You know how a kid feels on Christmas Eve, electric with excitement to see what wonders are awaiting her in the bright packages under the tree? That’s how I feel every year when I go to market to handpick the holiday decor we will showcase at Nell Hill’s. I’m crazy about Christmas, so I am usually wowed by just about everything I see, from tree ornaments to seasonal dishes to lifelike greenery. But each year, I fall hard for a few dazzlers that become the bedrock of the holiday displays in my home and at both Nell Hill’s stores. This year, five wonderful holiday decorating tools knocked me off my feet. Here are my top picks, plus tips on how to use them to make your home merry and bright.  

1. Cool Cones

Have you ever wanted to bring the brilliance of soft lights to holiday displays on your mantel, at the center of your dining room table or on an occasional table, but you ran into a logistical challenge: You couldn’t stretch a strand of lights to the spot? Maybe there wasn’t an open electrical outlet nearby. Or, it would be a hazard to place a cord across a walkway. I’ve been in this dilemma way too many times. That’s why when I saw these sleek, smooth cones, pre-lit with battery operated LED lights, I had to have them. Lots of them.

The cones come in two different styles: the glitzy silver cones, shown in the photo above, or a natural twig finish. They also come in three different heights, so you can cluster a mix of sizes and styles together to create an interesting winter scene. Best yet, they are a good deal: The small size is just $14.95, the medium size is $19.95 and the large is $29.95. That means you can create a bright, new look on your mantel, dining table or side table without breaking the bank.

We let our creative team loose on these curious cones, and they came up with a cornucopia of ways to use them. Try this: Cluster two or three together and tuck in a deer figurine for a peaceful winter scene. Turn the cone upside down and fill it with faux holiday greens, then work it into your centerpiece. Or hang a pair above your fireplace mantel, like in the photo above.


2. Regal Reindeer

I have a weakness for deer figurines, and year after year, you’ll see different kinds of deer statuettes worked into my fall and holiday décor. This year I fell for a set of small, silver deer poised as if listening to a sound in the forest. They are just the right size to fit perfectly on a mantel display or worked into a layered dining room centerpiece. They feature enough details to draw you in, yet are still clean and simple. And, covered in bling, they bring glamour to a display, making even a simple arrangement sensational.

Partner them with our silver or twig cones for a winter scene on your dining table. Or include them with fresh greens and candlesticks on your mantel.


3. Simple Swags

In my book, greens make the look when decorating your home for the holidays. Great greens are the bedrock of all our holiday displays at Nell Hill’s. And that’s the first thing I put up when I decorate my own home for the season.

If you’re hanging the greens in your home this year, include an evergreen swag or two.  These sweet, simple, easy twists of faux pine branches dotted with pinecones have become our go-to tool when we need to add just a little touch of the season.  For added punch, thread a strand of battery operated LED lights on a timer through the swag, then finish off with a holiday ribbon. Hang the bright, cheery swag on your front door or from the lanterns on either side of your door. You can set the timer so the lights will come on automatically for up to five hours every night, saving you the hassle of going out in your robe and slippers in the freezing cold to unplug the lights. Since the swag is only $16.95, you can hang a few throughout your home, like from your window sashes or in front of a mirror – anyplace you would hang a wreath.


4. Luminescent LED Lights

When I saw these strings of powerful little battery operated lights at market last year, I was so crazy about them I ordered more than 19,000. Dan thought I had lost my marbles (this is not the first time he’s thought this, nor will it be the last). He was envisioning us having boxes of unsold lights stacked up in our warehouse. But he was wrong (this is not the first time, nor will it be the last!). We were completely sold out of the LED lights by Dec. 10. This year, they are back by popular demand! Each strand is 20 feet long and costs just $15.95.

These lights have a million and one uses. Cluster a strand into a ball and insert it into a lantern, like we did in the photo above. Or, insert them inside a mercury glass ball to make it shine.

Use them to brighten up a wreath or the greenery on your mantel our by your front door without having to worry about an electrical cord.


5. Stainless Steel Balls

Lots of my friends and customers have shared with me that they feel lost when it comes to decorating their outdoor garden urns for the holidays. Like me, many have a pair of cast iron urns flanking their front door that can look empty and ugly once the summer flowers have been cleared out. Something has to go in this gaping hole, but what? I have the perfect solution – and it’s as easy as 1-2-3, thanks to my last must-have holiday decorating tool: stainless steel balls:

  1. Clean up your urn.
  2. Rest a pretty holiday wreath on top of the urn, sizing it so that it isn’t so small that it falls in or so large that it lops over.
  3. Place a 16-inch stainless steel ball on top of the wreath. Done!

It doesn’t get much easier than that! I’m so captivated by this look I’ve replicated it using urns inside my house. All you need is a smaller wreath and a smaller ball, and you get the same dramatic finished display for your dining table, buffet, entry table or kitchen island.

Next Week … It’s time to trim your tree! I’ll share our six secrets for making your tree its beautiful best.




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25 Responses to “My 5 Top Tools for Holiday Decorating”

  1. Julie Boyd Says:

    Do you sell the stainless steel balls? If not, do you have a source where I could purchase them?

  2. Lisa Fernandez Says:

    I could not be more excited because this week I received my packages from the Nell Hill Store. Talk about being a kid at Christmas, I was thrilled when I opened up the boxes to see the huge silver balls. My black urns are just waiting to be adorned with crispy greens and one of teh silver balls. I know it will be what my guests will be talking about this Dec 14 at my yearly Christmas party. They will be the first thing they see as they walk along my walkway. They are stunning and I thought the price was reasonable for the elaborate silver balls. They are simply beautiful. I can’t wait. But I have to wait until Thanksgiving is over, I don’t want to take away from it’s special meaning and day. But as soon as the turkey is put away and saved for left overs and all the dishes are washed and put away, I will be working on my Christmas decor. I can not wait!
    I also purchased these gorgeous ribbons from Nell Hill as well to duplicate what I saw in the photos of Mary Carol Garrity’s Christmas open house this year. Thanks to so many of you who were able to send me pictures or post it on your blogs. The Nell Hill Fans are the best!
    Thanks Mary Carol for teaching us so many beautiful things. You are truly a gift.

  3. Ramon Says:

    One of the coolest things this year (out of many) was the pre-lit cones hanging from the branches on the white and blue fun on top of the table dividing the living room, I thought that was genius and debated weather to get a few or not, well I can not wait to my trip to Nell Hill’s this weekend to fetch a few, I am so exited to weave this beauties in to my holiday decor, also the ornament featured as the centerpiece on the dining rooms table, does anybody know if that is glass? And how much did it go for?
    Thanks to the Nell Hill’s team for keeping us inspired.

  4. Bobbie Pullen Says:

    Terrific ideas! Thanks.


  5. Kelsey Says:

    Do you sell the big stainless steel balls and the reindeer? if so how do I go about getting them if I live out of town? Also do you have any mercury glass ornaments?

  6. Louie Ferrell Says:

    Do you sell the cones that comes in two different styles? If so please let me know how to purchase them.

    Thank you,
    Louie Ferrell

  7. Linda in AZ Says:

    Oh… my… goodness!!! Where did your “for sale” sight go???

  8. Barb Says:

    Is there a way to order your pre-lit cones and the swag from you online? Thanks for your help. Barb

  9. jan finger Says:

    How on earth do you mount the upside down cones on the mantle. My husband would kill me if I put a nail in such a beautiful piece of furniture.

  10. Mildred Hoppe Says:

    How big and how much are the stainless steel balls for outside?

  11. Robin Schultz Says:

    How much are the stainless steel 16″ balls?

  12. Robin Schultz Says:

    Mary Carol: How much are the stainless steel 16″ balls? Thank you! Robin Schultz

  13. Rebecca Dexter Says:

    $ for the stainless steel balls…and how do you order them?

  14. Mary Carol Says:

    I knew you guys would love these great holiday decorative items as much as I do! All of these items, including the cones and the balls, are available at Nell Hill’s, And, yes, we ship (so glad you got yours in time to dress your house for your BIG party, Lisa!). Just give us a call toll free at 877-746-4320. Let the holiday decorating begin!!!

  15. franki Says:

    EVERYTHING is just fabulous!! I had to smile as I’ve used the “gazing balls” for ornaments several years now. I leave my stainless copper ones in the urns year round…take that you naughty squirrels!! Do you have a catalog?? franki

  16. Terri M. Says:

    I love all of it, but especially the cones and LED lights! I will be swinging by the store later this week to claim mine!

  17. gayle jolluck Says:

    How can I order the led lights????went on Nell Hill’s site, but didn’t see them.

  18. Ana Maria Says:

    Why oh why did you close down your online shop?!

  19. Debbie Says:

    Love the burlap ribbon with the x and o that is on the square lantern!

  20. Cindy Skarin Says:

    I also wish you had an online store. Almost painful to see all the beautiful things you have in your store than here in California we can not get. Love your blog, pictures and ideas,

  21. Zeta Davidson Says:

    Mary Carol, A couple of years ago, your Atchison store had a beautiful crown either with a nativity scene inside or that would hold a nativity scene. I was not able to get one and I’ve wanted one ever since. I look for décor that represents the real reason for the season. I love to shop your store; if you were in my house you would see. Is it possible for you to stock some inspirational items at Christmas? I love snowmen, Santas, and reindeer; I just don’t use them in my décor; I want my home to represent Jesus’ birth. Thanks, Zeta Davidson

  22. glenda Says:

    While attending your, 2013, Fall Open House I purchased orbs and stainless steel balls to use in the urns in my front entrance. The orbs were unusually unique as they were such a new item in Dallas. The fall gourds, kale, pumpkin, wooden limbs, pinecones and sitting scarecrows gave such a festive autumn display.
    Can’t wait to get the stainless balls with the lighted wreaths out for an elegant. clean and classy
    decor for the Christmas holidays. I have loved that look since I first saw the decorated urns in your O Christmas Tree, book! Thank you for your wonderful inspiring simple yet elegant ideas
    for holiday decor.

  23. Mary Carol Says:

    Hi, Everyone! Lots of questions on how to get our great Nell Hill’s merchandise! The short answer is: YES, you can! Just give us a call and we will be delighted to help you. Our toll free line is 877-746-4320. We’re excited to work with you all person to person, even if it’s over the phone, helping you celebrate their own style!

  24. joAnn Augspurger Says:

    Love the little lights! Remind us next years before Thankgiving that you have them so we can order early and incorporate them into our arrangements when we are designing the arrangements.

  25. Karen Lawson Says:

    Mary Carol,

    I am inquiring about the 16″ Stainless Steel balls orbs. I would like to know if they are still available and how much they are please?

    I called and also left a message on your phone. I am possibly interested in 2.
    Thank you.

    Best Regards,

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