A great opportunity for a stunning Christmas decoration can be a staircase. Many people ask me the best way to do stairs for Christmas, so I wanted to share what I believe is the best solution. Following are a series of five photographs showing the foyer stairs in our home from before we start through to completion.
The first photo shows the stair rail before. Be sure to move anything that can be damaged during the decorating process before you start. We moved a pair of chairs that flank the draped table, as well as the lamp and other accessories that sit on the table to prevent breakage. Our stair presents a wonderful challenge because of the curve. Curves are a little more difficult because the drape of the swags can’t always be measured before putting up the greenery. You have to look at it after each swag to make sure everything is in the right position. Our secret is to make the swags between four and five feet wide. We count the pickets on the railing, and divide out how many we need have between each drape to get them all about even.
The second photo shows the stairs after we have draped the garland. I prefer having the garland in swags like this rather than running straight across the top of the banister. When the garland completely covers the hand rail, there is no place to hold on when you are climbing the stairs; and if you do hold on, you mess up the decoration. Placing the garland on top of a banister is not a practical solution. It is best to have the swags on the outside of the stair rail for two reasons: (1) typically the most visible part of the stair rail is the outside, and (2) the garlands will be less likely to be rubbed against on the outside. I prefer a nice deep swag with the greenery. This always gives a luxurious look, and provides a lot of surface area that will hold other types of decorations like ribbon, ornaments, and berries. Be sure to make “tails” out of the greenery that go from the top of the hand rail to the floor when you are doing the stairs. Again, this always has a full and luxurious look, but it provides a practical solution for getting the light cords down to the floor if you want to light the garland. We put the lights on the garland after it is hung on the stairs. We run plain clear lights first, and then use a more decorative type light bulb as well after that is complete. We chose the large clear pinecone shaped lights which give a nice bright look, and the glass bulbs add a dressed up element to the garland. We keep our garland in one piece when we take it down, so if you can get the lights to work out so they fit the garland in one piece, it will make putting the decoration up the following year a breeze. Be sure to keep the ties you use to hang the swags on the garland in the correct position. Label which end goes at the top of the stairs and which at the bottom, and putting up the garland the following year will be a snap.
After the swags are up and the lights on, bows and ribbon should be put on. We used five different ribbons for our stairs this year. All of the ribbons have wired edges, which makes tying the bow very easy. To learn how to tie the bow, watch my bow tying video further down in the blog. Position the bows at the top, and work the streamers into the garland.
We have a pair of antique Italian cherubs that we use at the top of the stairs. These add a playful element to the garland in that they look as if they are the ones putting up the decoration. I love this sort of playful character in Christmas decorations. You could use any sort of sculptural piece like this and get a similar effect. The ribbons are worked in around the angels so that all of the angel is visible.
The next photo shows how the tails of the bows can be worked into the garland. This serves the purpose of helping to keep them in place so they don’t get messed up during the season, and really adds a sense of movement to the garland. We used multi colored ornaments in the same colors as our foyer on this garland, and hung them throughout the garland. They are somewhat evenly spaced, but don’t get them too perfect or you will loose the artistic quality this garland has. You can also tuck in sprigs of a different type of greenery and some berries if you want to add a little more color. One year we placed the ornaments just around the bows in clusters. This was a great look also, but this year, we decided to make it fresh and use the ornaments throughout.
The last photo shows our completed stair rail. Notice how we added a bow to the lamp on the foyer table to tie that into the overall design of the decoration. The nice deep green swags, the full bows, and the layers of ornaments on this garland really make a statement when you enter the foyer. What a great place to say Merry Christmas and Welcome.