Last-Minute Holiday Swagging - The Wall Street Journal

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Free Decorator  December 22, 2012

Easy, elegant ideas for trimming your entry, mantel and tree

By SARA RUFFIN COSTELLO

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Paul Costello for The Wall Street Journal

AS A RECENT TRANSPLANTfrom New York to New Orleans, I am new to the world of suburban Christmas decorating. I agreed to have my house on a Holiday Home tour to benefit a local nonprofit and in so doing, signed on to an amped-up version of jolliness. My strategy was to affect an air of old-fashioned, un-store-bought magic with classic details like cedar swags, gingerbread houses and homemade felt stockings. I had been dreading the event for three months, but when the time came to execute, surprisingly, it wasn’t that hard. Online delivery and child labor (my kids’ own) made things efficient, as did a quick trip to the crafts store Michael’s. The single difficulty was framing entrances with greenery, which turns out to be a man’s job. My friend Chase Booth came to the rescue, arriving with plastic zip ties and nails. Six hours later, we turned my house over to an enthusiastic crowd of paying tourists. In return for my uncharacteristically cheery seasonal decorating, I do hope the children will cut Santa a small break this year. That seems worth celebrating.

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Paul Costello for The Wall Street Journal

Old-fashioned candies add holiday cheer.

Willy Wonka-fied Treats

I ordered old-fashioned striped lollipops and sugared spice drops (oldtimecandy.com,candywarehouse.com), which the kids and I glue-gunned to Styrofoam cones (michaels.com). We made a tableau with gingerbread houses (worldmarket.com) on top of a ping-pong table, incorporating a few little Santa and choo-choo-train ornaments that didn’t make it onto the tree this year.

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Paul Costello for The Wall Street Journal

Make simple ornaments out of paper and ribbon.

Easy Ornaments

If, like mine, your ornament collection is not particularly full-bodied, make an art tree. Cut heavy watercolor paper into 4-by-7-inch pieces, punch a hole in the top of each and string with ribbon. Have artistic friends and child Picassos paint masterpieces. You can’t buy that at Wal-Mart. But you can buy small red lights there. Use masses—double what you think you’ll need—and work them from the trunk of the tree out.

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Paul Costello for The Wall Street Journal

Deck the halls.

From Hallway to Ho-ho-ho-llway

I decided to go for broke and swagged every entrance in the hall with cedar ropes. It smells like you’ve stepped through the wardrobe into Narnia. Arm yourself with a tall ladder, nails and zip ties and preferably a man-friend to assist. Instead of using red ribbon at the corners, which seemed a bit too much for indoors, I let the cedar be the focus and rerouted my wire-edged ribbon to one location: the chandelier.

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Paul Costello for The Wall Street Journal

Use lipstick to liven up a mantel.

Makeup Your Mantel

A little red goes a long way. To cast a jolly Christmas spell, I lined up miniature poinsettias in petite white bisque pots on the mantle. To underscore the message, spell it out in red lipstick on the mirror.

—Ms. Costello is a writer and design consultant based in New Orleans.

Sara Costello