Take a(nother) bough
Evergreens are the foundation of holiday decorating, so arm yourself with as many feet of boughs as you can pack into your car, draping them around your front door and along your railings and windows. Fresh cedar boughs are best, although battery operated, pre-lit plastic varieties, available at big-box stores, are a passable time-saver. Specialty staplers like the Powershot Holiday Staple Gun Tacker ($6.50 through www.homedepot.ca) will protect the wiring and make the job less taxing.
Don't be afraid of colour
While white lights have been de rigueur in holiday decorating for several years running, colour is making a comeback this year. Peacock greens and blues are an of-the-moment choice for an indoor tree, but, when it comes to exterior lighting, anything goes. If Bollywood-inspired red and orange lights speak to you, go ahead and indulge. Once you've chosen a palette, however, make sure all of your outdoor lights stay within that colour scheme. And if you've made the switch to LED lights, ensure they're all the same temperature colour-wise: Cool blues look wrong next to warm ones.
Crank up the lights
If you have a sizable tree on your front lawn, hire someone to wrap the full height of it in lights, Rockefeller Center-style. Or, if you prefer the do-it-yourself approach, a large, single bulb positioned at the base of a tree makes a strong statement. Twinkly miniature lights work well in shrubs and bushes, but purchase twice as many as you think you'll need for a richer effect or look for lit "nets" that can be draped over low-lying bushes.
Make your tree a double
If your property lacks trees or you live in a condo, purchase two trees; one for inside the house and one for outside. (If it's artificial, make sure you choose a model designed specifically for outdoor use so that it withstands the elements and lasts throughout the season.) Position it in a discreet tree stand in the middle of your front yard or in a corner of your balcony and decorate it with lights and ornaments.
Put a ring on it
Doors feel naked at Christmas without a wreath (or two or three, hung one above the other with ribbon). Whether your taste leans toward the traditional (a single boxwood ring suspended by a velvet sash) or contemporary (a bright feather wreath embellished with faux jewels), make sure there is contrast between your chosen wreath and the colour of your front door so that it really pops. The other option is to go big: Ask a florist to make you a fresh four- or five-foot wreath and hang it in the middle of your front window. A substantial artificial number, such as the 60-inch Pre-Lit Olympia Pine Wreath ($399 through www.homedepot.ca), works just as well.
Amp up your planters
Planters on either side of a front door frame an entrance and make a diminutive door look grander. Tall branches amplify the effect; emerald cedars are a stately choice and birch stalks strike a modern note, while tall, swirling topiary boxwoods, such as the pre-lit Arbovitae Spiral cypress from Balsam Hill ($279 through www.balsamhill.com) are the ultimate indulgence. Dress any of them as you would your indoor tree. If your planters aren't pre-lit, choose battery-operated lights to avoid the unsightly snaking of cords across the porch. And if you flank a door with artificial trees, repot them; most come in planters too small to have a strong visual impact – and they're a dead giveaway that the greens aren't real.
Reach for the top (of the gutters)
Houses with tall, peaked roofs look stunning when their full silhouette is outlined in lights. Droopy lines of lights, however, will kill the look in a flicker. Use gutter-hung light hooks to keep the lines straight. Second or third storeys will benefit from extendable-poles specially made to clip those hooks onto your eaves.
Mind the line between grand and Griswold
Though much beloved by Clark W. Griswold, the Hollywood icon of Christmas excess, Santa sleighs, herds of plastic deer wrapped in twinkle lights and blow-up decorations are childish. Rule of thumb: If you use any kind of holiday imagery in your outdoor decorating, be restrained and look for objects made of natural materials, such as the driftwood moose at HomeSense ($199 through www.homesense.ca). They wink at the spirit of the season without drowning the neighbourhood in schmaltz.
Special to The Globe and Mail