Spruce Up Your Home for the Holidays—for Less

You don’t have to spend a lot to create a festive atmosphere for your guests. Make a big impact with these simple décor ideas.

Close Up of Holiday Place Settings

by NEA Member Benefits

Holiday preparation often entails running around town to buy gifts and planning an elaborate feast. If everyone’s coming to your house this year for Thanksgiving or the winter holidays, you also may want to spruce up your abode to give it some seasonal flair.

We’ve consulted several experts to discover some simple décor updates that’ll breathe new life into your home—without busting your holiday budget.

1. Let color do the heavy lifting

“The most effective and inexpensive way to refresh your home for the holidays is by injecting color,” says Kristie Barnett, color expert and design blogger at TheDecorologist.com. Collect items from around your home that are similar in color—pottery, hardback books, art—and group them on a sideboard or coffee table. Arrange books by color in your bookcase. To make a seasonal statement, interject oranges and warm yellows around Thanksgiving, and pink and green or turquoise and white for a winter theme. Also, bring together disparate items by theme: Barnett likes to group her owl pieces together on her mantel to delight holiday guests.

PRICE: $0 (using what you already have) to $50 (colorful throw pillows, candles, etc.)

2. Go for gold

“Gilt is the hottest trend in metal finishes now,” Barnett says. Gold metallic spray paint can take the lamp bases, picture frames or candlesticks that you already own from drab to dazzling in the amount of time it takes for the paint to dry.

PRICE: $5 for a can of spray paint

3. Bring the outdoors in

Adding fresh greenery throughout the house creates a festive, winter feel. It’s beautiful by itself or when paired with some pinecones and/or figurines to create a charming display. Lay some greenery across your mantel, arrange some in a  vase as your centerpiece, or swag some around a chandelier, a mirror or a window. “The best part is that it smells wonderful,” Connor says, “and it looks pretty and festive just about anywhere.”

PRICE: $0 if you can get gather some from your backyard or nearby woods

4. Freshen up the loo

Powder rooms are the go-to bathroom for guests, so make sure yours is inviting. Barnett suggests arranging decorative soaps on a cake pedestal or lighting an attractive scented candle. Even something as seemingly insignificant as a new soap dispenser can add some elegance.

PRICE: less than $20 for the soaps and cake pedestal; $10 for a candle; $10 for a soap dispenser

5. Get a handle on hand towels

Tea towels are an afterthought, but when they’re colorful and seasonal, they can give a kitchen a nice pop of color. “Use a table runner in a matching color to pull the look together,” Connor says. New hand towels can give the guest bathroom a new look, “but skip the holiday-themed accessories and buy stuff you can use all year,” Connor says.

PRICE: $5 for kitchen towels; $10 for bathroom hand towels; about $20 for a table runner

6. Use some counter intelligence

“You can easily brighten up your kitchen with new accessories,” Connor says. “A few colorful canisters will add a splash of color to countertops.” Or if you’re short on space, pick out a single colorful ceramic vase or crock for storing often-used utensils. Check NEA Discount Marketplace to find discounts from home-goods retailers such as Pottery Barn and Sur La Table.

PRICE: about $40 for a set of three canisters; about $30 for a utensil crock

7. Draw compliments with new pulls

“Changing cabinet hardware and pulls makes a huge difference,” says interior decorator Kate Connor, who blogs at ChicOnAShoestringDecorating.blogspot.com. “But it can be expensive if you’re at the wrong hardware store.” Search online for the best deals, at sites such as MyKnobs.com.

PRICE: $1 to $20-plus per knob, pull or handle

8. A new look is made in the shade

Sometimes a new shade is all a lamp needs for a pick-me-up. “Choose a colorful or patterned shade to give it an entirely new look—even something from the thrift store,” Connor says. Or spruce up your existing shades: “If you’re short on cash but have some time and creativity, add a ribbon trim around the top and bottom using a glue gun,” she says.

PRICE: about $15 to $30 per lampshade, or less than $5 for a spool of ribbon

9. Add drama with new light fixtures

“Changing outdated lighting with affordable, on-trend options is one of the best ways to change the look of your space, especially in the kitchen,” Barnett says. “Carriage-style lanterns, hanging drum shades and industrial pendants are great options.” The big-box stores might have what you’re looking for: They often carry knock-offs of popular designer lighting for a fraction of the cost. Look for deals from home-improvement stores such as The Home Depot and Lowe’s through NEA Discount Marketplace.

PRICE: approximately $50 to $200

We can help you get ready for the holidays