Thrifty Think­ing

Com­bine up­styled con­tain­ers and sea­sonal sup­plies to craft fes­tive fo­cal points for your hol­i­day ta­ble.

Country Sampler - - Contents -

Matthew Mead shares tips for in­ex­pen­sive and eye-catch­ing hol­i­day cen­ter­pieces.

Cre­at­ing a cen­ter­piece to crown your hol­i­day ta­ble is as im­por­tant as se­lect­ing the per­fect Christ­mas tree. There is noth­ing more wel­com­ing and cel­e­bra­tory than a din­ing or cof­fee ta­ble em­bel­lished with an art­ful as­sem­blage of sea­sonal goods, such as greens, fruits, or­na­ments, fra­grant spices and can­dles.

You don’t have to be a flo­ral de­signer or craft­ing ex­pert to put to­gether a strik­ing cen­ter­piece or table­top dis­play (or two). Most of the items you need may be gath­ered from around your house or yard or at a lo­cal gro­cery store, florist or crafts store.

To en­sure long-last­ing cre­ations that can grace your ta­bles through­out the win­ter sea­son, we’ve fo­cused on de­signs made with faux greens, dried in­gre­di­ents, nuts and other items that have a longer shelf life. Bowls, boxes, plat­ters, jars, vintage toys or other con­tain­ers you have on hand form the foun­da­tion of these eye-catch­ing ar­range­ments that can be reimag­ined and re­assem­bled from year to year.

Yule Tools

Some­times the color and unique­ness of your con­tainer can re­ally set the stage for a spe­cial cen­ter­piece. This vividly hued vintage tool­box is the per­fect base for a monochro­matic cen­ter­piece. Green ap­ples, ev­er­green sprigs and pinecones are fit­ting color part­ners for the painted metal. Tuck a layer of crushed newspaper into the tool­box and then set larger items such as green ap­ples and pinecones in place, fill­ing in with pre­served moss, faux greens and berries, and nuts. Place the box in the cen­ter of your din­ing ta­ble or on a win­dowsill or man­tel. Keep in a cool, dry place to max­i­mize life of ap­ples.

Jolly Gin­ger­bread

Raid the cookie jar for this tasty cen­ter­piece. Fill an old wood bowl with faux greens, and then layer on gin­ger­bread cook­ies fes­tooned with rib­bons or topped with ic­ing. Many styles of fancy gin­ger­bread cook­ies can be pur­chased at the gro­cery store, or you can bake your own from your fa­vorite recipe. Be­cause it is a dry cookie, it keeps well, as does royal ic­ing. Gin­ger­bread is par­tic­u­larly fra­grant and de­li­cious and may also en­tice guests to nib­ble on a cookie or two. Re­fresh the ar­range­ment with ex­tra cook­ies or pile it a lit­tle higher when com­pany comes. Cook­ies can also be repli­cated with clay or spice dough for a longer-last­ing dec­o­ra­tion, but make it clear to your guests that these forms are ined­i­ble.

Snow Truck

Em­ploy an old toy truck as the base for a whim­si­cal cen­ter­piece for a din­ing ta­ble, side­board or cof­fee ta­ble. Trucks can vary in size and also look nice on a long and wide win­dowsill. Fill the truck bed with small bot­tle-brush trees and a hand­ful of ar­ti­fi­cial snow, dust­ing the hood of the truck with snow as well. For added in­ter­est, glue tiny beads in shades of red or green to the trees. For a per­ma­nent dis­play, ap­ply a spar­ing amount of hot glue to the bot­toms of the trees to hold them in place. Add bun­dles of twigs and pinecones to in­crease the amount of cargo in the truck bed, if de­sired. Round out a table­top vi­gnette by sur­round­ing the truck with small mounds of snow and set­ting dec­o­ra­tive vo­tive can­dle­hold­ers around the scene.

Win­ter Whites

Draw on a fa­vorite col­lec­tion for a per­son­al­ized cen­ter­piece. White bis­cuit jars ar­ranged on a com­pan­ion plat­ter set a neu­tral tone when sur­rounded by bleached pinecones and bot­tle-brush trees. Fin­ish off the ar­range­ment with sprigs of faux green­ery, brass jin­gle bells and small white wool mit­tens. Fill the jars with fa­vorite can­dies or cook­ies and use as a dual-duty serv­ing piece/cen­ter­piece for a Christ­mas cof­fee or tea party.

Per­fectly Pot­ted

Bor­row com­po­nents from your pot­ting shed for a coun­try gar­den-themed dis­play. Fill small terra-cotta pots of vary­ing sizes with moss and pea gravel and seat real or bat­tery-op­er­ated vo­tives in­side. Place the pots on a metal or gal­va­nized tray and ar­range with red berries, pinecones, bits of ev­er­green and twig stars. Light the can­dles in the evening for an en­gag­ing cen­ter­piece that looks great on a din­ing ta­ble or din­ner buf­fet.

Pome­gran­ate Plat­ter

A large plat­ter or bowl can serve up a spec­tac­u­lar table­top fo­cal point. Here, a red trans­fer­ware plat­ter is topped with an as­sort­ment of dried pomegranates, pinecones, faux ap­ples, bits of moss and dried bay leaves. The oval plat­ter shape fits per­fectly in the cen­ter of a din­ing ta­ble and can be el­e­vated with a cake stand or sev­eral vo­tive cups. Add faux ev­er­green clip­pings to the edge, but leave the plat­ter bor­der un­cov­ered to show­case the de­sign. Af­ter the rest of the hol­i­day dec­o­ra­tions are put away, this ar­range­ment will tran­si­tion eas­ily to win­ter­time dec­o­rat­ing. Matthew Mead is a life­style guru whose up­cy­cling ideas make ex­cel­lent use of items you al­ready have or can find eas­ily at thrift stores and flea mar­kets. He is a pho­tog­ra­pher, stylist and au­thor. Fol­low his work and up­com­ing projects at www.hol­i­day­with­matthewmead.com or on Face­book at www.face­book.com/ matthew.mead.37.

Orange Spice An old seed box serves as a rus­tic con­tainer for lav­ishly mounded orange po­man­der balls, cin­na­mon sticks, pinecones and faux greens. Make po­man­der balls by stud­ding fresh or­anges with whole cloves, cre­at­ing swirl or stripe pat­terns. These fra­grant spheres will last for months and dry for re­use. Pile the box with dried pinecones and then add po­man­ders and tan­ger­ines. Fill in with sprigs of faux ev­er­green and clus­ters of faux berries. In­sert cin­na­mon sticks, smaller pinecones and nuts to fin­ish the look.

Nutty and Nat­u­ral Dis­play a cop­per tray laden with ev­er­greens and nut- and moss-cov­ered spheres. Glue a mix of dried nuts to poly­styrene foam balls, fill­ing in gaps with tufts of moss. Hazel­nuts, wal­nuts and chest­nuts are all great choices. Glue moss or tiny pinecones to other foam balls to vary the tex­ture. Line the tray with ev­er­greens and moss and then pile in moss balls, nut balls, pinecone balls and a mix of gold glass or­na­ments. These spheres can be used from year to year if wrapped and stored in air­tight bins. Sur­round the tray with real or bat­tery-pow­ered vo­tive can­dles dis­played atop vintage but­ter pat plates.

16 NOVEM­BER 2017

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