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I'm always interested to see what people choose to display on their coffee tables. It says a lot about your interests and personal taste. As the focal point of a living room, it also holds the captive attention of your guests — so give them something nice to look at!

A coffee table is the perfect place to showcase special items: beautiful art books, objets picked up on your travels, curios and candles. But how do we artfully display them so it doesn't wind up looking like clutter? Here are five key components to creating the perfect coffee table vignette:

1. Books, books and more books.

The hardcover art and design books I've collected over the years are some of my most treasured possessions. They also double as decorative objects. Use them as the foundation for your coffee table design. If you have the room, I love the look of four separate piles with a centerpiece in the middle. Two stacks side by side work equally as well.

2. Something fresh.

Incorporating at least one floral arrangement or bit of greenery adds a lot of dimension. It also creates a bit of varying height, which is a nice element to play with when styling a coffee table vignette. You could also use a terrarium for this purpose.

3. Candles.

Even one candle worked into an arrangement can add plenty of warmth and ambiance. Try one housed in something that adds colour or shine to the table, like mercury glass.

4. Decorative objects.

Once you've laid the foundation with the above items, it's time to have some fun by adding beautiful and unusual objects. Layer them on top of your books or group them around a vase. Coral, seashells, crystals or a magnifying glass are good places to start, but be creative — the more original the better.

5. A tray.

To avoid creating clutter, keep select items grouped together on a tray. Substitute one pile of books with the tray and place your candle and decorative objects on it. Opt for something with a pattern, colour or mirrored surface, like this bone inlay style.

Voila! Go forth and decorate like a coffee table-styling pro.

Psst… stay tuned next week for my new coffee table book picks.

Photo credits:
1. The Glitter Guide
2. Design Darling
3. The Everygirl
4. Flourish Design
5. Design Manifest

Author: 

Chloe Berge

By now, your mailboxes and front hall tables are probably piled high with Christmas cards. If you don't have a fireplace mantel or console to display them on, check out this neat idea from Emma Reddington over at The Marion House Book. She used corkboard, fabric, tape, paint and ribbon to create this striped board for cards and holiday artifacts. I love the preppy stripe pattern and fun colour scheme.

Not all these stripes were created with ribbon — some are actually painted on. Visit The Marion House Book for complete instructions.

For more easy DIY projects, see our DIY & Home Improvement section.

Photo credit:
Emma Reddington

Author: 

Gwen McAuley

I did it again. I opted for my seven-foot, pre-lit faux tree rather than a beautiful, freshly cut evergreen. It just wasn't meant to be this year.

But I did incorporate as much nature as possible, keeping with the humble feel of my house. With a palette of green, white and ivory in mind, I went full force into decking the halls in time for my annual cookie swap. Here are a few centerpieces I whipped up minutes before the party.

These rustic terracotta pots from Post and Beam were the perfect base for my white pillar candles. I found some moss in a ravine behind the house, which completed the natural look.

I bought these two glass jars on a whim, and they're perfect as centerpieces when wrapped in burlap. I chose hydrangeas for their texture, which juxtaposes nicely with the rough burlap.

How do you bring the outdoors in when decorating for the holidays?

See our Readers' Holiday Decorating Ideas for more inspiration.

Photo credits:
1-5. Floriana Paonessa

Author: 

Floriana Paonessa

Looking for less red and green plastic and more rustic and organic this holiday season? You're in luck. Dani posted this simple DIY project on her Lifeovereasy blog. What a neat concept! She drilled holes in fallen birch logs to create tealight holders in varying heights for a fireplace mantel or vignette display. I love the textural bark on birch logs — it adds just the right amount of rustic to a room. H&H editors Hilary Smyth and Andrea Mills have both blogged about their love of logs. Click here for complete instructions from Lifeovereasy.

All you need are some fallen birch logs (no need to chop down healthy trees), a saw and a drill with a 1-1/2" hole borer bit. You could also customize the holes to fit long tapers if that's more your style.

Arrange a few in different widths and heights for a casual feel. And these candleholders aren't overly Christmas-y, so you can display them all winter long.

For a similar project, try these DIY Salvaged-Wood Candleholders. For more easy DIY projects, see our DIY & Home Improvement section.

Photo credits:
1-2. Lifeovereasy blog

Author: 

Gwen McAuley

As some of you know, I do an advent calendar every year with ornaments instead of treats. Here is a shot (an old one, I'm afraid) of my son in action:

Every year I try to include one new special ornament for my son, my husband and myself (each bag has three ornaments so we all get a chance to put one on the tree — and so the ornaments aren't crowded at the bottom of the tree where Louis inevitably places them).

I've been on the hunt for this year's additions.

Anthropologie always has a great selection of ornaments and I loved these Alphabranch ornaments as soon as I saw them. At $8 a piece, they're not out of line price-wise. So, being perhaps deluded in my crafting ability, I decided that I would make this year's ornaments extra extra special by attempting to make something similar myself.

For this project, I used some twigs I found at a park, a paperclip and some embroidery thread I happened to have from my hair-wrap and friendship bracelet making days tucked in the bottom of a box. If you're not a hoarder like me, I've seen packages with several colours for a buck at dollar stores.

Step 1: First I positioned the twigs into my desired shape — an L for Louis, of course!

Step 2: Next I wrapped the paperclip around the connecting pieces. It would have been helpful to have pliers but I used my callused fingers and a quarter.

Step 3: This is where those days of wrapping little braids in my hair proved to be more than a waste of time and a questionable fashion statement. I tied the embroidery thread in a knot around the top of the twig, then started wrapping it, much as I did my hair, only making sure to cover the top of the stick. After about a half and inch, I switched colours.

Step 4: Once the entire L was all wrapped up, I took an extra piece of red embroidery thread and tied it to the top, then tied a knot, leaving a little loop.

And here is the final product!

Okay. So maybe not quite as pretty as the Anthropologie guys... maybe not even in the same ballpark. But it cost next to nothing and was made with love, and that should count for something, right?

For more crafty ideas, see our Editors' Top Holiday Gift-Wrap Trends photo gallery.

Photo credits:
1, 3-8. Kai Ethier
2. Alphabranch Monogram Ornaments, Anthropologie

Author: 

Kai Ethier

It's not really looking or feeling like Christmas yet, but there's no escaping the building excitement. Of course, many have been preparing and shopping and decorating for weeks. Not me. I love the rush and excitement of last-minute everything. So the fact that I have already thought up some wrapping schemes and it's still November is nothing short of remarkable. Here are a few of the ideas I've been cooking up.

1. Type A

I was pretty excited to hear the news of the recent launch of Paper Society Co. The Toronto-based business features the graphic artistry of a former colleague, Ashleigh Schouwerwou. Ashleigh's elegant yet simple aesthetic and cleverly written messages are a breath of sophisticated fresh air in a category I sometimes find to be a little too heavy on the cute. One look at these gift tags she designed and I knew an all-white wrapping scheme would be the perfect accompaniment — allowing the tags to be the main attraction. For this holiday season I'll use cord and oversized rickrack trim from my sewing desk and butcher's string from the kitchen drawer. These parcels will really stand out once they're placed under a tree alongside gifts done up in traditional holiday wrapping.

2. Festive Fabrics

I'm a fabric nut so I always have a storage bin or three filled with remnants, vintage fabrics and designer fabric scraps leftover from magazine projects. I like to scan or photocopy pretty patterned fabrics and print them on 11" x 17" sheets, which is just the right size to wrap small gifts and stocking stuffers (yes, I wrap stocking stuffers). It's best to do this with vintage fabrics so as not to reproduce designs protected by copyright. With paper this pretty I keep embellishment to a minimum. A few sprigs of evergreen and green jute twine finish the presentation.

3. Preppy Parcels

Ikea always has a fantastic selection of wrapping papers. I swear I circled the Christmas section for 30 minutes deciding which pattern to buy. Then I spied a single pack with a roll each of dots, checks and stripes. Sold. Of course there's no mistaking this as the cheeriest Christmas red but I chose to pair it with navy, which I think gives it a more preppy vibe than the expected green. For tags I used spice jar label stickers from Staples.

4. Tartan Dressing

There are two things I can't get enough of during the holidays: shortbread and tartan. This scheme is my ode to the latter. A box wrapped in kraft paper is treated to a sash of tartan remnant fabric, a sprig of boxwood and a darling tartan squirrel from Indigo. These ornaments come in a set of five shapes and are made of basswood laminated with tartan fabric. Inside this package, by the way, is a selection of assorted nut treats (get it?). I love dressing gifts with ornaments and fabric that can be reused season after season.

5. Oh Canada!

Is there a pattern more quintessentially Canadian than the HBC Signature Stripe? Hmmm, maybe Maple Leaf tartan, but we'll save that debate for another time. For now, here is my wrapping scheme dedicated to our home and native land. The formula includes kraft paper (thanks to paper mills in New Brunswick), bits of bark shed from my firewood pile (please, please don't go peeling bark off trees for Christmas wrap), B.C. cedar, B.C. holly and these great little metal Signature Stripe animal ornaments from The Bay. The little darlings are made in Canada by Whigby and all your favourite Canadian wildlife icons are available: beaver, elk, polar bear and goose, plus there's even a Mountie (must have!).

Happy wrapping! Check out my next blog post for holiday mantel dressing ideas, plus our editors' top gift-wrap trends photo gallery.

Photo credits:
1-5. Margot Austin

Author: 

Margot Austin

I can appreciate the quality and presence of a lavish furniture piece, but the way to my heart is a battered one with a story.

En route to a hoedown up north, a girlfriend and I spotted a rickety coffee table on the side of the road. It was large and sturdy and in desperate need of a good paint job, among other things. I've been itching to revamp something like this for a long time, so without thinking, we tossed it in the back of my car.

Here is what it looked like when we picked it up.

This was my inspiration for its transformation.

I decided I wasn't going to put too much money into it since the quality of the wood wasn't great. I began by sanding the entire table down very gently using fine grade sandpaper. The top surface of the table was slightly warped but I couldn't fix it without a heavy-duty sander, so I decided to let it be.

Repairing the drawer was hopeless because of the flimsy boards, so I tossed the box and glued the exterior to the table.

I traded the ugly wooden knobs for a pair of really sweet porcelain ones I found in a clearance bin at Pier 1.

Choosing paint colours was easy since I knew I wanted high contrast. After one coat of primer and three coats of creamy paint, here is my restored cast-a-way. So next time you're driving by a pile of junk, keep your eye out for furniture that can be made over on the cheap.

For more DIY projects, browse our simple how-to videos.

Photo credits:
1, 3-5. Floriana Paonessa
2. Whitesburg Cottage Style Two Tone Coffee Table, Decorium Furniture & Accessories

Author: 

Floriana Paonessa

My home office needed extra storage pronto. I wanted something with a glam, slightly French feel that could conceal all my files, hold the mail and double as an inspiration board. Time for some customizing.

Ikea's Aspelund wardrobe is a bargain at $199 and doesn't take up too much floor space, plus the colour makes it a perfect "blank" canvas.

I loved designer Thom Wiggins's clever faux-paneled chalkboard dining room when it was featured waaaay back in H&H 2002.

 

The door panels get a Wiggins-inspired treatment with three coats of blackboard paint. When I get bored I can change the look and scrawl inspirational quotes, or "out of toner."

Is striped grosgrain ribbon ever wrong? Gluing ribbon to the moulding picks up the black and white colour scheme and gives it a little more personality.

Customizing hardware is easy and inexpensive. These ceramic knobs were picked up on a trip to Copenhagen and create a nice symmetry (2 is my lucky number, and my birthday is on the 22nd).

To make inspiration boards for the inside of the doors, I cut a roll of cork to fit inside the panels, applied glue then wrapped them in a toile remnant. Toile de Jouy goes in and out of fashion, but this historic pattern always imparts a French vibe (this one gets bonus points for actually featuring French text). The boards were affixed to the doors with contact cement.

I wanted the inside to look pretty when the doors were open. Just so we’re clear, I don’t advocate the use of wall stickers but this chandelier is a playful, commitment-free way to add depth. (Okay, I’ll admit it was super fun to apply the crystals.) The boxes are all from HomeSense.

I attached a wire basket to the outside of the wardrobe for sorting mail. The rusty finish makes it look like a find from Paris' Clignancourt antique market. Organization labels in a romantic script are the finishing touch.

Photo credits:

1. Ikea
2. House & Home September 2002 issue, photography by Luis Albuquerque
3-8: Wendy Jacob

The kitchen in this year's Princess Margaret Showhome boasts a spectacular jet-black china cabinet. Originally an AV unit, this piece of furniture was a generous donation from the French cabinetmakers, Grange. I remember this unit being delivered before the kitchen floor was even installed, and it was a showstopper. Even though the original cabinet's two-tone finish offered a lovely French country look, the H&H design team chose to give it a mini-makeover so it would complement the showhome's modern, high-contrast kitchen. Here's the unit before it made its way to the showhome:

And here it is, sitting in the kitchen, post-makeover:

The transformation went beyond a simple paint job: notice the new recessed lights along the top, the addition and removal of shelves to maximize display and a pair of custom-fit sliding doors at the very bottom. What a difference!

The design team filled the cabinet with bright white dishes, which truly shine against the ebony finish. A few accents of rustic wood, burlap and sisal are a nice nod to the cabinet's original warm wood finish and add to the showhome's modern farmhouse style.

Drop by the Princess Margaret Showhome this fall to see this grandiose cabinet, as well as the rest of the home. We still have two free House & Home Style Saturday events lined up!

Photo credits:
1. Grange
2. Reiko Caron
3. House & Home October 2012 issue, photography by Michael Graydon

Author: 

Reiko Caron

When we spotted the lush holiday arrangements in "Winter White," a feature on Bryn Currie's home in the November 2012 issue of H&H, we thought we'd ask floral designer Gisele Sterling for some tips on how use natural elements for holiday decorating at any budget.

Sterling has been working with florals for 28 years, and while her job often brings her to grand homes and event spaces, she insists that everyone can make their homes beautiful with a little creative reuse of things around around the house, plus inexpensive greenery and branches you find in your own backyard or that of a friendly neighbour.

Take this orchid, for instance. While the orchid itself may be a bit of a splurge item, here Sterling propped it up with a repurposed grapewood branch — painted white — inside a pot she already had at home. What makes this arrangement special, though, is its wee sweater. Sterling recycled an old sweater by cutting off a sleeve and slipping it over the pot. This personal touch makes it winter-appropriate, and an adorable hostess gift as well.

Speaking of found objects, in this photo Sterling has juxtaposed flowering dogwood branches with contemporary vases. "If you don't have white vases, you can paint three vases with compatible shapes," suggests Sterling. Any kind of branches will do and be right on trend with the natural, organic feel that's popular in floral design these days, she says. To embellish the branches just a little, Sterling wired in clusters of miniature pine cones using silver spool wire.

Here you can appreciate the simple organic beauty of the cones closer up.

Another big trend in floral design right now is the terrarium, says Sterling, which is perfect for those of us without particularly green thumbs. "A terrarium keeps more moisture inside and needs very little watering and less care. It's clean because it's self-contained. And it’s not going to drop leaves everywhere."

To start, choose an interesting shaped glass vessel with an opening large enough through which to work. Select materials of varying heights for maximum impact. (Watch a video on creating a terrarium window display.)

Here's a peek inside the terrarium Sterling made to share with H&H readers. The live plant materials include miniature lime-coloured cypress trees, club moss and miniature phalaenopsis orchids. White-painted grapewood branches, sheet moss, pine cones and miniature pine cones — some with a dusting of canned snow spray — provide additional decorative detail.

Outside, Sterling has provided a great example of a winter-appropriate arrangement that isn't overtly Christmas-y. Here she's made great use of grapewood branches again, brush painting them with white latex paint for a more natural look than she would have been able to achieve by spray-painting. She's wired large white-washed sugar cones to the base of the arrangement. The tall concrete and resin composite container is one-third filled with sand for stability.

At the front door, Sterling has set the tone for her natural, mostly white interior arrangements with this gorgeous snowberry wreath. Starting with an oasis wreath base, she covered the surface with fresh moss using pieces of wire bent like hair pins. Using wooden picks, she secured the fresh snowberry around the wreath, then wired in clusters of miniature pine cones to complete the look. Sterling warns that the snowberries won't stand up to a hard frost, so consider making it just ahead of your dinner party or afternoon eggnog soirée. To help the snowberries last, spray the oasis intermittently to soak the foam, she says. Or for a look that will last the season, pick up faux berries.

What's Sterling's biggest pet peeve about some of the arrangements she sees on doorsteps each holiday season?

"If there's anything that bothers me it's people who put too many things in a planter — birch, greens, cones, shiny apples. Keep your theme pure; if you're going Canadiana, go Canadiana, if you're going to go glitzy, go glitzy. Crossing them over, you lose the impact."

Find hundreds more decorating and entertaining ideas in our Christmas & Holiday Guide.

Photo credits:
1-7. Gisele Sterling

Author: 

Brandie Weikle

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