Holiday Gatherings - Are You Ready?

Okay, I know we're over a month away from Thanksgiving, but "planner girl" here is already thinking about family gatherings; where everyone will congregate, where the Christmas Tree is going this year, yadayadayada.

The Walters family, gathers in the family room/kitchen/breakfast area, which is all basically one flowing space.  People eat everywhere and it can get loud with my husband's large family!

Where does your family congregate for holiday gatherings?  You want that space to look fabulous right? 

Here are some EASY, CHEAP (but beautiful, of course!) things you can do now to spruce up the space where everyone will gather in about a month (okay, no pressure, don't freak out!)  Don't worry, these ideas won't break the bank, but your house will look fabulous!

1.  Paint - It's the cheapest, but most dramatic thing you can do to any room.  Is your paint looking "tired"?  Are you still living with the builder off white?  PAINT!!!   Okay, even just an accent wall can make a huge difference.  Be sure to touch up nicks and scuffs on existing paint before guests arrive. 

(photos courtesy of BHG & Martha Stewart)

I'm often asked what brand of paint is best.  I will tell you, I've used everything from Sherwin Williams to Glidden and honestly I cannot tell a difference, yet Sherwin Williams is about $10 more a gallon!  The main color in my downstairs common area is a blue-gray color from Glidden called Gravity's Pull.  It has held up beautifully in the 4 years it's been on the walls!  Look, here's a picture of that super cheapo paint below, along with the Pottery Barn knock-off curtains I made!

Also, I ALWAYS buy EGGSHELL finish.  It has a very slight sheen (but not shiny!) and you can scrub spills off it without removing the paint.  I use this finish in every room!

Most of the paint brands have samples you can get custom mixed from $3-$5 a sample.  I highly recommend getting at least 3 colors up on your wall and live with them a few days before you make your final decision.  I've made several mistakes buying gallons off a paint chip (aah, I remember the orange bedroom in my last house!  Cringe!)

Confused about what colors to put together, or trying to create a good color flow from room to room?  www.sherwinwilliams.com is a great resource for color combinations!  They also have an application now for Iphone that let's you shoot a picture of anything with your phone camera (things in nature, your friend's gorgeous paint treatment that you are stealing, ha!), download into the app, and it pops back a Sherwin Williams color and the coordinating palette!  I HEART it!

(photo of Color Snap for IPhone, courtesy of Sherwin Williams)

2.  Accessories - Change out those sad little throw pillows (or better yet, if you have IKEA, they sell pillow covers for CHEAP, that you can just put over your old ones! Genius!!)  Don't be afraid of trying COLOR or FUN PATTERNS in accessories!  "Persimmon", "turquoise", "plum" or "avocado" are fun colors to try for Fall!

 (photos courtesy of CB2)

Get a fun throw to sling over a chair (check out Ross, Marshall's or TJ Maxx) or a try a faux sheepskin for a glamorous look!

More decorating with throw pillows.  Notice that they AREN'T "matchy-matchy"!

(photo courtesy Homegoods)

Ground your living room space with a fun patterned rug, or something really furry and lush! YES, YOU CAN PUT AN AREA RUG OVER CARPET! 

(photo courtesy of JCPenney)

Fill a glass bowl with acorns, pinecones, artichokes, eggplants, pine branches from the trees in your yard, something from nature!  Gather rocks from your neighbor's flower bed (ha!) and make a candle garden on an oblong platter.  Think outside the box when it comes to accessories.  Look around the house for things you can repurpose (spray paint is your friend!), shop Goodwill for bargains, crash your Mom's attic, shop the produce department (yes, you read that right!)

(photo courtesy of Pottery Barn and BHG)

Check out the large glass cylinders with all kinds of fruit!

(photo courtesy of BHG)

Have some great holiday books?  Stack 'em out or use as risers for lamps and other accessories.  I especially love to put out stacks of Christmas children's story books!

Another CHEAPO cute idea with stuff you already have:  Collect old holiday photos (pics with Santa, Christmas morning, Thanksgiving feast, etc), copy in Black & White (Hint - Sam's has the BEST deal on printing photos!), and mount on colorful cardstock that matches your decor.  Punch a hole in the top and tie to garland or ribbon.  Drape along a curtain top, buffet, or mirror!

(photo courtesy Martha Stewart)

Frame your windows with some simple linen-look panels!  Or, here's a CHEAPO idea that looks great:  Buy natural color muslin dropcloths from the hardware store, clip on rings and hang!  My sis-in-law did this in a house and it looked GORGEOUS.  Wanna get snazzy?  Use fabric paint to add a stencil or freehand design!  Wanna make any window treatment look "festive"?  Drape pine garland over the top!

Make your kitchen counters "homey" in a Martha kinda way:  put out a holiday cookbook on an easel, buy a fun bowl or platter, if you have a nice mixer clean it and have it out on your countertop, fill a cookie jar with homemade chocolate chip cookies, get some fun hand towels, place a cute hand soap & lotion dispenser combo near the kitchen sink (TJ Maxx is a great place to find these for under $10!)


(photos courtesy of Williams-Sonoma, Sur La Table, & Zazzle.com)

3.  CLEAN! - Don't forget to clean your windows until they are sparkling, inside and out!  Go in with a neighbor and rent a powerwasher!

Clean out your fireplace.  Buy logs and put in a basket (Goodwill has great baskets!  Don't like the finish?  Spray paint it!)

(photo courtesy Crate & Barrel)

Have your carpets & tile professionally cleaned if they need it.

Clean and use orange oil to make your kitchen cabinets shine. Orange oil is da bomb and can make even the grungiest cabinets look better!

Clean your light fixtures (dead bugs anyone?)  Clean your baseboards! 

4.  Ambiance - Create a festive playlist for holiday gatherings.  Some of my favorite holiday music:  Andrea Bocelli, The Carpenters, Jewel, Harry Connick Jr., Nutcracker Suite

Install a dimmer switch for your lights (easy, really it is!)

Have a few candles burning in cinnamon or spiced apple scent (TJ Maxx, Marshall's & Ross are great places to pick up cheap candles.  They are usually discontinued scents, but who cares!)

(photo courtesy Sunset)

Buy a cheapo fall bouquet and split up into smaller containers to spread throughout the room or group together for an eclectic arrangement.

(photo courtesy BHG)

5.  Special prep for guests - Take a hard look at the bathroom guests will be using.  It should be clean, have plenty of handsoap, towels, and toilet paper.  Some nice extras are a candle burning and hand lotion (you know all the little lotions you get from fancy hotels?  Put those in a little basket, FREEBIE!).

Do you have enough seating?  Card tables draped in a tablecloth can provide extra seating.  Small upholstered ottomans or floor cushions around the coffee table are another inexpensive seating idea.  You can score a great deal on barstools if you are a savvy shopper.  Look for deals at home centers, such as Garden Ridge or World Market.  Craig's List is a good resource to check for extra, CHEAPO seating. 

Keep in mind, that BOGOs are not always the best deal! Take it from an ex-retail person, a BOGO is basically like 25% off.  It's a marketing trick! 

Take stock of your dishes, stemware, silverware and serving dishes.  Do you have enough to accomodate all the guests and food?  SSSHHHH!  It's our secret:  Goodwill is a GREAT place to find extra dishes (white is always a safe bet, and NO, they don't all have to match!), platters and fun serving pieces.  Just clean 'em up and voila!  You have great looking serveware and you didn't spend a fortune!!

I will also let you in on a recent "BUYER'S GONE MAD" (that's ex-retail buyer speak for a "deal" that's incredibly cheap and a good value!) find for stemware.  Dollar Tree here in Katy has $1 stemware in shapes such as: water goblet, red wine, white wine and champagne flute.  They are HEAVY!  I bought 12 of each shape recently for a party and no one could tell that they weren't more expensive glasses!

Happy preparing everyone!


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