We pulled this look together by foraging the back yard and the discard pile, as well as employing some of our favorite cut-and-paste tricks from our grade-school years. All it took was an old dictionary, some spray paint and an hour's escape from the daily grind.

So lower the bar -- and your blood pressure -- about holiday entertaining, grab your scissors and go!


Shop the grocery store and your own back yard for the ingredients for this centerpiece. We took squash and a bosc pear and spray painted them (one light coat, no poly finish needed) in silver, gold and copper. We created a bed of sage leaves from the garden on a small cake plate, then stacked the fruit and vegetables on top. (The addition of upholstery tacks gave one squash a decidedly uptown look.)

Then, we tucked in some leaves from hydrangea and nandina shrubs from the garden for a low-cost, high-glam look. (If the leaves in your yard are a little tatty, give them a quick coat of spray paint, too.) To complete the centerpiece, we added leaves cut from dictionary pages and added a few pheasant feathers.


You can craft a creative napkin ring from just about anything. To coordinate with our harvest centerpiece, we made rings from the leaves of a back-yard nandina bush. (You could use what's still in the garden: rosemary, thyme, bittersweet or even short stems of asters.) Form a ring of light-gauge wire, then use a separate piece of wire to attach each stem one at a time around the ring. We added a few feathers, too. All fingers when it comes to tying? Use a spot of glue or hot glue to secure the leaves.


Make a simple but sophisticated table runner by tearing pages out of an old dictionary and taping them together on the underside. For a fab finish, we trimmed the edges with a lace-look cutout. (Cutters, in a range of patterns, are widely available at craft stores.) If you don't want to fuss or prefer to make a freehand edge, just cut a simple scallop. Better yet, involve the kids. Ask them to make a runner from dictionary pages or cast-off sheet music while you're working on dinner. They'll be proud to contribute to the table setting.


A pretty pocket of flowers hanging on the back of a dining chair gives guests a special welcome. Make a cone from castoff cardboard, sheet music or a page from an oversized book. Knot a piece of ribbon on opposite sides of the cone for a handle. Trim leaves and herbs from your yard or pick up a grocery-store bouquet and arrange snips in each cone. You may want to tuck a piece of floral foam into the cone before you arrange the flowers to hold them in place. Cones also make nice take-home favors when filled with chocolates or candies.


Old flatwear makes a stylish and skinny place card -- a plus on a crowded table. Pick up some mismatched knives at a secondhand store, occasional sale or in your own flatware drawer, then affix a name. We stamped the names on vintage index cards and glued the cards to old buttons. Then we attached the cards to the blades of old table knives with double-sided tape. Bonus: Guests can remove the cards and take them home as a memento.


The patina of vintage metal adds texture to any table and ignites conversation. We sprayed a light coat of polyurethane on this vintage doorplate to make it shine, then used a piece of ribbon to tie on an old skeleton key, and, of course, a name tag. Search your garage and mix and match what you've got. If you can attach a name card to it, it might make for a stellar place card.

Kim Yeager is principal of LarkNestDesign.com, a Minneapolis-based interior decor and furniture refurbishing business.