Home Decorating Ideas—Step by Step
Home decorating doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Depending on the time you have available, you can make lovely seasonal trimmings and fun, child-friendly decorations without breaking the bank. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
It takes a little work—and some cleanup time—but your children might enjoy taking whacks at a real piñata for the holidays, in keeping with Spanish tradition. This comes with a warning, however: This isn’t a Christmas Eve craft; start early, as the papier-mâché piñata must dry for several days!
To make the piñata (try a donkey or a reindeer), combine one-third of a cup of flour with one-quarter of a cup of water; transfer the mixture to a plastic bag and knead it to make paste; then transfer it to a large bowl. Blow up a balloon and dip strips of newspaper into the paste and use them to cover the balloon.
Roll some newspaper into a tight ball to form the donkey’s head, and tape it to the balloon. Cover the head with paper dipped in paste. For ears, use cardboard from an egg carton or a box. Tape them on the head and cover them with paper dipped in paste. Use four toilet-paper rolls for legs using the same method and tape them to the body.
Let the piñata dry for two days. With poster paints, paint with bright colors, adding eyes, mouth, and other elements to the head; let dry. Once it’s dry, gently cut a small hole in the top of the body section (you’ll pop the balloon in the process) and drop-in candy, gum, party favors, and other treats. Use string or yarn to hang the piñata from the ceiling.
Fabric Gift Wrap
Using inexpensive fabric instead of paper for gift wrapping not only saves you money (look for fun Christmas prints to go on sale starting with Boxing Day), it’s also good for the environment: Fabric gift wrap and bags can be used again and again, reducing the amount of paper going into landfills.
You can get very fancy with fabric, but you don’t need to, especially if you’d like to avoid sewing. Instead, use pinking shears (scissors with a jagged edge) to create a cut edge on the fabric that won’t need to be sewn. Wrap the gift and secure the fabric with ribbon (a little tape can help hold the fabric in place).
To make bags, fold the right sides of an appropriately sized piece of fabric together and sew along three edges, leaving one side open to create the top of the bag. Turn right side out, hem the opening (or use pinking shears), and tie with ribbon.
Cloves, cinnamon, oranges . . . all the scents that say, “It must be Christmastime.” While traditional pomanders were entirely covered with cloves, your fingers and your schedule will be thankful to discover that covering the entire fruit is not necessary for impressive results—you can also try covering only part of the fruit, creating patterns instead.
You’ll need one fresh, unblemished piece of citrus fruit (such as an orange, lemon, or lime) and approximately one ounce of whole cloves, plus a nut pick and enough ribbon to wrap around the fruit twice and form a hanging loop.
Start by running the ribbon around the fruit horizontally and then vertically, then hold the ribbon ends together at the top with a straight pin or two. Insert the cloves into the fruit in the areas not covered by the ribbon (use the nut pick to create holes for the cloves if it’s easier this way). Using a glue gun, fasten the ribbon on the top, adding a hanging loop and, if desired, dried flowers and a bow.
Why not decorate glass balls to hang on your tree or elsewhere in your home? Clear glass ornaments can be bought in craft stores, and they leave lots of room for personal touches. You can remove the top from the ball and fill it with potpourri, sparkles, dried flowers, or a mixture of all three. Put the top back on and tie with a colored ribbon or lace. You can also paint the glass with acrylic paint or use glue to write a name in fancy script and then sprinkle glitter over the glue.
To make the ball even more special, put a small favorite memento or a picture of a loved one inside. Making personalized glass balls for a child’s first Christmas—and successive ones—is also a nice idea.
Looking for an easy, fun way to spruce up your tree? Make a garland. All you need is a long piece of string, yarn, or twine, a needle, a kitchen, and your imagination. The classic, of course, is the popcorn-and-cranberry version, but garlands can be made out of anything: candy, raisins, or dried dates alternated with buttons or colored squares of construction paper. Kids love to help, but watch those needles! Best to select large, dull ones, and to monitor children closely during this activity.
Homemade Wrapping Paper
Making homemade wrapping paper is another fun—and inexpensive—decorating activity. You will need: one large roll of brown or white paper; crayons; markers; paint; pictures cut from magazines; glue; glitter; lace; ribbons; and anything else you think might look good as wrapping! Roll out some paper, then cut in appropriate-size sheets to wrap specific gifts.
Try to personalize your sheets; if the person who is to receive the gift is a sports enthusiast, for instance, adorn the wrapping paper with images clipped from Sports Illustrated. It’s best to carefully glue the decorations and let the paper dry rather than using transparent tape. Customized wrapping, when prepared carefully, adds an unforgettable personal touch to gift giving.
Wreaths are very easy to build using a variety of frames, and they present virtually limitless possibilities when it comes to decorating. If you have Virginia creeper, willow, or grapevine available, you can weave the strands together in various shapes to make a wreath frame. You can also buy frames like these at craft stores, along with those made from wire and Styrofoam.
For an evergreen wreath, tie small branches of evergreen to the frame with wire, building around the wreath until it’s as full as desired. Decorate with berries, pinecones, or a simple ribbon. You can also create wreaths using evergreen cones instead of branches.
Fabric works well, too. The simplest designs might involve wrapping ribbon or fabric strips around a Styrofoam wreath form. Or, cut out thin strips of material (try 1½" wide and 4" long) using pinking shears. Using a knitting needle, force the center of the material into a Styrofoam form: It will take quite a long time to fill the form, but the effect is nicely three-dimensional.
You might also want to try wreaths that feature dried and polished (lacquered) fruit and nuts; just fruit; just nuts; candy; cotton balls; dried flowers; berries; holly; bows; or any combination of these.