I skipped the last two years of Christmas Decorating on a Shoestring at Southern Exposure because the time just got away from me. But this past weekend, Miss Molly and I headed to Battle Creek to check out this year's edition!
Decorating on a shoestring does not include a project, like our other Southern Exposure visits. Instead, after our dinner we walk from one building to another, gloriously decorated for the holiday season. When you leave, you have a packet of about 100 tips for reasonably priced, fun decorating. (And are very full.)
But first you dine! And what a lovely dinner!
The menu reflected the season with an early "Thanksgiving" feast, starting with a cranberry spritzer cocktail and ending with a lemon Italian cream cake. And of course the table was beautifully set, as usual.
We started out getting our decorating on a shoestring ideas in the Milking Parlor of this old hog farm, now the main dining room.
The Southern Exposure team is very big on two guiding rules -- use what you have if you can and before you spend a lot of money at a decorating store for new things, check places like Goodwill, Salvation Army, yard sales throughout the year and discount stores like Dollar Tree and Big Lots.
I guess there's a third rule -- don't forget spray paint! For example, the photo below has the terracotta pots we may all have hanging in our garage or potting sheds sprayed gold and filled with inexpensive seasonal floral picks, which you might even have from last year.
And remember, where you put something matters. If it is higher up, for example, where people get the impression more than the six-inches away look, you can get away with picks that may be of lesser quality than those on a table centerpiece.
In the photo above, the trees on the mantle were made from scrap wood using a jigsaw and painted. The rule of thumb is that anything triangular could become a tree and anything round a wreath. Maybe you have an architectural medallion (the kind you see on a ceiling) or an old bicycle tire. With a little paint and glitz, they could make a great wreath.
Some of the other ideas we got here were using fleece scarves from the Dollar Store as chair decor (you can see them on the chairs in the photo below). I loved this idea and it's really cute on my Hitchcock chairs at home. Other tips included displaying wreaths inside metal scrollwork decorative pieces or empty frames (if you look at the photo of Molly above, you'll see a bit of the red berry wreath in a frame of scrollwork art); using chalkboard paint to spray those small "silver" trays from Dollar Tree to use for signage or other ways; wreaths made from old vintage books or music (I know lots of you have done this!), simply adding ribbons to lamp bases and much more.
Then we moved to the Hog House. This is my favorite of the public buildings and Angie was our guide here. Right off the bat I saw something I may do -- check out the chairs.
Those are cloth gift bags from the dollar store used as chair covers! (Actually, I bought some yesterday and they called them chair covers.) So, if I can't find the checked scarves, I'm still good to go!
Another tip that was a fun one involved a mirror. The one they featured here was one of those long back-of-the-door mirrors, bought for a song after the back-to-school dorm sales were over. It makes for a pretty tray for a buffet table, reflecting the lights from above or to display a Christmas village. You could paint the border if need be. And if your table isn't big enough for a long mirror, any framed mirror you might have could do. The more elaborate the frame, the better!
In the photo you will notice a little antique wooden tool box. Those baskets inside are simple berry baskets and a fun way to serve something like popcorn at a party. Or, you could put a few treats in the basket, along with a napkin and utensil if needed. Or, if you had take-away favors, like cookies or maybe a few trinkets, display them that way near your door. Using a child's chair or stool to elevate (maybe with plates tucked underneath) is an idea if you are using your mirror as a serving buffet.
Here's a case where you might want to upgrade your floral picks -- using a single hydrangea or blossom in a low vase with a seasonal pick tucked in for height. (These were not inexpensive picks and I'm still trying to decide if I want to get one or two when I return for my next workshop!)
A few other ideas here: put greens in cute shoes -- baby shoes, wooden shoes, Mary Janes -- and display on shelving or hang on the fireplace; use a tree branch or two anchored in a vase and hang Christmas cookie cutters with ribbons; don't forget that vases are pretty with lights inside. If using a lot or for extended periods of time, cord lights are less expensive -- run the cord down the back of a vase or conceal it with a ribbon.
This post is way too long! So please come back very soon for a look at the ideas from the main house!
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