It doesn't have to cost a fortune to decorate for holidays


It's nearly Thanksgiving, also known to some as The Day Before We Get Serious About Christmas.

Meaning, according to interior designer Annie Elliot, decorating for this simpler holiday might be overlooked or just crossed off the list all together.

It is possible, she says, to prepare the home for little money and in ways that won't obstruct the big Christmas push.

Elliot is owner of Bossy Color design service and savior of those lacking the design gene through her blog, She specializes in all things color, she explains from her Washington, D.C., home.

Traditional hues of the harvest holiday include orange, mustard and cranberry, generally presented in a muted palette. Whether the economy has picked up or you're still waiting for that, this year is a good time to spice things up, and Elliot is predicting a yellowish, kiwi green will be this holiday's calling card. "I think the brighter color will help with the whole optimism" of an improving economy, or at least one that is no longer plunging downward at a fast clip, she says.

Getting the right green is important for the look. "Not the sage green and not forest green," Elliot cautions. The kiwi green, paired with the orange shades for Thanksgiving, can thrive in the transition to Christmas, when it can join with bedazzling gold and silver of that season.

If the shade isn't readily available, Elliot suggests trying party supply stores for the paper napkins found in nearly every color at those places.

Thanksgiving decor should be simple, she says, allowing the focus to be on food and family. Having a festive home environment should not require spending a lot of money on accessories you then have to find room to store.

Using candles of varying height and girth is an easy start, and also gives you "a fighting chance to bring in some different colors," Elliot notes.

Creating a mood for the special dinner -- different from the everyday atmosphere -- can be easier than imagined, Elliot points out. "One thing I'm pushing, in terms of lighting, is turn off the overhead light. If you have a dimmer, put it on the lowest setting and bring in a floor lamp or two."

The result is lighting on a lower level, making a "lovely, warm, intimate mood," the designer says. "Plus, you don't have to vacuum. No one sees the dust bunnies."

And that trick is either free or had with the purchase of an inexpensive floor lamp. "Use what you have."

She is also a big fan of filling bowls with perishable goodies that get eaten up and out of the way. Mandarin oranges are a good example, as are walnuts, Elliot says. "Remember walnuts? The neglected snack. And you can get the nut crackers at the grocery store for a few bucks. It doesn't have to be a lot."

Other nuts can go in, as well, and even apples mixed in with the shelled nuts can work. "The food concept should not be forgotten, it's fall and festive," Elliot says. "And, as the nuts go down, put them in a smaller bowl."

Dressing up the table can start with place cards for each guest at the table. Last year, when her twin daughters were too preoccupied to help her create place cards, Elliot dug out some of their first pieces of artwork, the watercolor papers every parent owns. "I mean, of course, they're wonderful and it's their own work and I have four boxes of them," she says with a laugh.

Folding the stiff pages in half and cutting them into cards provides a new life for the art, out of the box. "My kids loved it, they got double credit for what they'd done."

Picking up tiny gift bags in brown grocery-bag paper at a craft store can make unique seating designations that also serve as a take-away memento. Weighted with nuts and sporting a name written on with metallic marker, it's ready to go home with the diner and not into your trash.

Elliot loves using pine cones in this season, in the bowl on the hearth or at the table. "Don't under rate it," she says.

A piece of orange paper, cut to size (she recommends using pinking shears, which she swears she's going to own one of these days) labeled with a silver marker and tucked into the cone's seeds as a name flag adds color and texture to a table.

"Try and look for the more full-figured pinecones, you don't want the turd-shaped ones," she advises.

Last and most assuredly not least, there is the classic clove-studded orange, working as a decoration and natural air freshener. The sweet and spicy aroma says "Thanksgiving" on a level so many can relate to, Elliot said.

Making them ("Be sure to get those cloves in tight so there's no rot") can be assigned as a kid's craft or done by an adult while TV watching, she said. "Like knitting."

And then, once Thanksgiving is truly over, feel free to discard it all and get on with Christmas, Elliot agrees.

You know, that season also known as What Comes After That Wonderful Day We Had With the Family.


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