This year, leave that ho-hum holiday centerpiece in the box. You know which one we're talking about — the red candle tucked inside plastic holly, greens and pine cones.

We asked two designers to create multiuse festive centerpieces that are easy enough for anyone to make. Their concoctions mingle materials from fresh cedar boughs and Bosc pears to mercury-glass votives that are easy to find at craft stores, garden centers, grocery stores and florist shops.

"Table decorations are more casual today," said Talla Skogmo, who fashioned a tablescape from empty colored bottles. "This would be fabulous in an urban loft."

Your completed arrangement can be displayed in a number of spots such as a buffet table, front-entry table, sideboard or dining table.

"It's a small luxury for a special occasion that brings warmth and cheer," said floral designer Melinda Carter Benham, who added a final flourish of elegant orchid blooms to her creation.

And you can tell guests you made it yourself.


Designer: Talla Skogmo, Talla Skogmo Interior Design, Edina, www.talla, 952-746-2007.

The centerpiece: An amalgam of colored liquor bottles encircled by pears, cedar and mercury-glass votives. "The green bottles, fruit and greens are symbols of Christmas," said Skogmo. "Like the partridge in a pear tree."

How to make it:

• Arrange empty green, amber and clear bottles in a mix of shapes and sizes down the center of a table. Skogmo added some of her own antique pharmaceutical bottles. The number you use depends on the size of the table. Save your empty liquor bottles, or get them from friends before they recycle them. "The Patron tequila bottle is a good one for its nice low shape," said Skogmo.

• Intersperse blue mercury-glass candleholders for sparkle. (Reproductions of vintage mercury glass seems to be everywhere today.) Place battery-operated votives instead of flame candles in the holders. "They don't make a mess, and are a safer alternative," Skogmo said.

• Weave in cedar boughs, laying them flat among the bottles.

• Lastly, arrange the bronze-hued Bosc pears and Clementine oranges on the cedar, to add color and interesting shapes.

• Keep the arrangement simple, or dress it up with a single flower stem in each bottle.


Designer: Talla Skogmo, Talla Skogmo Interior Design, Edina,, 952-746-2007.

The centerpiece: Skogmo mixed different textures, shapes and colors, such as a tall vase, skinny stemmed roses and blue and silver embellishments "One vase is fine — but three is more dramatic — to add a festive touch to a buffet table or front entry," she said. "The blue can give it a Hanukkah theme."

How to make it:

• When arranging, flare the materials up and out for drama, said Skogmo.

• Stick several glitter twigs in a blue or clear, tall cylinder vase. To make your own glitter twigs, spray glue on twigs from your yard, and sprinkle with glitter.

• Tuck in sprigs of cedar. "It makes it simple and airy," she said.

• Add silver-sprayed, seeded eucalyptus leaves and silver berry picks. You can buy fresh eucalyptus and spray-paint it.

• Arrange an odd number of long-stemmed white roses in the vase. You can place the stems in florist water tubes, or fill the vase with water. (Skogmo bought a bunch of 25 roses for $16.99 at Costco.)

• Twirl silver wire ribbon around the base of the vase. "Wrap the silver ribbon inside the vase if you want to hide the rose stems," she said.

• Add reflective, mirrored silver ball accents among the silver ribbon. She found some clear balls with white feathers inside, which mimic frost on a window.

• Skogmo placed tall candleholders around the base — but you could also use silver or clear votives. "This arrangement will go all the way to New Year's Eve," she said.


Designer: Melinda Carter Benham, Garden Gate Flowers, Mpls.,, 612-929-8030.

The centerpiece: Cymbidium orchids add a graceful tropical touch to fir sprigs inside a vintage candleholder.

How to make it:

• Benham started with a gold-leafed vintage candleholder she found at Clarabel vintage shop next to her floral shop in Minneapolis. But any container will work. "You could use a silver Revere bowl, Grandma's soup tureen or a clear-glass cake stand," she said.

• Fit a plastic liner in the container to hold water — such as a baggie or plastic container.

• Cut floral foam to size, soak in water, and place in liner.

• For the first layer, cut sprigs of noble fir. "Remove the needles at the bottom to make it easier to pierce into the foam," said Benham.

• She removed the foliage from sprigs of seeded eucalyptus, and pierced the stems into the foam around the fir.

• Use reindeer moss to fill holes and cover the foam.

• Place cymbidium orchid blooms in water tubes, and tuck them in the arrangement. Red and white rose blooms are a pretty alternative and they don't require water tubes — just stick the stems in the foam.

• Remember to cluster all the elements for more impact.

• For holiday bling, Benham used faux silver glitter ferns to reflect candlelight.

• Lastly, she placed silver cedar cones at the base. "If you keep it watered, you can do the centerpiece a few days ahead of time," she said. "Add the orchids last."

Lynn Underwood • 612-673-7619