Thursday, December 8, 2011

The wreath debate

I updated this post with new pictures as so many links were broken. To see the new version of this post, please visit:

I have always dreamed of placing wreaths on the windows of my house, but I have never lived in a house that allowed for this – until now. I think wreaths on windows work best when the house is symmetrical, with evenly sized windows.

A few weeks ago, I went out and purchased 5 artificial wreaths (edit: got them at Heeney and Company - they are really beautiful, they look real. I prefer real greenery inside, but am ok with artificial outside), and the day after Thanksgiving hung them on the windows.  The wreaths came unadorned, so I fastened a large red bow onto the bottom of the wreath, as I prefer the visual weight of the wreath to be on the bottom, and like the way that the ribbon trails down.

However, when my family came out to review my handiwork, there was quite a bit of discussion about the placement of the bow.  My husband and oldest daughter felt that it was more traditional to place the bow at the top of the wreath.  A big discussion ensued: should the bow be placed at the bottom or the top of the wreath?

After doing a bit of research, it is clear that there is no right or wrong answer – it is totally individual preference, and is sometimes dictated by the size of the wreath and items that are around the wreath. But, it has given me something new and different to look for this holiday season when examining how people decorate.

Perhaps my all time favorite holiday décor picture is this one, from Martha Stewart.  The soft palette, the green and white color scheme, the beautiful architecture, the urns flanking the door – all are beautiful.  In keeping with the soft style and color palette of this vignette, there is no large red bow, but rather a softly tied ribbon draped from the bottom of the wreath.

The cover of this month’s Family Circle features a picture perfect wreath with a vibrant red bow tied firmly onto the bottom of the wreath.

An old image in my inspiration files features a boxwood wreath at Mrs. Howard, with a green bow on the bottom. Image via AH&L and Phoebe Howard.

I definitely gravitate to the simple, clean, and traditional look of pure greenery and a crisp red bow.  This bow is placed at the top, and I wonder if my preference is for placement at the bottom so the center circle of the wreath can be seen?

A beautiful traditional white clapboard house with black shutters and door, found via pinterest, features wreaths with bows placed on the bottom.

I have always wanted to display a magnolia wreath, and this one is beautiful with its large red bow placed at the bottom. Image source.

Something about this picture really speaks to me – I love the classic materials of the stone and limestone combined, and the large wreath on the arched door is perfection. Note that the bow is placed at the top of the wreath – a wise choice, as a bow on the bottom would block the mail slot. Source.

I thought it would be interesting to gather some wreath inspiration pictures from Atlanta – unfortunately, the weather has been dreadful this week so the pictures are from my errand and school carpool routes rather than my dog walks.  This pretty wreath in the window of Jerry Pair caught my eye; the elegant simplicity of a fresh greenery and a large red bow is perfect. Note the placement of the bow at the top of the wreath – it crowns the wreath, and keeps the bow clear of the lettering on the window.

A large wreath on the Georgia Pacific building downtown wouldn’t really work if the bow were on the bottom – it would block the door, and the building is so tall the visual balance needed to be on top.

I saw this unusual wreath at a doctor’s office, and noted the bow placed at the top. I like how the ribbon is woven through the shape of the wreath.

Two wreath flank the gates at the base of the driveway – note the placement at the top of the wreath.

Two wreaths placed on the gates to the Adams Gate at the Westminster Schools in Atlanta (scenes from the movie The Blind Side were filmed here).  Another check in the ‘bow on top’ column.

A quick drive by one of my favorite houses reveals that they too have a preference for bow on top.

Although decorated simply, with just a large wreath of the door, this house looks amazing at night because the tree is placed in front of the window.  Note that the large red bow is placed on the bottom of the wreath. 

Another house with the bows on the bottom of the wreaths.  I really love the look of wreaths on windows, especially when a house has a crisp black and white color scheme.

The wreaths on this house have the bows placed jauntily on the lower side. It almost looks like the wind is blowing them.

Do you have a preference, or do you have any great wreath pictures to share?  I have become somewhat fixated on wreaths this holiday season!

I am not sure if there is any grand conclusion to this post – placement of the bow on the wreath is not really one of those important philosophical topics in the holiday season – but if you have read this entire post, I predict that you will look at wreaths with a new eye this holiday season!

P.S. - the bows stayed at the bottom of our wreaths.

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2011 books on my Christmas list:

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  1. We have a white house with black shutters, and since we have lived here, I have done plain wreath's with red bow's. I had to re-do all of the bow's this year, and I placed them at the bottom instead of the top, like I had them before. I do hang them with a strip of the same red ribbon, so I have red at the top and bottom of the wreath. For now, this is my preference!

  2. My grand conclusion is that y'all's look great, reserved, and elegant. Next year you can try bows on the bottom. But I always grin at the giant candy cane columns, on Blackland I think. Merry Christmas to all the TTI's

  3. Beautiful! Great minds think alike - I have already been planning this for next Christmas. For me, the bow is always at the bottom (although I like the way both look). My biggest question is what color ribbon - traditional red or lime green? Your artificial wreaths look great . . . did they come from Heeny's or somewhere else?

    The Adams Gate looks so pretty - Madeline was a dear friend of mine in high school.

  4. ok... so interesting. I have never thought about a bow going anywhere on a wreath except the bottom! I'm glad you provided some beautiful examples of bows on top... including those from Westminster... Gotta represent. ha ha. Happy Holidays Holly!

  5. Love all the wreaths. It is a personal preference and where the wreath is. On my front door bow is at the bottom because I like my door knocker to show but on the wreaths hanging on my brick on both sides of my house bows are on the top! I should send you a picture because this may not make sense.

    Your wreath on your house looks fresh in your picture. Did you stick some fresh greens in the artificial wreath?

  6. I love the idea of the wreaths on windows - but I agree with the bows at the bottom!

  7. Now we are in the mood for the holidays.

  8. I love the way your brain works Holly! Can't wait to see your new house!

  9. I am a bow on the bottom girl - big, fat, red bow with beautifully trailing ribbon tails -centered. Always have been, always will be.

  10. Thank you for the comments everyone!

    I like to use real greenery inside, but outside the practical side of me comes through and I purchased artificial. The one in the first picture is from Heeney & Company - they used to be to the trade, but are now open to the public. They have beautiful artificial wreaths that look real. I did not add any greenery to the ones on my window - this is exactly how they came from Heeney.

    I did not put wreaths on my front door - I haven't decided what to do there. My front door is actually a double door, and I didn't want to put two wreaths on the door.

  11. Single wreaths look lovely with the bow at about 4 or 5 o'clock.

  12. I think it just depends on the wreath and where it's placed. i personally have a pink wreath with a big silver bow. it's kinda funky but still christmassy

  13. Boy, I liked nearly every image you showed so I really didn't make a definitive decision on the debate. The image of the clapboard house with black shutters is one of my favorite holiday houses of all time.

    I think your wreath looks great and I love wreathes on windows.

  14. I have a traditional Southern farmhouse, white with dark blue shutters and a red front door. The wraparound porch floor is stained a dark blue as well. Our wreaths are bowed at the bottom. Candles in every window and spotlights on the ground~. Since there are 12 round wreaths to look at I have a long cone-shaped wire basket on the door with crystals dangling at the top. It's filled with greenery and lime balls.

  15. Holly, wreaths can be very beautiful on double doors. I live in a French home with large double doors in front. I have a wreath on each door made of natural greenery with artificial pears, lemons and apples and a large red bow at the bottom. Another way you can achieve a dramatic look is to have a custom made large wreath for the door that splits in the center when one side of the door is opened. I had a neighbor who did this once and it was very beautiful and not in the least noticeable that the large wreath was actually in two pieces.

  16. I really enjoyed your post and seeing all the beautiful homes with such great holiday decor. I love the look of a wreath on every window. P.S. I tend to agree about the bow on the bottom... your's looks great!

  17. It now makes sense why some wreaths placed on windows at eye-level, have their bows at the bottom...so you can look out with no obstruction! For the past ten years I've been replicating a front door wreath I saw on the cover of Williamsburg catalog. It's full of faux fruit & cones and a big red & gold striped ribbon placed at the top with thinner gold ribbon woven throughout the circle. Each year I buy a fresh wreath and re-use the fruit & ribbon. p.s. Save a picture of the one that catches your eye, for easy replication.

  18. I prefer bows on the bottom so you can see the graceful curves of the wreath. I think on top can be distracting when there are multiple wreaths. I also like a wide loose double loop bow over the stiff multiple loop bows. I did a whole post on bows and show the good, bad and the ugly of it all. http://goodlifeofdesign.blogspot.com/2010/12/to-bow-or-not-to-bow.html
    Merry Christmas,

  19. What an adventure to decorate your new GORGEOUS home for Christmas for the first time. Sending many blessings. Mary

  20. I think they're prettier on the bottom but see why they would be placed on top. If the ribbon is meant to look like what's supporting the wreath it would be tied from the top. They're usually just ornamental though and hung another way.

  21. Holly, there is something so classic and beautiful about a greenery wreath with a lovely bow. If you add a few decor items fine, however it isn't even necessary! Gorgeous images!

    Come and enter my new exciting Holiday Event Giveaway! Amazing Gifts!Tis the Season!

    Art by Karena

  22. I am staying with a friend tonight, and today she spent a couple of hours making a wreath ! We had a discussion about the exact same thing, and both prefer the bow at the top. But she had added all sorts including dried orange and it just seemed right. Somehow I think if the wreath is completely plain like yours, then a bow at the bottom is best !?!?!?

  23. Ugh, blogger just ate my comment. I was saying I aprpeciate how you and I both think about this stuff...
    I prefer the bottom bow - more modern I think. The top bow seems more old-fashioned to me but I am not sure if this is historically accurate or my imagination.

    Check out my latest two blog posts for plenty of wreaths, including our own front door.

    xo Terri

  24. So many beautiful examples and proof that there is no wrong way to add the bow..its totally personal preference and I have done it both ways. I too tend to prefer a very earthy look with lots of pinecones, and a great big ribbon in red or dark green. Simple and elegant Nothing like fresh greenery (or fake greenery that looks really fresh:)
    Love when every window has a wreath and finally our new house is so symmetrical with every window being the same size that we will one year, hopefullly next be able to do something I have dreamt of in my head for many years!
    This was a fun post and a reminder of the "less is more" application and how is applies successfully to wreaths too!

  25. The bow is usually on the bottom of our wreath, but this year I changed to the top. And you know, I love it! I'm such a rebel, aren't I? :)

  26. I put my bows at the top and slightly to the left of center or right of center flanking the front door. I don't have wreath's on every window, too symmetrical for me. :) Your artificial do look real in the photo. This post put a smile on my face....it takes all kinds to make the world go 'round.
    Merry Christmas Friend!

  27. I put wreaths and candles in every window, every year, but also have a hard time deciding which way I like it, because I think they are all so pretty! So to semi-solve this dilemma, this year I hung them all by simple green velvet ribbons with no bow and I am really liking the simplicity of it! I usually put a large fresh wreath or swag on the front door with a slightly different adornment.

  28. Our bows are often asymmetrical - placed slightly off center at about 10 or 2 o'clock...
    This year they will be purple and gold. At the rate we're going, our wreath will go up Christmas Eve day...

    Wonderful post! Keeps Sally and me in touch with the Holidays as we keep ourselves one step in front of the other as we help our clients get ready for their Holidays....


  29. I like them both ways, but prefer the bow at the bottom too. These are beautiful examples and the homes are all lovely.

  30. Hi Holly! Thanks for stopping by to see all my wreath photos. I thought it was timely after this post. haha.

    No holiday parties here - we are invited out to a dozen things. I find this time of year too hectic - all the weekends are booked up. I do like having people over, so next year we are going to save the date in advance of all the company and other Christmas parties. Are you having people over? You must send photos of your new house!! I should be on Facebook etc. but I am not. :)

    The secret to my photos - a good semi-professional camera (Nikon D300), a couple of expensive lenses, and a little tweaking in Photoshop to sharpen and straighten and saturate, plus photography as my main hobby for almost 15 yrs before I got into decorating - a good eye and composition is 90% of the battle.

    xo T.

  31. WOW, are you reading my mind?? I placed mine on the bottom only after driving all around my neighborhood to see what others had done. It wasn't clear if it should be top or bottom?? I went with the bottom. After, a couple of days, I realized it looked out of place with my wreaths and I moved my bows to the top. I like both looks and it's funny that there is no right or wrong... but, all in all, I like the top!

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  33. Just had this discussion last night on Facebook with friends. I think that traditionally a bow tops things but it's a personal preference in where it goes when you're ready to celebrate the holidays. I personally I like the asymmetrical placed look of the bows. ASH

  34. Great collection of wreaths. I pinned a bunch of them to my pinterest board. I liked how you did a detailed analysis of each one. For the next few days I know I am going to be noticing bow placement more often!


  35. This blog is really making me laugh! I found it because I was obsessed with bows on top or bottom. I switched mine to the top and didn't like it, so back to the bottom it goes.

    Thank you for the wonderful photos of the houses in Atlanta!! I live on the west coast (originally from the Chicago area) and people just don't decorate for Christmas like they do "back east".

  36. I love seeing how people decorate in different parts of the country! We are mid renovation, so we didn't go all out. Still, I have a magnolia wreath on the front door and one on the side (on a lattice).

    Love the jauntily placed bows on the one house. Fun!
    xo Elizabeth

  37. Hi Holly, I am a bow-on-the-bottom person. I love seeing all these examples, though - and some beautiful houses! I am also decorating this weekend even though we usually wait until after my daughter's birthday on the 4th. I was too excited to get started this year.
    Have a great weekend!

  38. Wow, I just moved to a house that has a big entrance gate and so I wanted to place wreaths on both sides. I never considered anything other than the top, but for some reason, I questioned where the bow belongs and found this site. Haven't made my decision yet becuase I really like both ways. But I'll need to make it soon.


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