[This article was originally published in the December 2010 issue of Essence Magazine.]
IF YOU ONLY HAVE 5 MINUTES...
...Turn Pillows Into Presents
Stacked gift boxes are an easy way to infuse holiday spirit into your space, but the look is a bit overdone. Instead make a practical yet pretty adornment using throw pillows. Mix up the sizes by getting larger floor pillows that serve as additional seating, as well as smaller throws. Tie one or stack and tie a pile as you would a set of presents. "Top it with feathers, rhinestones or a bow for a superchic look," suggests Lake. When guests arrive, you'll have festive decor and seating.
...Get Haute Lighting
"Everyone wraps their tree in lights, but think outside the box," says Lake. Wrap a strand around a standout item in your home for a stylish, eclectic holiday vibe. It could be a child's wagon, your mountain bicycle, a painting or a statue. You'll spice up your home and create a great conversation piece. Just don't let it compete with your Christmas tree—use it to decorate another part of the house.
IF YOU HAVE 10 MINUTES...
...Create Faux Flora
Design a centerpiece using artificial flowers to save yourself cash and have an everlasting display. Mix it up: The type of flower doesn't matter. "For me it's about the coloring and making sure that it has beautiful reds, greens, gold and silver," says Lake. As you pull together your favorite combinations, add a burst of color and a little metallic to give the arrangement a seasonal shimmer. Cut the stems to form a dome-shaped top, or use pebbles to submerge and anchor them in a few vases filled with water.
...Conga-line Your Cards
Forgo the mantel display of holiday cards. Instead tie your greetings together and hang them up around the house or on your tree. Punch a tiny hole and string them together with thread or fishing wire. Or put an ornament hook through each card and hang them individually on the tree. "All the beautiful colors on the cards will pop and you save a ton of time and energy shopping for and putting up Christmas ornaments," says Lake.
IF YOU HAVE 15 MINUTES...
...Showcase Your Threads
Instead of using holiday fabric as a tablecloth, try framing and hanging it on a wall. Shop stores like Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft for festive patterns and photo frames. These can be a lightweight plastic (allowing you to use stick-on hooks to hang them on your wall), wood or ornate metal frames. Keep them consistent with the rest of the decor in the room. Snap the backs out of the frames and pull out the cardboard inserts. Now wrap the fabric around the inserts, fold it on the back as you would a gift, cut off excess material, and place the insert back inside the frame. Replace the back and hang the frames as you would pictures around the house.
...Bring the Outdoors In
Even if you live in a city you can find quick, inexpensive decorating elements right outside your front door. Gather twigs of various lengths, pinecones and rocks; rinse and dry them in your tub; and then spray-paint them and roll them around in glitter. Allow them to dry and then place a glass vase on the table with some pinecones or rocks in the bottom. Stick the twigs down into the vase. You can find spray paint at hardware stores and glitter and twigs at craft stores like Michaels.