Traditional wreaths get workover

Wreaths definitely aren't limited to evergreens with red-ribbon bows. Flip through magazines and catalogs, and you'll see them constructed from myriad objects. CB2 includes instructions on how to make them out of mini disco ornaments or clear glass bubbles or "fauxballs" (fake snowballs). Sur La Table and Williams-Sonoma have featured mixed herb wreaths in recent years. Some are fashioned from gourmet iced sugar cookies or ears of corn.

Indeed, modern-day designers know no bounds when it comes to re-creating the ancient decorative circle. In fact, their wreaths aren't always round. They might be oval, square or a monogram or even act as a picture frame.

Wreaths go back to ancient Greek times. In mythological tales, the god Apollo fell in love with the nymph Daphne. When he pursued her, she fled and asked the river god Peneus to help her. Peneus turned her into a laurel tree, so Apollo wore a wreath of laurel on his head.

The wreath became associated with the embodiment of Apollo: victory and status. The wreath-as-crown became one of the most commonly used symbols to address achievement throughout Greece, Rome and beyond.

Wreaths eventually became associated with Christmas. The origins of the Advent wreath are uncertain. In 1839, German Protestant Johann Wichern created an Advent wreath that had 23 candles: 19 red candles (to be lit on the weekdays of Advent) and four white (for the Sundays ). He used a cart wheel as the base, and the wreath was used to educate children about the meaning of the holiday and to help them count its approach. Candles represent hope (light within darkness), the evergreens symbolize strength, and the never-ending circle means life eternal.

These days, the most common location for wreaths is on front doors. But they also can welcome guests as centerpieces.

"You can put hurricane candles inside one wreath or more on a table," says Jordan Breedlove, owner of 7 Fifteen Design in Lansing, Kan. "Or above a fireplace, of course. But it could be a fun and unexpected touch on a bathroom door. Or you could hang multiple wreaths on the nails where your wall art typically goes."

Tim Butt, owner of Black Bamboo in the Kansas City, Mo., Crossroads Arts District, has "floated" wreaths chandelier-style using fishing line.

"But then they have to be decorated on both sides," Butt said. "Still, it's a cool effect."

"I think what makes wreaths special," he said, "is that they symbolize reverence and a celebration at the same time."


Designer: Tim Butt, owner and interior designer at Black Bamboo in Kansas City. "I don't have the talent for beautiful and fussy. I tend to go with a nontraditional modern spin."

Description: Sticks and three sizes of marshmallows (giant ones, the size of snowballs, are available now) create campfire chic.

Wizardry behind the wreath: Toothpicks adhere the marshmallows to the foam wreath form. A kitchen torch was used to toast the marshmallows. The outer edge is more toasted and gradually less so through the middle, giving it an ombre effect. Warning: Each of the giant mallows is 90 calories if you're an eat-as-you-work type. Bonus: This wreath smells divine.


Designer: Jordan Breedlove, interior designer in Lansing. "I like using different textures and unexpected items that are typically considered industrial or utilitarian."

Description: A small wreath sits atop a larger one, giving this creation a stand-out, dimensional effect. Window screening fills the gap between the wreaths. Glittered black-and-white spheres are accented with touches of purple.

Wizardry behind the wreath: Purple decorative tree picks were disassembled (they were grapes) as well as black and white ornaments. Black vase fillers were hot-glued onto a plastic foam wreath form. Two $3 strands of battery-operated mini LED lights from Hobby Lobby were pinned into place. "You have to plan lights carefully," Breedlove said. Toothpicks secured the two wreaths together.


Designer: Ania Valencia, floral designer at Matney Floral Design in Fairway, Kan. "I love fresh greens and a free style. I like to use pinecones and things with a wilder look."

Description: The 35-inch wreath is made from traditional evergreens but is studded with nearly 20 fragrant Casablanca lilies.

Wizardry behind the wreath: The lilies are in individual water tubes for a limited lifespan. But the base of the wreath — spruce, white pine, juniper with berries, Fraser fir and southern magnolia — should last throughout the holidays. Insert rose hips, berries or ribbons to replace wilted flowers.


Designer: Dan Meiners, owner of Studio Dan Meiners. "A wreath can be made of anything."

Description: This square wreath is covered in vintage black-and-white snapshots culled from eBay and antique stores. The circular mirror makes the beholder part of the family celebration. Although a silver strand of glitter accents the photos, this wreath could be used year-round.

Wizardry behind the wreath: Browned-out black-and-white photos are evenly distributed to give the piece a cohesive look. Each photo is a gem. A 3M spray adhesive keeps the silver-plated glitter intact. Although the wreath is larger than a 2-foot square, it's nearly as light as a feather.


Designer: Kenny Beall, workspace change consultant for Lenexa-based Evologic and owner of Merriam, Kan.-based Hana Floral Design. "I'm big on organic. I don't like fake trees. I like using things I find in my yard. But I also want to be able to use a wreath year after year."

Description: This 5-foot-diameter wreath would make quite an impression in a Victorian home or even on the exterior above an outdoor fireplace or on a gate. Curly willow, oversized sage hydrangeas and covered globe tea lights create a garden-like statement.

Wizardry behind the wreath: Five small vases attached to the wreath can be filled with different flowers. Beall suggests oversized blooms, such as hydrangeas, football mums and chrysanthemums. Seven vented tea light globes filled with sheet moss shouldn't be left unattended when lighted.

DIY wreaths: 10 materials to inspire

1. Family photos

2. Old greeting cards

3. Paint chips

4. Take-out food boxes

5. Paper airplanes

6. Flatware

7. Hot Wheels cars

8. Road maps

9. Keys

10. Playing cards

Avoid hang-ups

When a wreath hanger doesn't work, try a heavy-duty stapler (not your standard office variety). Use it to fasten a ribboned or wired wreath to the top of your door. No nail holes or adhesive hooks necessary.