Five ways to make your home look great for the holidays that aren't laborious or expensive
1. Fruit of elegance: This year, instead of making a pricey style statement like new holiday china, try putting a neatly folded napkin on each guest's dinner plate and topping it with an ornamental fruit -- a lime, lemon, or orange -- along with a leafy herb sprig.
2. Talking points: Collectibles can double as tabletop helpers as well as conversation pieces. Toy soldiers? Use them to hold name cards for your dinner guests. Small vases? Fill them with a single flower to adorn each place setting. Whatever it is, the personal connection makes it special.
3. Fresh entry: Help guests feel festive right away by putting a bowl of bright-green apples on a table outside your front door.
4. Sweet spotlight: Showcase dessert by inverting a wide vase in the center of the dinner table, topping it with the plate holding your cake or pie, and arranging greenery or fruit around it. (Melt some candle wax on the inverted bottom of the vase to keep the plate steady.)
5. Aroma, with love: Put some star anise, cloves, nutmeg, marjoram, allspice, orange zest, and mint into a mortar (or use any nicely scented spices you have on hand). Lightly grind them once or twice with a pestle, then sprinkle in a little rose- or orange-flower water. This fragrant vessel is now ready to go wherever there are noses to please -- in the middle of the table, by your front door, etc.