Show-and-Tell: Thrifty Tree Decorating

Well, Josh and I wasted no time!  The day after Thanksgiving, we woke up early, made breakfast (this is an event itself), and decorated the tree.  And… you’re in luck (or maybe not) because I snapped many a photo in hopes of sharing with you!  And… I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t go through each element and item in the process and tell you where I found it or how much I paid for it… so here goes!

In case you didn’t notice, I skipped right over the post that tells how to get the best deal on a live Christmas tree.  This is because (cue sad music) I am allergic to most evergreens, i.e., Christmas trees (cue trumpet mute: “Womp womp wo-o-omp….”).  I know, it sounds sort of pathetic, but in reality I’ve never been able to have a live tree in any home I’ve ever lived in, so I’m not missing anything since I don’t know what I’m missing.

(However, Josh did grow up with live trees, and I know he misses them.  Sorry, Josh.)

So… in lieu of a live tree, I have a lovely little fake one that has stood by me for about four years now, through five different apartments!  Needless to say, because I live in a small apartment, the tree is a small one — about 4 feet tall.  Here it is, pre-fluffed:

Christmas tree out of box

Pre-fluffed

Yeah, not too exciting… yet.  However, after about 10 minutes of “fluffing” as I call it, it looks something like this:

naked christmas tree

A close-up of some of the branches. See? I think it does a respectable job at trying to look real!

I originally bought the tree in October of 2007 at a Goodwill store in Lancaster, PA.  Usually these are about $30-50 in a store, but I paid a mere $8.  I love Goodwill.

Oh, and by the way, I used the table that comes with my Honda CR-V (looks like this), but I think any card table or even a small end table would work fine.  Honda table = free.

To cover the less-than-lovely green Honda table, I took an orange Ikea curtain, draped it over the table, and hid the excess in between the wall and the table (shh… it’s a secret).  The Ikea curtain was originally $19.99 (for two panels), but since it was originally purchased for a previous un-Christmas-tree-related purpose, you know me… I call that free.

Next come the lights — and not a moment too soon, because I really think one of the saddest looking things is an unlit Christmas tree.  For our 4′ tree, we use two strands of 100-ct. white lights.  Both strands were purchased at CVS; they were originally $4.99, but with my (free) CVS rewards card, they were only $1.99 each.  Bam!  Now, this year we’re only using two strands of lights, but the plan for next year is to add another strand (I can hear Teresa Foster’s voice in my head saying “That’s still not enough!”  I know mama, I know).  However, here is the two strand tree, still lovely:

small christmas tree with lights

O Tannenbaum...

Slightly sparklier…

small christmas tree with lights

Tree skirt:  I’m a big fan of tree skirts, but since I usually do the Christmas gift thing early, this means I wrap them pretty early, too.  It’s nothing unusual for me to have all gifts wrapped and under the tree by December 5th.  This means the tree skirt will be hidden for most of the holiday season.  So, instead of actually having a “legit” tree skirt, I wrapped a metallic orange curtain around the base.  This curtain is one of two panels that I got at Goodwill (for my first apartment), originally for $5.

Next come the ornaments!

Here they are in the box after they’ve been unwrapped:

christmas ornaments

Ooh!  Pretty….

About half of these came from Goodwill and Dollar Tree over the years, about 1/4 of them came in a big multi-pack at Hobby Lobby with a 50% off coupon, and the rest were gifts.

You might be scratching your head now, saying “Where are the DIY ornaments?”  Um, yeah… about that…

I don’t have any!  I know, I know… weird for me, right?  It’s not that I don’t like DIY ornaments… I’ve just never tried my hand at them (and honestly, Goodwill has helped me out so much, I haven’t really been lacking in the ornament department).  However, I plan to change that this year!  But more on that in a future post

In the meantime, here is the tree, all blinged out:

orange and green christmas tree

Aaahhhh……..

As you can see, I’m not really into the red and green thing;  I prefer ORANGE and green! (And orange has red in it, if you want to get all color-wheel-nerd about it, so that’s close enough, right?)

Lastly, the tree topper!  This particular tree topper…

waterford ice skating tree topper

… came from… you guessed it… Goodwill.  And in case you’re sitting there doubting my thrift store prowess, Check. it. out:

Uh huh.  That’s right.  $6.97.  Even has the price sticker to prove it!  Also, maybe you noticed the brand of the tree topper?  It’s the Marquis line by Waterford.  As in Waterford crystal.  You know, those fancy folks who make the ball that drops in Times Square on New Year’s Eve?  And the chandeliers in Westminster Abbey?  And dozens of sports trophies? Yeah, they’re the big time.

(I even Googled my tree topper, just to see what it may have originally cost.  Here’s a link to an eBay seller’s store where they’re currently selling it for $40.99. I’ve found elsewhere from $35-50.)

And… because these things are important to Josh, I let him put on the tree topper:

Look at that face!?  That’s a happy husband.  And in case you were wondering if he was posed for this picture, the answer is no.  He really is that excited.

Ta da!

Now to the rest of the apartment… because when it comes to Christmas, I like to really toe that line between tacky and chic.  :)

Because I have a small tree, but a serious Goodwill/Dollar Tree/People-give-these-things-to-me problem, I have a surplus of ornaments.  And since the green and orange ornaments are the only ones to make the cut when it comes to decorating the tree (I made up this rule and I’m sticking to it), that leaves many more to… put into bowls!  This is obviously a more festive spin on putting balls into bowls (also one of my favorite, albeit often used, decor things).  Here are a few examples of how I’ve done this:

2 tiered fruit bowl with christmas ornaments

Here’s a close up of the bottom level:

Christmas ornaments in a bowl

I don’t like to arbitrarily place the ornaments in just any combination;  I like to group them by color families, or to coordinate with surrounding decor.  Since the walls in my apartment are blue, but I have a lot of orange and natural-colored accents, I like to acknowledge both the cool and warm colors (this is serious stuff).  Here’s a bowl of warmer toned Christmas ornaments:

bowl of christmas ornaments

Ahhh…. the juxtaposition of the cool and warm :)

Here’s a bird’s eye view:

bowl of christmas balls

Did I ask my camera to make the light in the room look like this? No. Did it do it anyway? Of course.

But wait!  There’s more…

colors...

Una mas…

In addition to bowls of balls (ha), I also like to place some of my favorite ornaments in other places, too.  Here’s a bride and groom ornament that my friend, Laura, gave me when I got married.  I’ve placed it next to a small frame that contains Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 (read by our friend, Joanna, at our wedding).

The bride has red hair... like someone else I know :)

Here’s an Eiffel Tower ornament that my friend, Spring gave me when I did the show Madeline’ Christmas (it’s set in Paris).

And lest we decorate for Christmas and forget a garland!  This one (below) was purchased at Dollar Tree, along with the ornaments attached to it.

Smack dab in the middle of the garland is an angel ornament given to me by my friend, Laura.  Let’s pretend it’s the Angel of the Lord.  Okay!

And here’s a wreath (it was a gift from my mother, who knows I’m not really into the red and green Christmas thing):

That’s all I have for now.  In the upcoming weeks, I plan to make a wreath for the front door — I’m thinking a festive version of a sheet music wreath?  A “Things that (P)inspire Me” post very soon!

So… let’s go through the list, just so I can say I told you:

Tree:  Goodwill, $8 (though I know you could find these on Craigslist as well)

Table:  Honda CR-V picnic table, came free with the car

Table cloth: a curtain panel reused from a previous apartment, free

Tree skirt:  a curtain panel reused from a previous apartment (originally from Goodwill), free

Christmas lights: 2 packs of 100 ct. lights from CVS, $1.99 X 2 = $3.98

Non-gift Christmas ornaments: Goodwill, 2 packs were $2.97 each (with about 15-20 ornaments in each pack), so a total of $5.94 for both

I got another pack of four orange class ornaments from Goodwill for $1.97

Orange and green glass ornaments (on the tree): came in a multi-pack for $9.99 from Hobby Lobby (after the 50% off coupon)

Marquis Waterford tree topper:  Goodwill, $6.97

Evergreen garland:  Dollar Tree, $1

Silver glitter ornaments:  Dollar Tree, ten pack, $1

Lime green glitter snowflakes:  Dollar Tree, $1

Jingle bell Wreath:  A gift (Thanks mom!), free

Bride-and-groom, angel, and Eiffel Tower glass ornaments: all gifts, free

Cute and enthusiastic husband:  Priceless  (but also free)

That’s it (so far)…  Hope these pictures and ideas inspired you, and  hopefully you feel encouraged to go check out your local thrift store or dollar store for more ideas and options.

Oh yeah… I almost forgot!  Dog stockings (from Dollar Tree)!!!

And if you’re still looking for inspiration, worry not!  This week is all about Christmas decor ideas, and what better place to turn to than Pinterest?  So I did!

“Books and Nooks”: The Living Room Edition

We here at The Ginger Penny Pincher—and by “we” I mean me—feel strongly that you do NOT have to have a lot of money to have a beautiful home.  It usually just takes time, creativity, and a little search engine action!  Needless to say, I apply this philosophy to my own life, most recently as this past August, when my husband and I moved to Brooklyn.

Honestly though, I’ve had a lot of practice:  We have moved four times in less than three years of marriage.  Due to that whole starving artist thing we got going on—and we got it goin’ ON!—we have always been in apartments that were perhaps a little smaller than what we really needed.  As performing artists, we have a lot of work-related “stuff”:  plays, sheet music, music books, more books, lots of dance clothes, dance shoes, many notebooks, musical instruments, a surprising array of office supplies, extensive record-keeping systems and folders of receipts (since we usually work as independent contractors), two dogs…  well, the dogs are unrelated, but they do take up a bit of room… and still more books.  Lots of books.

All this stuff needs a place (“A place for everything, and everything in its place”), but with smaller living quarters, this poses a challenge.  Not to mention the challenge of trying to make our home not look cluttered.   And providing storage for all the stuff.  Oh yeah, and there’s a budget, so…

Ok, so I thought I would take you on a tour of MY home and hopefully offer some suggestions, advice, perhaps a few anecdotes, and by doing so simultaneously inspire you to go forth and revive your own home – without breaking the bank.  Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so if you do not love my apartment, that’s OK.  You don’t hurt my feelings :-)  (I LOVE my apartment!), but perhaps some of my tips and tricks can be of use to you, anyway.

Welcome to my home, “Books and Nooks”:  The Living Room Edition!!!

 (That’s right, I named our home “Books and Nooks.” )

Living room

PaintOne of the most cost-effective and easiest ways to make a major change, and it sure beats contractor white.  I used satin finish, but opted for the cheapest mix.  You have to request this, otherwise they’ll usually give you the medium-priced or highest-prices one.  (1 gallon, $22)

Couch:  Not my favorite thing we own, but it works!  The couch was a hand-me-down — from a friend of the family– and I added a slipcover from Wal-mart.   ($32)

Houndstooth rug: This is where a search engine comes in handy — I Googled houndstooth rug under the shopping option and Overstock.com had BY FAR the best deal.  And the quality is great!  ($125, a splurge in GPP land, but worth it for the big statement it makes, and FAR cheaper than many of the full priced dopplegangers that can run as much as $1,000.)

Throw pillows:  The paisley one was made from fabric out of the remnants bin at JoAnn (most fabric stores have these).  The green one on the couch is silk with real down filling (ooh la la!)  and I totally got it at Goodwill. The two white pillows were painted by the incomparable Teresa Hyke Foster — my mom!  They are actually separate covers that were made to cover two other pillows that I’d used in a previous apartment.  Not everyone can have a mother with mad artsy skills, so if you are not feeling the free hand thing, just use a stencil.  You can buy these or BETTER yet, find one and print it off from the computer.  (app. $20 for all pillows)

Another view of the living room

Painting:  By Teresa Hyke Foster. I am really spoiled.  It was a Christmas gift, and it is of Preservation Hall, a jazz club in New Orleans, where Josh and I honeymooned  — not in the jazz club, in the city.  (Cost = free! Santa is the best.)

Stacks of books:  I mentioned we have lots of books. One can only have so many bookshelf units in their home (we have four!).  Instead, I have chosen to “feature” some of the prettier hardback books in various stacks throughout the apartment (and yes, I try to color coordinate the stacks of books — it’s prettier that way!).  Update:  Since taking this picture, I have reduced the two short stacks to just one tall stack.  (I don’t factor in cost, because these were not originally bought for the purpose of decor).

Close-up
Entertainment Center

Entertainment Center:  It was being thrown away, so we took it!  After re-painting it and adding some faux crystal drawer pulls, it’s as good as new!  (Paint = $30, Faux crystal drawer pulls = $1/each.)

Old Suitcase:  A friend of the family was getting rid of this, but we took it because… that’s what we do.  It’s easily tucked away and is also a good storage container (right now it is full of all kinds of things).

Old timey movie camera pillow:  Another THF original.  She’s a rockstar.

Large TV:  Free from a hotel that was upgrading to flat panel TV’S.   (By the way, I don’t know when we as a society got so obsessed with the size of our TV’s rear ends, but that does seem to be the trend.  Whatever, I got a free, big-screen TV out of it.)

Storage containers above entertainment center:  Pretty storage!  All purchased on clearance at a home decor store.  I can’t remember the last time I paid full price for something.  (app. $20 for all three)

I thought I was so clever, making a reading area for myself; Margeaux got to it first. Silly humans and their plans.

Old timey movie camera pillow:  Another THF original.  She’s a rockstar.

Corner by the front door

Hanging paper lamp:  Ikea, $29.99.  I love Ikea.

End table:  It was being thrown away = free for me!

Stackable chairs: Target, $15.99 ea.  Things that stack are smart!

Beautiful hardwood parquet floors:  The perks of living in a pre-war apartment building.

Wall art:  I really need a close-up of this — I took a framed “inspirational quote” from Goodwill (I bought it for the frame), took out the inspirational quote (“Reach for the stars!”  Really?), and put in my own picture — ransom note style, with various F’s and D’s cut out from magazines and glued on a piece of white paper (those are the letters of our last names, in case you were trying to work it out).  Cost = the randomly chosen Goodwill price of $1.88 for the frame.

Behind the couch

Vase, flowers:  Ikea is my baby’s daddy.  ($10, total… though I know this could be done for less.)


Baker’s Rack

Baker’s Rack:  I grew up with this piece of furniture in my childhood bedroom, and it housed all of my toys.  It started out black, then was painted fire engine red, then hunter green, then the color things get when they’re dusty, as it sat in the basement for 11 years, barely being used.  I knew in NYC we’d need as many kitchen storage options as possible because:  a) I love to cook, and b) I have a LOT of kitchen utensils and appliances that I will NOT be parting with any time soon.  Going with the vertical tradition of NYC, I took this baker’s rack and –six cans of spray paint later– it is definitely not hunter green (a color I despise), but rather lime green.  (I know this color isn’t for everybody, but I love it — it’s like caffeine for the eyes.)  Of course, I have some cabinet space, but very little, so I decided to showcase my prettiest plates and stainless steel appliances and hide the less pretty things in the cabinets.  I used various crocks and flower pots to store utensils and flatware, since my kitchen drawers were actually too narrow for a standard size drawer divider.  I stuck a rod through the curlicue holes on the sides of the baker’s rack to offer a place to hang a roll of paper towels.  The two boxes serve as storage (a packing box and a shoebox) and I just covered them with scrapbook paper that I’d previously found in the clearance section at Hobby Lobby (wrapping paper would’ve been even better, but I didn’t have any).

Appliances:  Ah, the wonders of a wedding registry :-)

S hooks:  I added these into the grated shelves of the baker’s rack.  Coffee mug storage = 10 cents each!

Bar-tastic

Barware:  Wedding registry win!

Bookcase:  Wal-Mart, $10.

Mirror:  One man’s trash is another man’s treasure…

Dining “room.” Quotation marks were essential.

Dining room table:  This is one of my FAVES!  Idea by Teresa Foster, follow-through by Courtney Foster-Donahue, demolition by Harold and Derek Foster, and assembly by Josh Donahue (we should really take our show on the road).  I knew I wanted a dining room table in NYC, but the most important things were for it to be small and… pretty!  My mother had found an antique (circa 1920’s) Singer sewing, but it had been collecting dust in their basement since my family moved to Atlanta.  I did some Googling and found this table, and by coincidence, I already had the exact same chairs, so I just copied the idea! We took a pre-made Ikea table top ($20) and affixed it to the sewing machine base (my father and brother removed the original top).  Of course, not everyone has a mother with an eye for antiques, but it is possible to find these sewing machines in a lot of unexpected places, in addition to antique stores.

Spaghetti hanging lamp:  Oh you know, someone was getting rid of it… story of my life.

Framed poster: If you still have unframed posters up on your walls, the only acceptable reason for this is that you’re still in college.  I’m not passing judgment, I’m just tellin’ you like it is. (This is where I add an emoticon so you don’t think I’m a rude word.)  :-)   There, I did it.

YUM letters:  $1 ea. at Hobby Lobby and I spray painted them with leftover spray paint from a past project.  I reeeaaalllyyyy like spray paint, but don’t worry, I don’t huff it — that’s bad news.

Textured table runner: $3.99 at Ross (Dress for Less).  And I did.

The quality of this photo is pretty rough.

Kitchen/wall:  It’s a kitchen, it’s a wall, it’s a kitchen/wall!  It’s NYC Livin’ at its finest.

Kitchen utensils:  Oooh, orange!  These were all purchased at TJ Maxx or Ross, so you KNOW I didn’t pay full price.  They have been hung using a tension rod.  Tension rods are the best.

Artwork:  These two prints above the sink are both from an old picture book all about food (thrifted, of course).  I cut them out and put them in frames from the Dollar Tree.

Hard hat sign:  Josh found this while walking in the park in Atlanta one day.  That’s called free, folks!

Kitchen nook

Kitchen nook:  You cannot see this alcove unless you are in it, so I was OK with a little more clutter here.  The magnetic knife rack is perfect for apartments (Ikea, $8.99, but really I got it at a spring cleaning clothes swap, so it was FREE).  Again, I love me some tension rods, and I have used them here to hang even more utensils (they are hung with paper clips).

Hope you enjoyed the tour of my living room!  Bedrooms pics will come very soon, but in the meantime please feel free to comment (below) or e-mail me with some pics of your very own; I’d love to feature them on this blog!

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