If you are feeling pressured to add some decorative pizazz to your home to wow your holiday guests but have spent your end-of-the-year budget on gifts, don’t panic. Local interior designers have an array of inexpensive ways to give your house a unique look without overspending.
One of the simplest ways to add a festive touch to your home, along with the scent of the season, is to bring in greenery.
Denise Willard, owner and principal of Decor by Denise in Vienna, said,”Take a walk around your yard and cut natural holly, magnolias or pine swags for your interior decorations. Collect pine cones and use these pieces in vases or metal tins to create stunning centerpieces. Couple a few pine swags with an ornament or two and some decorative ribbon to create beautiful adornments for your windows or doors. Place your pine cones in a nice basket with a set of white lights.”
Kelley Proxmire, principal of Kelley Interior Design in Bethesda, also offered some ideas using natural objects, suggesting adding a touch of berries or nuts with pine cones and placing them in an ordinary container such as a soup tureen or bowl.
Iantha Carley, owner of Iantha Carley Interiors in Silver Spring, said she likes to use orchids, hydrangea stems and poinsettias along with moss, magnolia leaves and twigs in planters and containers, and she mixes traditional and unexpected elements in her holiday decorations.
Jessica Bonness, an interior designer with JBG Interiors in the District, said, “A simple garland on the inside of your door is unexpectedly welcoming and smells lovely. A wreath on each interior door is extravagant and festive, and you can even use different ribbons to customize them, such as studding a wreath for your teen daughter’s bedroom with pink feathers and rhinestones.”
Ms. Bonness said that while many people prefer a traditional red-and-green palette for Christmas decorations, you should feel free to expand your color choices to include other inventive combinations, such as gold and aubergine. Ms. Carley recommended using inexpensive organza ribbons in nontraditional colors to accessorize a wreath.
Shanon Munn, an interior designer and principal of Ambi Design Studio in McLean, uses stiff-wired ribbon for large bows to attach to the top of an existing mirror, keeping long tails to swag over the mirror’s edges and stream down the sides.
“A simple way to give your holiday decorations a ‘designer look’ is to stick to two or, at most, three colors,” Ms. Willard said. “This year, the silver-and-green color combination is hot.”
Ms. Willard suggested choosing a theme and using it throughout your home.
“Infuse your theme into everything from your front-door wreath to your tree and trimmings to your table settings. If ‘Hollywood glam’ is your theme, use feathers, crystals, mirrored pieces and high-impact colors to bring the theme to life,” she said. “Decorate your gifts in the same colors as your tree to continue with the color cohesion from the top of the tree to the gifts on the floor below.
“If your theme is ‘Santa’s Workshop,’ then elves, the traditional colors of red, green and white as well as Mr. and Mrs. Claus and the reindeer are in order.”
Ms. Munn suggested adding a strand of crystal or pearl garland to a plain chandelier and using plenty of wall torchieres and candlesticks with candles to match the rest of the holiday decor.
“Use lots of candles, including votives and candlesticks that don’t match that can be grouped together in trays for display,” Ms. Proxmire said. “Put fresh greens around candles placed in glass hurricane lamps.”
Ms. Willard suggested purchasing a charger for use as a platter for a “candlescape.”
“Place several pillar candles at varying heights on the charger,” Ms. Willard said. “Add a few ball ornaments, pine cones and other similar decorative items to create a fabulous centerpiece. Place this centerpiece on top of a table runner and then place snowflake or other themed flat ornaments on the other parts of the runner to complete the look.”
Ms. Bonness recommended using strands of Christmas lights to brighten a buffet table or a mantel. She suggested tossing a strand of lights in a big glass bowl to illuminate a table display or shine above a fireplace.
Ms. Willard said that whether you choose white lights or colored lights, you need 100 lights per foot on your tree, or 900 lights for a 9-foot tree. She also recommended using nontraditional tree toppers, such as faux feathers, icicles and berry bunches.
If you’re a little crafty, you can make unique stockings to add to the decorations.
“My favorite stockings are my burlap stockings with painted letters that hang from the top with the person’s first initial,” said Erin Paige Pitts, owner of Erin Paige Pitts Interiors on Gibson Island, Md. “It’s a great earthy look, a unique take on the traditional velvet or embroidered stockings.”
A little creativity in your shopping also can yield great results. Try antiques stores, consignment shops and websites such as Etsy for handmade ornaments and unique finds such as small dishes or apothecary jars to showcase ornaments, candles or a sprig of greenery, Ms. Proxmire suggested.
“Buy some faux snow, white sand or other filler to provide a backdrop for the ornaments you will place inside the apothecary jar,” Ms. Willard said. “Choose a combination of small-sized ball ornaments in the colors you prefer in both matte and shiny finishes to make your arrangement pop. Add a decorative bow, and voila! you have a stunning table decoration.”
Ms. Carley also suggested using pieces of garland or jute as napkin rings for a formal dinner.
“For a unique table setting, use keepsake ornaments as place cards at your dinner table with your guests’ names imprinted on them,” Ms. Willard said. “When dinner is done, your guests can take the ornament home as a memento of the dinner.”
Ms. Munn said she has collected sets of dessert plates and coordinated cloth napkins that she uses alongside her white dinnerware to dress up her table.
“If you have any ‘good’ china, candlesticks, dishes, silverware, cloth napkins, etc., that you only use for special occasions, bring them out and use them for the entire season, not just for your party,” Ms. Proxmire said.
Even without fancy tableware, you can use food to decorate for the holidays. Ms. Munn suggested using desserts on pretty display strands to decorate the table.
“If you entertain, bake or have a big meal coming up, it’s likely that you have lots of ingredients in your house,” Ms. Bonness said. “Instead of keeping your two dozen lemons in the crisper or putting your apples in the pantry, why not display them as your centerpiece, on the mantel or in a rustic wood bowl in the family room? Citrus is a beautiful decoration at this time of year, and a bowl of green, brown and red pears can look so welcoming and festive in December.”
Whether you are shopping at the grocery store for shiny apples or at an antiques store for a cake platter and candlesticks, a little ingenuity can add some holiday flair.