Decorate Your Window for Festive Streets

“Decorate a window”. For some people, it’s pure pleasure – an artistic joy they were born to produce. Yet, for others, it’s a hugely daunting task and they wouldn’t know where to start. If you fall into the latter category, read on!

This blog is from Nicola, project co-ordinator of the new #FestiveStreets project from Sustainable St Albans’ Playing Out team.

#FestiveStreets, the new community project we have launched across St Albans District, has taken off in a big way! We have been overwhelmed by the amount of interest and, as of writing, we have had over 250 people sign up from more than 180 streets across the district.

We hope this blog will give some ideas and inspiration to the hundreds of people across the district who have pledged to decorate their windows as part of Festive Streets.

Window display of Festive Streets Logo (Photo: Festive Streets)

The basics

The first task is to make some basic decisions:

  • Day or night or both – do you want your display to look best in the day or at night?
  • Lighting – lit from behind or lit by daylight?
  • Choose your window – downstairs is often more visible to the street; upstairs may offer more privacy (as you usually can’t see right into the room from the street) – or maybe. you will use more than one window!

Then

  • measure your window
  • begin your design….
Rope the family in to help with your window decorations (Photo: Festive Streets)

Privacy

This is actually quite a key decision early on in your design. If you are doing your design to be seen in the dark, you are particularly vulnerable to people being able to see into the room. Ideally, you want them to see only the display, not you and your family watching television! In addition, the design will be more effective if the view is not distracted by the room beyond.

There are a number of ways you can ensure privacy:

  • Fill the whole window with your design
  • Pull down a blind or pull curtains across the unused part of the window (or hang a sheet)
  • Go for an upstairs window if the room’s inside can’t be seen from below.
  • Use some kind of semi-opaque material to obscure the glass you have left plain: tracing paper, white tissue paper, greaseproof paper, a large paper table cloth, even opened out cereal box inner bags work well.
  • Put a light source for the display between the curtains and the glass – eg some very low wattage LED fairy lights round the edge of the window frame (and put them on a timer)

Types of design

The traditional shadows and light window

This is by far the most popular style for winter windows because they look fabulous at night. You can do it in one of two ways:

  • the silhouette – make shapes with dark materials.
  • the cut out – fill the window with black and cut holes to make your shapes

Your dark material can be anything that is opaque – black paper is popular, but try the leftover brown paper used in delivery parcels or the black inside of a plastic delivery bag.

You then light the room from behind and those on the street see the magical effect.

Shadows and light: silhouette shapes (Photo: Festive Streets)
Shadows and light: cut-outs(Photo: Festive Streets)

The coloured window

Fill your cut-outs or back your silhouettes with colour

  • coloured tissue paper
  • coloured cellophane sweet wrappers (eg Quality Street)
  • coloured thin carrier bags
  • change the bulb colour in the room or use coloured low wattage LED fairy lights on a timer

In fact, you don’t need black at all – you could do the whole window display in colour!

Colourful window (Photo: Festive Streets)
Colourful window (Photo: Festive Streets)

The daytime cut-outs window

If you’re going for a display that looks great in day time then white paper looks fab. Think of those snowflakes we all used to make as kids – a window full of those can look spectacular.

The museum display window

A simple window display can be done in the form of displaying things. Stacks of small boxes or shoe boxes make fantastic mini shelves and you can then fill them with whatever is appropriate for your theme.

Window displays in boxes (Photo: Festive Streets)

Drawings in windows

You can probably paint or draw on windows with some special equipment but I’m no artist plus I wouldn’t know how to get it off again! What you might have to hand are permanent pens like Sharpies. These work really well on both used cellophane (try wrappings from florist flowers) and also opened out flattened cereal bags, which are even more preferable as they have add that element of privacy to the window. Sit down at the table, spread out your film and let your artistic flair in!

Window drawings on cereal bags in Sharpies (Photo: Festive Streets)
Window drawings on cereal bags in Sharpies (Photo: Festive Streets)

Garlands and strings in windows

Windows are the perfect format for stringing things up. Strings can run across the windows in horizontal lines or hang vertically down from the top. The ideas for what you can hang from your strings are endless – how about

  • traditional festive decorations 
  • homemade paper stars
  • homemade gingerbread men
  • pine cones
  • twig/stick art
  • salt dough shapes
  • toilet roll santas and snowmen

I’ve even seen a fantastic photo of a window display done with Hawaiian Shirts strung up!

Visit our Pinterest board for more inspiring pictures

Our Pinterest board is full of ideas – ok, some of them might be a little bit more beautiful than your average mortal can create, but they are sure to give you a starting point for ideas.

The Golden Rules

So now you’ve got some ideas, it’s time to go for it. The remaining thing I would say is simply to follow these golden rules:

  • Remember: it’s not a competition!
  • Keep it sustainable – don’t buy new unless you have to – use what you have or ask a neighbour
  • Keep your design as simple as you can
  • Rope in household members to help you 
  • Have fun!
  • Reflect on the joy you have brought to your neighbours and passers-by every time you see it.

Find out more

For more information about Festive Streets, follow the link from our Playing Out Project page. You can get a free Festive Streets electronic information pack to get you started which includes template notes to your neighbours, colouring posters and lots of inspiration.

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