faux pieces with dried and preserved pieces and I”m loving that.

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Debbie December 6, 2018 - 5:40 am

Sharon
Your decorating looks beautiful. The faux is something I now do every year. Since I have been back living in Australia my Christmas tree is not the living tree my husband and I picked out each year. Mind you the pine needles did make a mess. Now we have a fake pine tree that I bring out of storage each year.
I love candles but only light a couple at a time and keep an eye on them. I have a few of the fake candles that at least won’t burn the house down.
I really do miss the American Christmas’s we had.

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Elle December 6, 2018 - 9:27 pm

Sharon, Could you please specify which Garland this is? It’s amazing. With thanks.

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