Dear Debbie: I am newly married, and this is our first Christmas in our own place. And big surprise, everyone wants to come here for dinner. Help. Can you please give me some quick decorating ideas that don't cost much? Thank you from my whole family. - Roberta
Dear Roberta: It is very exciting and a little nerve-racking to host your first celebration in your own home. You feel like everything you do is under scrutiny, especially when it's your family ... perhaps your biggest critics, but also your biggest fans. My advice is to set aside an afternoon and work out a strategy that suits the occasion. For me, the holidays are all about sparkle and glitter. Daylight is in short supply, and we all need some enhanced brightness in our lives. So go for the dazzle.
Decorations are in abundant supply at home stores. Silver, gold, blue and white with lots of gloss or sequins will all reflect light. Concentrate on the entrance hall to make a festive first impression, and the dining room, where you will all be gathering for dinner. Hang a selection of balls and beads from a crystal chandelier or glass pendant. Group hanging ornaments by color or shape, and keep the arrangement in balance with the object you are decorating. A simple pendant will dazzle with a single faceted silver ball; larger light fixtures can show off a full display. Dimmers on dining lights add drama, and the sparkling surfaces take on an enchanting appeal in low light as well as candlelight.
For the table, build around whatever dishes and linens you have. A red or plaid tablecloth is traditional, as is white. Something as simple as a set of gold chargers will transforms an everyday place setting into a party. Napkins can be folded loosely into a simple fan held together by a lavish bow. Tuck in a small ornament or a candy cane and cinnamon sticks. Write place names on holiday postcards - this will make every guest feel special, which is the whole idea really. You are starting to build memories that will last a lifetime. Remember to relax and have fun.
Dear Debbie: I am redecorating our guest room. The brass queen-size bed is very beautiful and has sentimental value. I have contemporary taste and am looking for bedside tables and lamps that would go with the brass bed but update the look of the room. I'll also be buying new linens. I love browns, creams and whites. - Barbara
Dear Barbara: Antique brass beds will never go out of style, as they really are a classic. They are often higher than most modern beds, so you need to look for bedside tables that are taller and in scale with the bed. The top of a bedside table should be at the level of the top of your mattress. Take a look in your local antiques store for pot cupboards. They are usually quite easy to find, and are the right height, about 2 1/2 feet. Traditionally used to store your potty in between beds, they are often decorative with an antiqued finish and stenciling. Don't let their original purpose put you off. These cupboards can look amazingly contemporary if painted in a high-gloss finish. I have a great friend who sells them through her antique store rowntreeantiques.com, or check out your local flea markets.