It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

I know just about everyone says they are surprised by how quickly Christmas comes each year, but this year it really snuck up on me. Especially considering the fact that it’s a few short days away and I don’t feel ready at all.

I may not have all my presents wrapped yet – heck, I just finished shopping today – but I do have one thing in order… Christmas decorations! Let me start off by saying my favorite thing about our decorations this year: I hardly paid for anything. Everything else was either decorations we already had, something that was given to us, or something I made and was therefore cheaper than what the store-bought equivalent would have cost me.

Where to start? The tree of course! This is the second year we’ve gone out to cut down our own tree, and this is the first year it did not go so well. Let’s just say we spent a lot of time walking in circles and not agreeing on a tree. I have a really difficult time making decisions and I was literally a field of hundreds of potential trees. But in the end, we got a tree and everything worked out fine, so my indecisiveness was for no good reason, as usual.

xmas tree

When it comes to choosing lights on the tree, I would really like all white lights one year, but Matt loves the multicolored lights. We compromised and the multicolored have gone on the tree, while the outdoor lights have stayed white. And in addition to the white icicle lights out front, we’ve got another pink feathered friend. We just keep taking in strays.


outdoor lights

flamingo

Inside, things are a little more festive looking. Since I wasn’t planning on buying anything new this year, there’s nothing over the top. You guys should already know Awreatha…

wreath2

And just inside the doorway is probably the most festive part of the house – the frame wall. The frame wall is still probably one of my favorite parts of the house, and I love decorating it whenever I can. On Halloween I covered it in fake cobwebs, spiders and bats and switched a lot of the pictures out for more spooky images. I also filled a tall, skinny vase with some real mini pumpkins.

halloween wall 2012

For Christmas, I decided to tackle the frame wall again. This time I simply wrapped all the frames with wrapping paper I had picked up on clearance last year after the holidays were over.

wrapped wallI also filled the same vase with some ornaments I also picked up last year. Those three wine bottle are also decorations – they’re filled with strings of white Christmas lights. My intention was to also use ribbons and bows on the wrapped frames, but after I was done with the first step, I realized it was pretty festive as is and was just easier to leave it as is.

Over on the bookshelf are a few more other festive touches. I used some of the same ornaments in one of my thrift store bowls and in the frog votive holder. I also draped the garland around the large framed picture. Again, I was planning on trying to make it a little prettier, or something, but in the end I decided it looked fine as is.

big picture garland

I also had some plans to make an advent calendar this year, buuuuut (are you sensing a theme here?) I went with something simpler. I just scribbled something on the chalkboard door and called it a day.

advent door

And finally, something we did this year that I haven’t done in years was to build a gingerbread house. We used one of the kits you can buy, because if we’ve learned anything from this post so far, it’s that we’re doing things the easy way this year.

gingerbread

So, with the Christmas decorations having been up for a while now, you would think I would have all my other Christmas stuff in order, but no. Gotta wait until the last minute!

How about everyone else – do you go minimal or all out when decorating? And are you all squared away for the holidays ahead of time, or do you wait until the last minute like me?

Picture Frame Collage

I have attempted frame collage walls in two of my past apartments. I guess I just like the grand look and the personalization of adding all your own photos or prints that mean something to you in those frames. And then, the way you can change out the pictures in the frames whenever you want a new look.

In the past I had never really been satisfied with the way the frame walls turned out. Both times I had used plain black frames in a few different sizes. Since Matt and I have been living together he tends to prefer – and tends to sway me to his side – light color schemes and accessories. I was all about black and white before we moved in together. Our living room/dining room/entrance area is painted a light blue color and we’ve started to use a lot of white accent pieces and accessories, so we decided that white frames would undoubtedly look best, and we decided to try and mix in different styles of frames.

Here’s another little secret: we love Young House Love and we’re often envious of (or obsessed with, tomato tomahto... ) John and Sherry’s design ideas, so when we saw that they did a frame collage wall too (albeit on a much bigger scale) we were excited to put ours together.

We knew we wanted the wall to be anchored by something in the middle. Over the summer I found an artist who made really neat typographical prints of Syracuse that we both loved. So I bought a large print in yellow because we thought it would look nice with the blue and white, and we centered it on the wall.

And then it just stayed there for a few months. Matt had designated the frame wall as mine to conquer and gave me free reign over it, but I was hesitant to start hanging frames until I knew what I wanted to hang in those frames. But finally I got fed up with my own laziness and just decided to go for it.

We decided to use 3M adhesive strips to hang the frames instead of nailing them into the wall. It seemed a little more expensive to buy all the strips but we thought it was well worth it if it meant we didn’t have to repaint that wall someday if we decided to move the frames.

The first thing I did was gather all the frames I planned on using and traced templates of them using magazine pages. This way I would be able to move them around a lot easier than heavy frames and I would be able to tape them to the wall to get a clear idea of what the frames would look like once they were on the wall. I know maybe some people can just eyeball something like this, but I feel like I have to plan everything out first. So first I laid them out on the ground and played around with the arrangment until I got something I liked.

The next step was to tape the pages on the wall (and for a brief moment I pondered just leaving the pages up there to enjoy the bright colors):

If I had been nailing all the frames into the wall, the magazine pages would have been even more convenient because you can just measure where your nail should go on the magazine paper while it's still taped to the wall, hammer the nail into that spot, and then pull the paper away.

Then I slowly started replacing magazine pages with frames, making sure to keep the frames at least 1-1/2″ apart in order to achieve a little consistency. I knew if I tried to just throw them up there, it would look exactly like I just threw them up there and not like some effortless yet creative masterpiece. I also tweaked my design a little bit as I went just because I seemed to find arrangements I like better once I could see the frames on the walls.

And without further delay, the (almost) finished product:

The arrangement of knick knacks on that table drives me a little nuts, but for now we have no other shelves or surfaces really to decorate, so they’re just all hanging out together for the time being.

One of my favorite aspects of the collage wall is the texture from using frames with different depths and designs:

As you can see, I still have to choose pictures and prints to put in the frames. And I ran out of 3M strips and need to get another package before I can hang up the final frame at the top center. But overall, hanging the frames was a huge improvement and the room doesn’t look quite as empty anymore.