It’s time to get festive on the home front! To inspire you, we asked three Twin Cities design bloggers to share their favorite holiday hacks — easy, economical DIY ideas for sprucing up your space, while adding a personalized touch. Need a versatile candle arrangement that can multi-task as a mantel or windowsill display, a centerpiece or even an advent wreath? Alicia Lacy and Bruno Bornsztein of Curbly show you how. Want to personalize your packages with customized gift wrap? Kate Arends of Wit & Delight offers creative handmade recipes. And if you’re short on space but still want the spirit of a holiday tree, Katie Stahl of View From the Fridge has a simple solution. To learn and see more, turn to H5.

Scandinavian-inspired candleholders

Created by: Alicia Lacy, features editor, and Bruno Bornsztein, publisher, the St. Paul couple behind Curbly, “Design and decor for people who love where they live.” Their blog was born out of Bornsztein’s desire to improve his first home, and that DIY spirit is baked into Curbly’s DNA. “When you make your own thing, nobody else has it — it’s unique to you,” Bornsztein said.

Benefit: Versatility. Whether you want to dress up a mantel, a windowsill or a tabletop, these candles give you options, depending on your mood and the occasion. “You can move them from place to place,” said Lacy. A grouping of four also offers “a modern, Scandinavian take on an Advent wreath.”

Supplies: Ceramic tumblers (found on, a marker for drawing on glass and ceramics (available at art supply stores), candles and candleholders to secure them inside the tumblers (Michael’s or other craft store), sprigs of evergreen and pine cones (snip and gather your own outdoors or buy them from a garden center).

Total cost: Less than $50.

How-to: Use the marker to draw a simple pattern on each tumbler, then bake them in a 325-degree oven for 40 minutes to set the design. “It’s great to do with kids,” Lacy noted.

Customize it: For their own home, Lacy and Bornsztein prefer a nontraditional holiday palette of black, white and green. “Black and white is classic, but not classic Christmas,” Lacy said. “You can never go wrong with black and white — it works with everything,” Bornsztein added. Choose the hues that work for you. Or, instead of buying new tumblers, decorate cups or mugs you already have. “You could do it with heirlooms, like your grandmother’s tea cups,” Lacy noted.

Bonus: At the end of the holiday season, just remove the candles, and you have distinctive drinking cups that you can use over and over — and put in the dishwasher.


Wall ‘tree’

Created by: Katie Stahl, Long Lake, the creative force behind View From the Fridge, a blog focused on home decor, crafts and healthy recipes. Stahl originally launched the blog with her sister, and its name was inspired by childhood photos of them perched atop their parents’ refrigerator.

Benefit: Space-saver. Stahl’s wall tree adds a festive touch in rooms too small or tight to accommodate a standard three-dimensional holiday tree. “Even if you have room, not everyone wants a big tree,” she noted. You can still decorate your wall tree with ornaments and place holiday gifts beneath it.

Supplies: Canvas duck cloth, about 1½ yards, and iron-on hem tape (both available at fabric stores), two wooden dowels (available at craft stores and home improvement stores), craft paint, punch tool and eyelets.

How-to: Stahl used the iron-on hem tape because she wanted a crisp edge. If you like a raw edge, you can skip this step. Attach each end of canvas to dowels, using a staple gun or thumbtacks (Stahl stained the dowels first). Thumbtack a length of twine at the top, for hanging. Then brush a tree shape onto the canvas, using craft paint. “I drew it freehand. I dot a center line and go from that,” she said. She used an inexpensive punch tool, purchased for scrapbooking, and eyelets to create hanging holes for a few ornaments.

Total cost: Less than $25.

Customize it: Stahl, too, chose a black, white and green holiday palette this year. It works with the neutrals in her home, and is “more modern and simple” than traditional red, green and gold. Instead of a star, she topped her tree with a spray of evergreens.


Hand-stamped gift wrap

Created by: Kate Arends, St. Paul-based creator of Wit & Delight, a lifestyle blog focused on “design, product and experiences,” she said. “Wit & Delight is about designing a life — to simplify living but also make it your own.”

Benefit: Inexpensive yet personal packages, with designs that can be customized for the person receiving the gift. “I like to put my own stamp on it,” she said.

Supplies: Plain brown butcher/craft paper (sold at Target, Ikea and office supply stores); acrylic paint, sponge brush, a few sweet potatoes or yams, and a paring knife.

Total cost: Less than $10.

How-to: Arends cut sweet potatoes to create two different stamps, one shaped like a Christmas tree and the other like a snowflake. (Sweet potatoes and yams work well for the former because they’re shaped more like trees, with thinner ends than baking potatoes, she noted). For the tree shape, she sliced the potato down the middle, whittled one end to form a stump, then cut lines at 45-degree angles to evoke branches. For the snowflake shape, she pressed a snowflake cookie cutter into the cut surface of a half-potato, then cut away “the negative space” using a paring knife or wood-shaving tool. Put acrylic paint on a paper plate, dip the potato stamp in the paint, and apply it to the paper, then pat with a cloth to remove excess paint.

Customize it: Arends chose plain brown paper, inspired by “brown paper packages, tied up with strings,” the song lyric from “My Favorite Things” in “The Sound of Music.” She used cranberry red and green for her tree stamp, and white for her snowflake stamp, then tied gifts with matte ribbon and colored twine, for “an industrial look,” as opposed to a shiny, glitzy aesthetic. You can personalize your own packages, choosing the colors and textures that you like best.

Take it to the table: For a distinctive holiday table, use the same stamping technique and materials to create customized place mats or a table runner. “You can do whatever you want with craft paper and acrylic paint,” she said.