Decorate with Crafts

Holiday Cheer

The Country Sampler stylists share imaginative ideas for crafting fabulously festive Christmas vignettes perfect for mantels, tabletops and more.
It's the most wonderful time of the year -- especially for country decorators! From trees, wreaths and garlands to Santas, snowmen and angels, holiday icons are coming out of storage for what many of us consider the biggest decorating event of the year. To help you go above and beyond the usual festoons, Country Sampler stylists Sally-Jo Enstad, Debbie Plantery and Nancy Borsodi are sharing their best ideas for crafting dynamic displays.
The first step, Sally-Jo says, is to decide where you want your vignette -- or vignettes -- to be located. Choose an area that gets plenty of attention, such as near the stairs or in the entry. "Another great spot to really go to town decorating is the mantel," she adds. "Jazz up your stockings and garland, or bring in unique large-scale decor."
Another factor in crafting a showy arrangement is picking a base with its own personality. "If your grouping's look is primitive, classic, cottage or a mix, go with a table or cabinet that follows suit," Debbie advises. "You can always accentuate or camouflage a surface with tablecloths or runners, too."
When putting together the grouping itself, each stylist favors a different tactic: Debbie prefers large pieces united by style; Nancy likes to have one main element as a focal point, and Sally-Jo includes lots of small "moments." "There's no wrong way to create a display," Nancy says. "Do whatever feels right to you. Use items that suit your style or have memories attached. A vignette should make a statement, but what that statement says is up to you!" Read on for 18 more holiday display ideas.

No One Was Stirring -- Except for a Mouse
1. Skirt the issue. Help a grouping stand out from its base by using a miniature tree skirt as the first layer. Here, a burlap skirt adds a seasonal sentiment beneath a tree trimmed with ticking fabric strips and jingle bells. 2. Earn your stripes. Complementing the tree's trimmings, a crock with a primitive label hosts a handful of real candy canes wrapped in fabric that puts a homespun spin on their original pattern. 3. See things differently. "We played around with the items in this vignette for a while," Sally-Jo says. "In the finished version, the lantern on the spool wrapped in twine almost looks like a streetlight for that cute little mouse. Keep working on your display until you find the magic!"

Jingle All the Way
4. Stop to stair. A banister provides a perfect backdrop for an arrangement. To give the railing a festive feel, wrap it with lit garland and assorted ribbon -- not to mention a surprise or two, such as the sleigh bells seen here. "These vintage sleigh bells are so cool," Debbie enthuses. "They really give a vintage vibe alongside the handmade ribbon-candy ornaments." 5. End on a high note. Punctuate the end of a banister with an accent that repeats elements in nearby decorations. This woven basket arrangement even features jingle bells and a red burlap bow that tie in with the garland. 6. Use the buddy system. Double the fun by pairing up St. Nick with a snowfolk friend in a tabletop display. To make the mix work, aim for complementary materials, such as the white wool on Santa's clothing and the snowman's chenille body. 7. Tell a story. Let your accessories spin a fanciful yarn: In this scene, you might imagine that Santa brought a present to put under the tree that the snowman trimmed with an assortment of snowflakes.

To view an instructional video about crafting quick and easy ribbon-candy ornaments, visit

Dining Delight
8. Patchwork it out. To add more pattern beneath a vignette, spread a red-and-green quilted tree skirt on the tabletop. Once your display is arranged, sprinkle a few shiny ball ornaments around for extra dimension and character. 9. Stand for something.
"Cake stands aren't just for dessert," Nancy notes. "They're perfect for raising a grouping above your tabletop, which frees up space for plates and other serving wares." Here, a black pedestal boosts a stack of Santa-themed boxes; the top box hosts a bouquet of greens and ball ornaments, which also surround the bottom box. 10. Bundle up. Streamline a buffet setup by grouping forks, knives and spoons in miniature stockings to make them easy for diners to grab. Tuck a folded napkin inside as well for a complete package that guests will surely appreciate. 11. Get down to the wire. Dress up pendant-style lamps such as these cage lights for the holidays with a length of wired red ribbon wound around the cord and tied in a pretty bow. 12. Try a layered look. Turn an ordinary evergreen wreath into a wall art-worthy accent by wiring red and white berry wreaths on top. Want a more elaborate look? Tie on a pretty bow, or hang a sign on your multilevel wreath.

Merry Mantel Makeover
13. Pack a lunch. Personalize each stocking spot on a mantel with a photo of the stocking's recipient set in a vintage-style lunchbox. Task the boxes with hosting candy, gifts and other small treasures during the holidays; pack up ornaments and other decor inside when the season comes to a close. 14. Cap things off. Instead of a traditional stocking, sew ribbon to the brim of a Santa hat and fill it with goodies from St. Nick. As another twist on tradition, skip stocking holders and hang the hat from a shower curtain hook looped over the lunchbox handle. 15. Wrap more than presents. To give your garland a no-fuss upgrade, simply wind sweater-inspired ribbon around it before hanging it on a mantel, doorway or staircase. 16. Get glowing. Repeat the cozy glow of twinkling bulbs with electric candlelight; place a flameless candle on the mantel or hang a taper-toting wall pocket basket from the center of a garland. 17. Call for backup. To construct an eye-grabbing mantel centerpiece, mount a square of ceiling tin onto an oversize frame with hook-and-loop tape, and use the piece to backdrop a showpiece wreath. "You could also backdrop a wreath with old barnwood or a large square of wood wrapped with paper or fabric," Sally-Jo adds. 18. Pots for effect. Infuse a little whimsy and outdoor style into a display by stacking overturned green, red and white pots on top of a garden urn. Place the largest pot on the bottom, then the next smallest in the middle and finally the smallest on top. Glue a gold star onto the bottom of the top pot before placing it on the stack for a little touch of holiday glitz.


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Pine tree in burlap bag, The Red Brick Cottage
Victorian Christmas mouse, Pearce's Craft Shop
Primitive Christmas label, Blue Cupboard Primitives LLC
Merry Christmas tree skirt, Olde Farm Creek

Mr. Sammy Snowman and greenery and berry basket, Homespun Blessings
Primitive Woodsman Santa Claus doll, Cats in the Barn by Granny Greer'

Primitive cage lights, Olde Farm Creek
Santa's Treats Shaker box set, The Black Sheep Primitives
6" stocking ornaments, Glory Days Mercantile
Twinkle Star/Holly tree skirt, Choices Quilts

Believe wreath, Tracy's Florals
Primitive taper candle, The Red Brick Cottage
Wall pocket basket with candle, Glory Days Mercantile

Written by Elizabeth Preston Morrissey
Photographed by Maurice Victoria
Styled by Sally-Jo Enstad, Nancy Borsodi & Debbie Plantery