Gift shopping may have emptied our wallets, but we still need decorations to bring holiday cheer to our homes.
Fortunately, sentimental holidays like Christmas are ideal for reusing treasures collected over the years or generations or even scooped up from resale shops.
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Five designers show us how, bringing fresh tips to age-old themes.
One secret from these tableaus: You can create fresh looks with traditional themes, but color and sparkle can add to the celebration even if you don't make everything Christmas red and green.
Six etched metal goblets that Kimberly Allyn found at a Salvation Army store -- on sale for a total of $10, no less -- star in the mantel scene that she put together in very little time.
First, the Arlington Heights designer whose firm is North Dunton Design Group set the goblets upside down on crystal cocktail plates reminiscent of snowflakes.
The ornaments that Allyn selected for the inverted goblets are red and white in a cone or Christmas tree shape, but she said others would work. The larger center ornament sits on a crystal candlestick, with red beads in the spot that would hold a candle.
Beverage napkins -- red flanked by white with Christmas designs and set at a diagonal -- overlap the edge of the mantel.
Allyn lined seven votive candles in front of the silver goblets.
Finally, she clipped rhododendron sprigs from her yard -- less predictable than evergreens -- and wrapped short wires with red beads around each one.
"You can get these at craft stores or dollar stores and use them instead of bows, maybe for napkin rings. You twist them where you want them, and you can't see the wires, just the beads."
After placing the greenery, Allyn added a childhood photo of her mother for a touch of sentiment.
Gail Kueker likes the personality that thrift-shop containers give the arrangements she creates from preserved flowers and greenery.
Kueker, whose Finishing Touches Studio is in The Arboretum of South Barrington, specializes in custom arrangements of materials that seem to be alive, not dried.
Nothing is as ubiquitous as Mason canning jars. Kueker put red and green balls in one and arranged green-seeded eucalyptus and decorative floral picks.
In a small wooden bowl she added artificial red berries to preserved berried Juniper that still smells like a Christmas tree.
The berries can be removed from an arrangement of chartreuse seeded eucalyptus for year-round use, said Kueker. She loves to collect old pitchers, and chose a silver one for this arrangement.
How about covering a simple glass cylinder from the craft store with a sleeve cut from an old off-white Irish cable knit sweater? Kueker used sticks for this creation, and you could add ornaments.
Edyta Czajkowska and her mother, Marianna, both like shopping charity stores and flea markets, so it's no surprise that the Des Plaines designer has a lot of vintage materials to work with.
"My mom has always collected china, and she knows I like a simple, classic look," says Czajkowska, showing the white china with gold rims.
Turquoise glass bowls and plates -- also found at resale -- and a length of pink paisley fabric announce that the color scheme will be a takeoff from the traditional red and green.
"I love turquoise," she said, "and the mix of pink and turquoise is so fresh and happy."
The gold in the fabric is picked up in the roses on tea cups where Czajkowska displays foil-covered candies.
"Don't be afraid to mix plates or china," said the designer, whose firm is called Edytha & Co.
She urges the family that inherits a set of china with missing cups, for example, to find compatible ones that don't necessarily match the antique pattern.
Don't forget fresh flowers. Czajkowska tucked carnation blooms in little cordial or shot glasses gleaned at a flea market.
A last important tip: Clearbrook Resale Shop in Arlington Heights is a favorite hunting ground for Czajkowska and her mother.
Creativity and work
Janet Davidsen of Details in Design in Wheaton came up with two door or wall decorations, one relatively easy.
For her door, Davidsen started with a round, decorative cardboard box her sister had given her. It is 9 inches in diameter and 3 inches deep.
She cut a garland into equal lengths and stuck the sprays and a few other stems she had into holes cut in the side of the box, creating a wreath effect.
After attaching an ornament that looks like a snowflake to the top of the box, Davidsen put the lid back on and added a cream bow decked in gold and silver.
The wreath Davidsen made to hang on her designer mirror from John-Richard seems more difficult.
She started by cutting the hook off a wire hanger, opening it up and forcing it into as round a shape as possible.
Then she took silver and turquoise ornaments about 1½ inches in diameter and strung the wire through the little hangers on the tops of the ornaments.
"Everything went to the middle, so I built on one side, then the other," Davidsen said.
After wrapping the top of the hanger with duct tape to hold it together she covered the joint with a ribbon. She attached the decoration to the mirror's frame with thin picture wire.
Davidsen's tip: Use bows with wire for ease in creating and making it stay.
Linda Navara, who loves holiday decoration so much she almost specializes in it, suggests a way to refresh old silverware.
Her friend, Maureen Willenborg, Wilcon Personal Assistant, glued stones with a flat side to the handles of utensils with a hot glue gun, then wrapped each with wire. She chose green jewelry wire from a craft store, but hardware stores carry silver.
Navara, whose Arlington Heights firm is LMR Designs, said the creations can be handwashed, but avoid the dishwasher.
For a table setting sparked with the silverware and combining more old with new, Navara started with a set of Christmas dishes she inherited from her aunt.
Ironically, one of the few new items on the table is a nostalgic reindeer from Home Goods. She also purchased new napkins and rings and a train ornament to hold a place card from Pier One and glasses from TJ Maxx.