You don't need to be Martha Stewart, or even very good at crafting, to give your holiday tabletops shine and polish.
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.