Decorating the house for Christmas is one of the highlights of the festive season. And while splashing out on new tinsel and baubles is fun, it's can get costly. For a cheap and cheerful alternative to spending out try these nifty DIY Christmas decor ideas.
Devoting some family time to a crafting session around the kitchen table is a lovely way to make more memories. And while not as slick as shop-bought, home-made decorations have far more charm and cost a lot less too. It's also those treasured keepsakes and old family favourites that hold the happiest of memories.
So crack out the glue gun, grab the gift wrap and ribbon remnants and try your hand at some of these fabulous festive makes for a budget Christmas decorating idea.
DIY Christmas decor ideas
1. Make ribbon tree decorations
Deck the tree with a few of these rustic ribbon decorations, super-easy to make. Why not get little ones involved and spend an afternoon together enjoying this simple Christmas crafting idea?
Grab a few small twigs from outdoors to start with, along with a selection of coloured ribbon remnants. Cut a piece of ribbon around 15cm long. Then cut four more, each around 2cm shorter than the last. Starting with the longest piece, tie the ribbon onto a twig at its centre, 2cm from the bottom. Repeat with each ribbon, decreasing the length as you go up.
To finish, tie on a loop of ribbon or twine at the top of the twig so you can hang it on your tree. Glue on a mini star to top your decoration off.
2. Create mini snow scenes
Repurpose a few old glass jam jars or mason jars to create your own miniature winter wonderland. Line a selection up on a mantlepiece, backlit by candlelight to create a magical effect after dark.
You’ll need a selection of mini brush trees and festive figures (such as Santas and snowmen) Christmas cake decorating sets are perfect for this. Then, simply glue a few into place at the bottom of your jars, using a hot glue gun. Once you’re happy with the positioning, add a layer of salt or white glitter to create a snowy effect.
3. Craft festive paper baubles
Use brightly-patterned scrapbook sheets to make paper baubles for decorating the tree or hanging up on a wall.
To start, you’ll need to cut two strips of patterned paper 30cm by 2.5cm and two strips 29cm by 2.5cm. Punch a hole at both ends of each strip.
Take one of the shorter strips and loop it to form a circle, holding at the punched ends. Loop the second shorter strip around the first. Repeat with the two longer strips. Secure together through the punched holes with a split pin.
Cut a piece of ribbon double the finished hanging length and snip a hole halfway. Slip over the split pin and tie the ends together. Finish by gluing on a ribbon bow.
4. Swag chairs with greenery
Make your festive dining room scheme look extra special by decorating the chairs as well as the dinner table. These chair swags are a cinch to make and by using fabric and odds and ends that you already have at home, they won’t cost a thing.
Use spare remnants of fabric cut into lengths long enough to loop over a chair back. Natural hessian or linen will add a rustic touch, or opt for more colourful fabric if your Christmas decor is on the brighter side.
Secure your fabric with a length of string or coloured ribbon and tie in a swag of greenery, such as eucalyptus, ivy or spruce. Finish off with a hanging star or coloured bauble
5. Set the table with candy cane place holders
Here’s one that younger members of the family will love. Use inexpensive coloured candy canes to create place card holders to brighten up the Christmas dinner table.
You’ll need three candy canes for each holder. Take the first two and use a hot glue gun to add a line of glue down the back straight edges of each one. Stick the two together, with the bases at around an angle of 60 degrees to each other.
When the first two canes are set, add a strip of glue to the third candy cane and stick it behind the other two, making sure they are level so the place holder stands up. Finish off by popping a small place card on the bends of the front two canes, with your guest’s name written in a fancy script.
6. Chalk up seasons greetings
Upcycle an old picture frame to create a Christmassy kitchen chalkboard. Get creative by chalking on a festive message or the words to a favourite carol. And when the holiday season is over, you can use the board for shopping lists and memos the rest of the year round.
To create the blackboard effect, you’ll need a pot of chalkboard paint (from under £10 at most DIY stores). Simply remove the glass from your picture frame and replace with a piece of MDF or ply cut to size and given two coats of the paint.
To write your message, use chalkboard pen which gives a neater finish than standard chalk and can easily be wiped off with a damp cloth.
7. Make an advent candle countdown
Create an easy Christmas countdown using simple white candles to burn each day to signify the days of advent. To make this DIY alternative advent calendar idea you’ll need 24 plain white dinner candles and a black permanent marker. Draw the numbers directly onto the wax, positioning them at staggered heights to add visual interest.
Stand the candles in a collection of assorted candle holders to create a quirky display. Mini bucket planters are an inexpensive buy - these are just £1 each from Hobbycraft (opens in new tab). Fill with sand so they won’t topple over, add some florists’ foam to keep candles in place and then top with foliage.
8. Upgrade a tabletop tree
Buy an inexpensive potted tree from the supermarket and jazz it up using a mix of mini baubles, bells and homemade decorations. Disguise a plastic tub by wrapping it in paper or a swag of fabric, or pot up the tree in a pretty ceramic planter.
Make your own decorations from air-dried clay shapes. Use holly leaf biscuit cutters, marking the leaf veins with a knife and using a skewer to make holes for string hangers. Once dry and your tree is decorated, add a paper tree topper for a finishing flourish.
9. Create rustic candles for indoors or out
Turn simple terracotta plant pots into Christmassy candle holders. Use them en-masse to create a rustic tablescape or place individual candles outside on a path or porchway to light the way inside – for an imaginative outdoor Christmas decor idea.
Start by cutting pieces of florists’ foam and push them into the bases of each pot. Then take some white dinner candles and press into the foam so that the candles stand upright. Fill the pots with moss up to 2cm below the rim then add berries, holly and other foliage. Display in an old fruit crate or metal bottle carrier.
10. Give tealights a cheery upgrade
Try this super-easy make to decorate basic tealight candles, with no special skills required! You can buy a bumper pack of tealights for just a couple of pounds and a few rolls of coloured washi tape is all that’s needed for the decoration.
Simply cut short lengths of washi tape and wrap them around the metal edge of your tealights. If the tape is slightly wider, make small snips along the bottom edge of the tape and tuck the edges under the base of the tealight.
Stand your decorated tealights on mini saucers and dot along a mantlepiece or the centre of a table to create a pretty festive glow.
11. Deck the ceiling with a starry display
Make your dining table the focal point of your festive scheme by creating a hanging display suspended above the centre of the table. Having a hanging centrepiece will free up valuable table space that can be used for drinks and serving platters.
Choose lightweight paper and wire stars so they won’t be too heavy, in an assortment of shapes and sizes. Use a hoop to hang them from - a plastic hula hoop is ideal sprayed silver or black. You’ll need a couple of hooks secured to the ceiling to hang the hoop from.
Use lengths of coloured ribbon to suspend your stars, hanging them at staggered heights to fill the space. Add sprigs of fir and foliage here and there as a finishing touch.
12. Pile up a stack of decorated gifts
Paper-wrapped packages are an easy way of brightening up an empty mantlepiece if you add a mini stack of boxes at each end. Or if your Christmas tree is looking a little bare underneath (before Santa has been) try wrapping up a few boxes to bulk out the gifts you have.
Make your own unique gift wrap using brown paper and festive rubber stamps. Simply cut the paper to the size you need and use a stamp and ink pad in cheery red, white and green to create your design. It doesn’t have to be absolutely perfect, the home-made effect is all part of the charm.
13. Craft star-shaped table favours
Pretty paper stars filled with sweets make perfect place setting markers. Add a personal touch by decorating with paper tags stamped with your guests’ initials or names written on in a fancy font.
To make the stars, fold a piece of kraft paper in half and draw on a star shape in pencil. Use a chalk pen or white marker to draw spots or stripes within the star shape. Cut out stars with sharp scissors and then sew around the two shapes 5mm inside the edge, leaving a 4cm-wide gap.
Finish off by pushing tiny treats or sweets inside the star and then sewing the gap closed.
14. Stamp paper bags with Christmas snowflakes
Decorate paper bags with hand-stamped decorations. Bags filled with mini gifts make lovely place settings that guests can take away with them afterwards.
Use inexpensive brown kraft paper bags. Give them a more decorative edge by trimming the tops into a scalloped design and punching a row of small holes. Then get to work with some festive stamping. Simple snowflakes or stars look cheery in red ink, stamp one large design on each bag or go for smaller stamps in an allover design.
Finish by folding over the top edge and threading with baker’s twine to secure. Add a handmade tag, held in place with colourful a piece of coloured washi tape.
15. Make personalised gift bags for the table
Try another easy idea for Christmas place settings that will bring some sparkle to your dining room.
Use inexpensive white paper bags - try Hobbycraft for craft bags, or alternatively use white sandwich bags. Then fill with mini gifts hand picked for your guests, things like soaps, candles, hand-baked biscuits or children’s crafty bits are ideal.
Cut sparkly stars from glittery paper, punch with a hole and then thread through a short length of black ribbon. Finish off by pegging a star to each bag, you could also add a label with the recipient’s name or simply write it on the bag. And then stand a bag at each place setting...voila!
How can I make my house look Christmassy on a budget?
Making your own Christmas decorations is fun and easy to do and if you use lots of bits and pieces that you already have around the house, then it shouldn’t cost a lot at all.
Start a crafts box so that you’ll have lots of pieces to hand when you start a new project. Save bits of ribbon (from gifts) throughout the year, along with any nice remnants of fabric or pieces of gift paper that aren’t crumpled and can be re-used are ideal. Save Christmas and birthday cards too as they can be cut down in size to make home-made gift tags.
Other items that come in handy for crafts projects are faux flowers and greenery, mini baubles, buttons, wooden pegs and coloured tapes. Natural pieces like pine cones, berries and foliage are easy to forage from outdoors when winter time comes around and make good toppers for gifts and craft projects.
What can I make for Christmas decorations?
The list is endless. It pretty much depends on what materials you have available and how much time you have. Using dried fruits is an inexpensive way of making Christmas decorations and scenting your house with a festive aroma at the same time. Try makes like orange and clove pomanders, or Christmas garlands and wreaths made from dried citrus slices.
Mini bottle brush trees also have a multitude of uses when it comes to festive decorations, from decorating cakes or winter scenes on a mantlepiece, to snow scapes in jam jars or underneath glass domes. And don’t forget the bakers’ twine, tie pretty much anything up with the much loved red and white string and it instantly looks Christmassy!
Lisa is a freelance journalist who has written about interiors for more than 25 years and has worked on all the major homes titles, primarily Ideal Home, but also including Homes & Gardens, Country Homes & Interiors, Style at Home, Livingetc, Woman & Home, Easy Gardens and Good Homes magazines. Homes and interiors have always been a passion and she never tires of nosying around gorgeous homes, whether on TV, online, in print or in person, as well as being a serial shopper/bargain hunter.
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