The holidays are definitely the most magical time of the year for me, but they're also the most expensive. Being part of a family of six, marrying into a family of six, and throwing in some significant others, all adds up to a lot of money spent on gifts. Now of course gifts aren't necessary, but I love taking part in the holiday traditions (and shopping, too), which means I'm often left with just a small amount for festivities and decor. Inspired by some of Emily's prior DIYs and a few traditions of my own, I wanted to share how I make my apartment feel festive and bright on a budget:
Like most prepared florals, wreaths are incredibly expensive, and they have a short life span, which makes investing in them pretty frustrating. Instead, I purchased a three-pack of wreath frames a few years ago and have been adding different floral arrangements* to them each year. This way, I can mix it up depending on my taste and decor, but I always have the base purchased and ready to go.
For my first wreath this year, I wove Christmas greens throughout the frame, having the leaves curl upwards and meet at the top. I then took baby's breath and stuck it vertically through the wreath, pulling the flowers to a taut bunch and trimming the excess at the back. I added in berries towards the bottom left corner and tied two pinecones around the base of the wreath. The whole wreath took me thirty minutes, required no glue, and looked store-worthy (if I say so myself).
My second wreath was slightly less "traditional" and obvious for the holidays. Using another green, I wove the wreath in one singular, clockwise direction. I then applied the same baby's breath technique and pulled the wildflowers down throughout the entire wreath, trying to maintain fullness throughout. Lastly, I used two berries with leaves to form a "bow" in the bottom left corner for a feminine touch. I love how natural and festive this one feels!
*All greens, flowers, and berries were purchased at my local Trader Joe's.
For our first Christmas together, Rob and I were as excited as we were unprepared. We only had one two-foot fake tree and some tinsel. That year, we made it a tradition to invest in one special ornament per Christmas and write the year and city where we lived on the back. Four years in, we have a Baltimore, Boston, and two Los Angeles ornaments to treasure. We couldn't just have a tree with no ornaments though, so we got creative. Using our Fujifilm camera, we took polaroids of us, our house, our cat, and more. When hung on the tree with a binder clip, it gives a special, personal feel to our holiday decor. While we no longer do this since we've acquired a few more ornaments, I recommend anyone try this if they have a small tree, are short on decor, or just want to keep the decorating process simple!
This certainly isn't a novel idea—people have been using fruit as decor for centuries—but a few simple DIY tree ornaments can make a huge impact visually and scent your home for the holidays. First, there is the traditional cranberry garland. To create mine, I doubled sewing thread and tied a knot on the end after measuring the proper length for four different sections of the tree. After simply threading the needle through each one, you continue until you reach the end of your string (and sanity). I recommend putting them in the freezer for twenty minutes before you start to help keep them firm for the stringing process. (P.S.: This works well with thicker string as well if you have kids in the mix!)
My next ornament is made from citrus. Preheat your oven to 225° Fahrenheit and cut even slices of oranges or lemons (or both!). Once the oven is up to temperature, line a tray with aluminum foil and then place a cooling rack on top (this will allow for the citrus to dry out evenly). With the citrus evenly dispersed on the cooling rack, place the tray in the oven for five to six hours. Once they've dried and cooled, take a wire hook through the top and place them on the tree. If you'd like to make the ornaments last more than one season, add glue or varnish to the top to extend their lifespan by years.
If you are lucky enough to have a kumquat tree (as many do in California!), try sticking cloves around the kumquat and then creating a loop hook through the top with fishing wire in order to hang it as an ornament. Your tree will smell divine and look stunning, too.
Fake trees are much cheaper than buying real ones annually, but they're not nearly as nice. My $30 tree has massive gaps in it, and the branches need to be pulled in many directions in order to make it look semi-real. After zhuzhing as much as I can, I still see noticeable gaps, so I go in with additional fake greens and berries from Michael's and place them in areas where it feels bare. After filling out some spots with the greens, it still desperately needs some dimension and uniqueness. Taking regular gold spray paint, I covered some of the fake holiday greens with the paint and let them dry overnight. The bright gold makes the tree look equal parts luxe and vintage, all while filling out its bare sections.
I love an ornate table design, but I get way too bored and fickle to invest in one tablescape and use it year after year. Instead, I make what I call a "leftover centerpiece." After the holidays, when everything goes on sale, I stock up on random decor like pinecones or jingle bells and store them in my holiday box in my storage unit. Come the next year, I have tons of options to choose from. After buying a $7 garland from Trader Joe's, I went into my storage to decide what I wanted to add as accents. I placed extra greens from my wreath into a vase, placed that on top of a vintage cutting board, and starting building outwards. Using 99 cent jingle bells, I created two wreaths for my Christmas candles to frame the centerboard. I then scattered pine cones throughout the major garland and wove lights throughout. It certainly isn't subtle, but having only spent $7 on the entire tablescape this year, I felt incredibly successful, not to mention festive!