I have been working in the event planning and design world for over 25 years. What appeals to me is the creative process and being able to collaborate with talented people, who each bring a different perspective to every project. I love creating something special and unique for the clients; something that will be awe-inspiring for their guests.
My day-to-day life varies from budget work to client meetings, public relations projects, shopping for inspiration, and creative concepts. Then there are the days on location at an event—set up, execution, and tear down. Yes, there are glamorous sides to this career, but it’s also a good deal of hard work.
When it comes to event décor, I usually get tired of popular trends pretty quickly. I believe this attitude has led me to a place where I no longer worry about what’s fashionable. I only care about what will make my client happy and the creativity of the experience.
My husband will be the first to tell you, I feel equally as strongly when it comes to decorating our own home—especially during the holidays.
Find a basis for your creative inspiration
For me, creating an event experience on a budget is key, especially if you like to change things up. So, my first stop this year was my local fabric store.
I wandered the aisles looking for inspiration and thought I was getting nowhere—until I hit the men’s suiting materials. I was instantly drawn to a basic monochrome wool houndstooth. It ignited my creative soul as I visualized how we would decorate for the holidays using all black, white and silver decor.
I am not a tailor or a seamstress—I can’t even sew a button properly—but I was determined. So, I purchased five yards of the fabric before rushing home to figure out what to do with it.
Knowing that my husband would have a few choice words if I spent too much money on a whim, not to mention where to store everything after the holidays, I began to think about key locations within the house to decorate, rather than filling every corner and shelf with ‘stuff’. I gave myself a $150 budget to spend on house décor during the holiday season.
Once I brought the fabric home, with the help of my ever-patient husband and our trusty staple gun, I temporarily reupholstered a bright yellow bench inside our living room. Then we used the fabric for bunting along the bases of decorative trees. We even made a mini scarf for the ceramic dog that sits in front of our fireplace.
Search your home or ask friends for items you can repurpose
After choosing a black, white and silver theme, I began to dig through storage boxes and closets around the entire house for items that would fit into our motif. I found candlesticks, vases, table runners, and plates. I made a list of everything I had and then began to figure out what could be done with each item. From there, I had my shopping list of gaps to fill; ribbons, solid black and white ornaments, vases, dried winter greenery, foliage, and pine cones.
I sourced most items from the San Francisco flower market, Amazon, and Michaels—all while keeping within budget—and then, of course, I used my own stash of items collected over the years.
By going with a black and white theme, the ease of shifting to a New Year’s Eve event is simple and almost unnecessary—you don’t need to change everything out for each holiday, especially if you’re strategic.
While decorating high-profile events, I repurpose, reimagine, and reuse many items and props. So, to me, it makes sense to do the same thing for your home. You’ve already spent the money, why not maximize the benefit of the products? If you want a pop of silver, take some tree branches and spray them with a can of silver spray paint. It’s unlikely anybody else will ever know and it can look new, fresh, and spectacular.
Purchase pieces that can be reimagined for other events
I am a big believer in versatility with décor. Dried leafless branches are always a favorite of mine. The ease of simply spray painting them and using them as filler decorations is a great option. I’d never recommend anyone a specific budget—you know your personal spending threshold. So, I suggest you find what is comfortable for you, knowing what your entertaining plans are, and go from there.
A basic glass vase is a great item that is inexpensive and can service many needs. A resourceful way of using a vase is wrapping it in whichever fabric you’re using for each theme.
For example, after Christmas, you could wrap the same vase in brown leather with white canvas stripe for a Super Bowl party. The same vase wrapped in a red velvet works for Valentine’s Day.
Listen to your creative voice
The trick to sourcing your holiday décor affordably is not really about the items you purchase. I don’t think it’s difficult to find décor inexpensively when forced to. The trick is to release your creative voice. The voice that knows how to play, knows its own value, and is not afraid to just have fun with décor.
I believe everyone is creative, the trick is to ignore the fear of listening to your own voice —especially if you tend to be hard on yourself. Look for inspiration and trust yourself. It’s a hard lesson to learn, but learning it frees your mind and creative soul. That was a little deep, but it’s true.
Creating a theme based on your personality goes right back to what I just said. You need to listen to who you really are and trust in that. The guests who accept your invitation will appreciate the moment even more if you are comfortable with your style and voice in your décor and theme.
The main lesson I have learned over the years is to be authentic. Don’t create anything that is not you. At the end of the day, it’s important to just have fun and not stress out. And when you’re done, sit back with a cup of cocoa and just be proud of yourself.
All views expressed in this article are the author’s own.
As told to Newsweek editor, Monica Greep.
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