Been too busy to decorate for the holidays? Believe me, I’ve been there. There have been years I’ve been so busy helping everyone else get their homes ready for this special season that I barely had time to toss up a decoration or two before the family arrived for Christmas dinner.

Never fear: There is still time to change your home from bah-humbug to merry and bright. Here are six festive fixes you can do in minutes.

1. Hang a Wreath or Swag

In you only have seconds to decorate, hang a pretty holiday wreath or swag. Noting is simpler than this holiday mainstay. Get a wreath that’s already decorated, fluff out the evergreen branches and you’re done! If you want, spend 10 seconds more and add a holiday ribbon to hang the wreath. Be sure to pay attention to scale – you don’t want a tiny wreath hanging in a huge window or on a huge empty wall because it will be gobbled up. Big spaces call for big wreaths.

Any surface in your home could become an instant home for a holiday wreath or swag. Hang one from the obvious places, like your front door or above your fireplace mantel. Or give guests a little surprise by hanging your swag or wreath someplace unusual, like from the door of an armoire or the top of a bookcase.

2. Spark up a Window

Dangle a darling holiday decoration from the window sash in one of your common rooms. It could be something you have on hand, like a little vase filled with bits of evergreen snipped from your garden. Or it could be something as dramatic as a lantern.

If you have generous windowsills, use them as mini stages to hold holiday decor, like a snowman figurine, a vase filled with evergreen snips or a potted rosemary topiary.

3. Spotlight a Pretty Package

Go on a raid under the Christmas tree, pick out the prettiest packages and use them to add a bit of cheer to your décor. Here’s a fun idea: Place a small parcel on a silver tray then cover it with a glass cloche. Under a bell jar, everything looks majestic!

You can also work a few gifts into your year-round decorating. Simply tuck a package into an existing display on your mantel, coffee table or buffet.

4. Add Some Seasonal Flowers

An inexpensive cash-and-carry bouquet of roses has saved my hide more times than I care to admit. When you haven’t had time to decorate, it’s so easy to run by the grocery store or florist on the way home from work and get a bouquet of flowers. I am horrible at arranging flowers, so I’ve come up with an easy look I can now do with my eyes closed: Get a dozen or two of roses, snip the stems down short and insert them into a vase so they make a mound of blooms. If you want, finish off the arrangement with a few greens, like cuttings from an evergreen bush.

5. Fill a Container with Holiday Treats

Scout for a few of your prettiest clear glass containers and fill them with classic holiday items. I love the look of peppermint candies in a glass apothecary jar. You could also fill an apothecary jar or hurricane with vintage Christmas tree ornaments. Or, if you want a more natural look for the display, fill the jar with a few stems of evergreen then rest a faux bird’s nest in its branches.

Or use a silver punch bowl, a glass compote or a china serving bowl to hold your holiday decor. One of my favorite last minute cheats is to put large pinecones into a blue and white china bowl, standing the pinecones straight up like trees in a winter forest.

6. Tuck in Baubles

Sneak a few tree ornaments, holiday candles or seasonal figurines into unexpected places in your home to give guests a smile. For example, if you already have a great display on your coffee table, don’t remove it, just supplement it with a tiny touch of the holidays. Put a single Christmas tree bulb in the foreground, a glittery reindeer statue in the mid ground or a lantern tied up with a holiday bow in the background.

Next Week … it’s time again for the Nell Hill’s decorating New Year’s resolutions, a list of fun ways to add beauty to your home in the new year.

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27 Responses to “6 Quick Ideas for Last-Minute Holiday Decorating”

  1. Vivian Foster Says:

    Love these ideas! I have the swag in the top picture on my front door …. instant welcome! Thanks!

  2. Nancy Says:

    I love you blogs!

  3. Jackie Says:

    I love these simple last minute decoration ideas! I am definitely doing some very last minute decorating tonight..the Christmas spirit has been highly lacking in my home! You must add these ideas to this list of Last Minute Ways to Decorate for the Holidays >

  4. amy@maison decor Says:

    I love these ideas. The pinecones standing are lovely!

  5. Lisa Fernandez Says:

    My favorite are those mini wreaths with ribbon anywhere. I started doing that and I love it.
    Thank you Mary Carol. Love it!

  6. Kathy Burkman Says:

    I love all of these ideas, but am especially taken with the photo of the lanterns in the windows. Can you explain how they are attached? Thank you.

  7. Glinda Reynolds Says:

    Mary Carol, Thank you for the year of fun and informative decorating ideas. They gave me a boost in my decorating.
    Here’s wishing you and all your wonderful staff a very merry Christmas and I look forward to more ideas in the new year!!!

  8. Ashley Johnson Says:

    Love it all! Would love to see more lanterns back in the online shop. Your gorgeous burlap and red houndstooth ribbon is decorating my home this year. I need a tutorial on how to create a big bow with multiple loops. Merry Christmas!

  9. Susan Says:

    Love the candy idea. Did you know that the candy cane was about Jesus? I learned this year that the “J” stood for Jesus, White color for purity, and the Red color for the blood he shed for us. Kind of ties into the Twelve Days of Christmas. Love this website. Susan

  10. Janelle Says:

    Love the look of the lanterns in the windows. I was watching HGTV’s special on the White House decorations, and they’ve included lanterns with natural rocks, ferns and blooming bulbs in one of the areas. All of these ideas are so fun for adding sparkle to all those little nooks we have.

  11. Lori Says:

    I love the lanterns in the top photo. I don’t see any wires or ribbons–how would you hang those? Thanks!

  12. Ann Says:

    You know this is just the greatest idea for those with disabilities or just in the mood to change things to a more simplier decor during the holidays. What splendid ideas! Also many of these items can be multipurpose for other decorating venues. Thank you!

  13. Marilyn Says:

    Mary Carol, where do you get that beautiful ribbon candy in the apothecary jar? A piece of art!

    Happy Christmas from Washington, DC.

  14. Jeanette Duke Says:

    These ideas are so helpful. Gosh!—fresh greens will dress up our not so favorite places anytime. I use them year round. So outdoorsy. Love your tips!

  15. Marilyn Says:

    Mary Carol, even though I have edited what I put out for Christmas, when I take everything down, I must confess that it’s a little depressing. My question: What can we do to make our homes look as warm and cozy once we’ve removed the greenery. I have house plants…but, still….I wish it would become common practice to leave up — for instance — the faux pines on the chandeliers, in blue and white bowls — all winter. Let’s start a trend!

  16. Catherine Says:

    I live in Leavenworth…not too far from your Atchison store. Thank you for the wonderful decorating idea’s. I am so glad I subscribed to your website. Wish you and yours the Merriest Christmas and the Happiest New Year!!!

  17. sandy mc Says:

    I saw a bunch of your photos on a German blog(Hausdesign). I wrote them about you and told them where your stores were and that they should give you credit for the photos. Lots of people commented on how great the ideas were.Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year.

  18. Susan Tideman Says:

    Good Morning Mary Carol,

    Merry Christmas to you and your staff! May your holiday be bright and cheery!


  19. Janet Doherty Says:

    Just wanted to wish you a very Merry Christmas.

  20. Joyce Colman Says:

    Merry Christmas and a Great 2012 to you and Dan. Hugs….

  21. Mary Carol Says:

    Marilyn–You should do exactly what you want to do after the holidays, however, I myself am so ready to get everything down. I love to put out some new art (or pieces I haven’t had out for awhile) maybe leaning on the mantel, new or different pillows, or a new fragrance of candle. Anything to begin to look forward to spring. I do have some friends that like to leave small touches of winter— maybe some faux greenery and pinecones. Enjoy your after the holiday creativity..

  22. Mary Carol Says:

    Fortunately Lori, these lanterns have a round hole in the back. You can hand the lantern over a nail or the heavy duty command strip/hooks would probably work.

  23. Mary Carol Says:

    Merry Christmas to all–my lovely customers. Enjoy this special time with your friends and family and I will see you back next week.

  24. Jeannie Peterson Says:

    Help!! I just finished taking down my over the top Christmas dining room table decorations. Now my table looks bare and ugly. It’s to early for spring decor what should do? Help Mary Carol

  25. Diane Williams Says:

    Just wondering if the equestrian sconces are available in your store or online. I have a chandelier in my foyer that would be complimentary. Admire you, so much, Mary Carol

  26. Doug Says:

    I love these ideas.Thanks for sharing such a useful information !

  27. Ana Says:

    Beautiful ideas! As Christmas is my favorite season I am going to look at all your past posts! What a beutiful blog and so full of information! God bless you!

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