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On-the-Fly Fancy

autumn

Diaper Changer, Homework Checker, and Boo-Boo Kisser, sure. Domestic Diva? Not likely. For most busy parents, decorating is usually the first thing swept under the rug. It seems expensive, time-consuming, and just plain hard if you can't sew or don't know a glue gun from a Bedazzler.

Carol Field Dahlstrom, author and founder of Brave Ink Press, knows a thing or two about motivating the craftless, having written books like "Easy Decorating Projects -- Even if You Don't Have a Creative Bone In Your Body!" "I try to tell people they already have things at home they don't think to put together," she says. "For example, if you have a pretty dish, put a colorful candle on it and surround it with things you have around the house," like autumn leaves or fresh fruit.

A Christmas variation on this theme might include a red candle surrounded by jingle bells, small ornaments, or pistachio nuts on a holiday platter: "Beautiful with no stress at all," says Field Dahlstrom. In autumn, fill a basket with seasonal gourds and miniature pumpkins and place it by the front door for instant, easy style, she says. And, to make a bold statement, try repetition: group candles, bottles, or even flower pots in the same color on a mantle or tabletop. Field Dahlstrom advises harried parents to start seeing their homes in a new light. Look for old gift bags, bits of leftover ribbon, and pretty papers to make napkin rings and place cards when entertaining.

If you must shop, there's good news. "Craft supplies are much more abundant and there's more variety now," says Field Dahlstrom. When you're out, look for inexpensive clear glass bowls, which can be filled with household items, flowers, candles, or candy and nuts to make simple but elegant decorations, she says. For example, stacking different colored gumdrops in rows inside a pretty glass bowl adds an unexpected pop of color.

Seasonal flowers, whether mums, day lilies, or pansies, are often abundant and inexpensive, even at local grocery stores, says Field Dahlstrom. "If you have a pretty pedestal or platter, put a glass bowl on it, fill with water, and let flowers float on it," she says. Add floating candles and glitter to the arrangement for last-minute glam.

At Halloween, create a unique luminaria using pumpkins and power tools, says Field Dahlstrom. After carving the pumpkin, drill holes of varying sizes to make polka dot pumpkins, placing votive candles or lights inside. Making several of these to line the front walkway creates a big impact at Halloween, she says.

Here are some more tips and tricks to add easy elegance to your home.

  • Scope out craft stores after holidays and as seasons change to look for ribbon and gift wrap on sale.

  • Baskets, trays, and platters can be arranged on a dining or display table and filled with seasonal items.

  • In-season fruits, vegetables, and flowers are often abundant and reasonably priced. Pick up a few extras for use in centerpieces or filling glass bowls or mason jars on a mantle or end table.

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