Hol­i­day dec­o­rat­ing for the fru­gal

The Denver Post - - LIFE&CULTURE - by Marni Jame­son, Spe­cial to The Den­ver Post Syn­di­cated colum­nist Marni Jame­son’s web­site is marni­jame­son.com

“Mom, HALP!” My old­est daugh­ter is on the phone. I hear panic in her voice. “I’m hav­ing a hol­i­day party.”

“Why?” I ask. I can’t keep the are-you-crazy tone out of my voice. Though I have a gold medal in over-ex­tend­ing my­self, I thought I’d raised my daugh­ter bet­ter.

Paige is a grad­u­ate stu­dent in Hous­ton, where she rents the top floor of a du­plex. Be­tween her stud­ies, and part-time job, she is short on time, and shorter on cash. Ditto for her boyfriend, John, also a grad stu­dent there.

“Never mind why,” she fires back. “I just am, okay? I in­vited a bunch of peo­ple from school and work, and so did John, and they are all com­ing, which is great, but now I need some fast, cheap dec­o­rat­ing ideas.”

“Oh, honey, I have so been there. One night you’re in your pa­ja­mas, sit­ting on the sofa with a dog snug­gled in your lap, and a hol­i­day com­mer­cial comes on, and you get all nos­tal­gic, and think, ahh, wouldn’t it be nice to have some friends over for the hol­i­days, and that is the last time you feel re­laxed the whole sea­son.”

“Mom, this isn’t about you. Can you just help me dec­o­rate with­out turn­ing this into one of your col­umns?”

I choose to ig­nore that. In­stead, I say, “For the record, I’m in Florida, and not in the next room any­more, which is en­tirely your fault.” I am not above ex­ploit­ing the mo­ments when my help is needed to dish up a gen­er­ous serv­ing of moth­erly guilt.

“Mom, please? You’re Mrs. Merry Christ­mas with all the bright ideas. Could you just shed a lit­tle twinkly hol­i­day light this way?”

“First of all, you’re a stu­dent. No­body ex­pects your place to look like the lobby of the Ritz Carl­ton, so take some of the pres­sure off.”

“Umm-hmm,” she says, “like you never stressed out about hol­i­day dec­o­rat­ing.”

I know she’s think­ing about the time she came down­stairs and found the ban­is­ter half-wrapped in pine gar­land and baubles, and me sit­ting on the floor alone with a fork and an en­tire cho­co­late cake sur­rounded by a squad of nut­crack­ers and a strand of dead hol­i­day lights. It must have been trau­matic.

I flip through the Filo­fax in my brain and look un­der: Hol­i­day dec­o­rat­ing tips for those with no time, no money and no stor­age space. Then I called in­te­rior de­signer Lizzie Grover, co-founder and cre­ative di­rec­tor for Hutch, a new in­te­rior de­sign app tar­geted to mil­len­ni­als on a bud­get.

Her hurry-up dé­cor ideas are also great for hol­i­day trav­el­ers — folks who want that fes­tive feel with­out in­vest­ing a ton of time be­cause they won’t be home much.

To­gether we came up with these fast, fru­gal but good-look­ing hol­i­day dec­o­rat­ing tricks:

Make an al­ter­na­tive tree.

Don’t want to put up a tree, or don’t have the room? You can cre­ate a wall tree by at­tach­ing strips of fake or real pine hor­i­zon­tally on the wall in grad­u­ally longer lengths. Start small at the tree’s top, then get suc­ces­sively wider with each cen­tered row below, form­ing a tree-shaped tri­an­gle. Space hor­i­zon­tal rows sev­eral inches apart. Or dec­o­rate a large in­door plant or tree you al­ready have by wrap­ping it with lights. A tall cac­tus or fi­cas tree works well. Add a few small or­na­ments. “Both al­ter­na­tives are happy, sim­ple ges­tures, and su­per in­ex­pen­sive,” said Grover.

Bor­row from na­ture. Some great looks may be right out­side your door, she said. Head out­side with some clip­pers and snip branches off ev­er­green trees and bushes. Wash them, then stick them in a vase, or lay them on shelves, man­tles, or en­try ta­bles, fill­ing in around other decor. “Make it bal­anced but not per­fect look­ing,” Grover said. If you live in an ur­ban area with­out ac­cess to cut­tings, buy greens from a florist. They are much less ex­pen­sive than flow­ers.

Clus­ter the can­dles. Group can­dles on a ta­ble or hearth. To cre­ate a co­he­sive, styled look – as op­posed to a hodge­podge – keep can­dles one color (try all ivory, gold, red or bur­gundy), but vary sizes for in­ter­est. Mix high and low. Place them on a mir­ror or fes­tive tray to unify them. Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent on­line sur­vey by Houzz, can­dles are the sec­ond most-used decor item for Christ­mas.

Con­sider off-tree or­na­ments.

Hang glass-ball or­na­ments from places other than your tree, say on a chan­de­lier. Or fill a glass bowl or hur­ri­cane lamp with or­na­ments for an easy, no-main­te­nance touch of sparkle.

String lights strate­gi­cally.

Strands of lights in­doors can eas­ily veer from charm­ing to tacky. Pick warm white lights that give off a slightly yel­low rather than bluish glow, said Grover, and look for the newer twin­kle lights that have al­most in­vis­i­ble cords and sock­ets. Wrap lights around mir­rors, win­dows or ban­is­ters near out­lets.

Let it snow. Fake snow is cheap, and easy to use, store and clean up. Grab a bag and strate­gi­cally sprin­kle a hand­ful around your hol­i­day cen­ter­piece, can­dle clus­ter or other ta­blescapes to add that win­ter won­der­land feel­ing.

Think small. If you do go out and buy hol­i­day dé­cor, think about stor­ing it. In the Houzz sur­vey, 44 per­cent of re­spon­dents said that pulling their dec­o­ra­tions out of stor­age was the most stress­ful part of the hol­i­day dec­o­rat­ing process. Keep it light.

Now, don’t stress, and get the party started.

Short on floor space? Make a wall tree.

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