Light Up Your Winter Outdoors
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Light Up Your Winter Outdoors

Don't let winter's chill put a freeze on your outdoor entertaining plans!

Story by Linda Kast

Photos & Styling by Lisa Bergman

When snow-covered landscapes draw you outside, make the most of your cabin terrain by decorating an outdoor room with seasonal sparkle. Without spending a fortune, you can warm the hearts of skiers, skaters, snowmobilers and snowshoers alike when they return tired and hungry looking for a cup of soup, chili, cocoa, or a hot toddy.




A Winter Room With Many Views

An outdoor pergola is the perfect gathering place for cold-weather warriors. Even if your outdoor area is a deck, patio or porch, you can achieve the same effect. Wrap evergreen garland around vertical poles or balusters. Here, the four posts of the pergola anchor the décor. White outdoor lights drape from the slats to create a twilight effect. Clusters of berries and bows can dress up the garland, and a wreath or two adds traditional holiday nostalgia.




Menu for the Masses

Warm beverages and soups are a great reason to get everyone to gather and connect at the cabin. Keep family and friends in the holiday spirit by giving your everyday thermoses a new look with decorative craft paper in festive colors. Red-and-white checks pair with big red mugs here. We tagged the thermoses so everyone would know exactly what’s inside. For a cold beverage, look no further than a pile of snow – Mother Nature’s cooler – and insert bottles and cans!




Iced Centerpiece

Cold spells are welcome for making an icy centerpiece. You’ll need a seedling tray cover or other shallow tray measuring about 3–4 inches in height. First, coat the surface lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Then, fill with water, cranberries, holly leaves and pine boughs. Next, coat the exterior of plastic cups with nonstick cooking spray and fill them with sand or stones. Place the cups where you eventually want to put pillar candles. Once the water freezes, remove the tray and replace the cups with large red, green and white candles. Start early, because even at an average temperature of around 20°F, it took our centerpiece two days to fully freeze.




Light the Way

Create a lighted path to your outdoor room using ice-ball lanterns. To make one, cut the top half off a plastic gallon milk jug or old plastic flower pot and then lightly coat the inside of the bottom half with nonstick cooking spray. Fill it with water. Insert a plastic cup in the middle of the water. Make sure it, too, is coated with nonstick cooking spray on the outside. Weigh it down with sand or stones on the inside. Once the water is frozen, release the ice from the container, remove the cup, and insert a small votive candle. Arrange these ice-ball lanterns as a wintery welcome along the sides of the walkway to your outdoor gathering space.




Fireflies-in-a-Jar Chandelier

Fireflies may be gone for the winter, but you can create the look of lightning bugs captured in a jar with a little cabin ingenuity. Using 1/8-inch soldering wire, hang a purchased grapevine wreath, embellished with red berries, horizontally from pergola rafters. Then, cut three additional 40-inch lengths of wire. Wrap a single wire around the top of each of three Mason jars and attach the other end to the wreath, staggering the jars at varied heights. Finally, string an additional length of small, white outdoor lights in and out of the jars, capturing as many of the lights as possible within the jars.


Bonus Tips

  • Put lights up first, maybe even while it’s still warm outside. Then, cover the cording with the garland to hide it out of sight.
  • Don’t forget blankets to keep everyone warm as the sun goes down.
  • Spread hay along walkways and around seating areas. This will stabilize the ground if it gets too icy, as well as minimize the amount of mud tracked indoors when the temperature starts to rise.
  • Stagger Mason jars for the chandelier by simply bending the wire at various angles until you like the look. Because the wire bends easily by hand, try adding swirls or other embellishments.
  • Add greenery and berries to the water of the centerpiece for a festive touch. It causes the water to freeze slower, but the ice will be more translucent.


A special thanks to pergola owners (and builders) Judith and Wayne Janusiak, who have pulled Lisa’s car out of a snowbank more than once over the years and assisted in photo styling for this article. The couple owns a one-room cabin in northwestern Wisconsin.

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