A simple, yet stunning, centerpiece. Photo by James Kellar

Most people are well acquainted with the Colonial Williamsburg decorating style, and there is a lot of inspiration to be drawn from it as we go about the task of decorating our homes for the holidays. By staying true to the simplicity of the Williamsburg theme, we can spare ourselves both stress and expense. For example, indoor and outdoor decorations in the colonies were always in sync, and both were constructed with natural elements.

Now is the perfect time to trim those overgrown evergreens in your yard. If you have been visited by deer, your yews and arborvitae will probably not need cutting back, and spruces do not regenerate once their growing tips are cut off, but you may want to hack back the hemlock. Hemlock regenerates fast, so you need not be an expert pruner. Don’t even think about Socrates, as I am not suggesting that you eat it, just cut some nice full branches. If berries fall off the hemlock, you can kick them under the rug.

To make a decorative swag, tie the stems together with fine floral wire. Once the branches are securely tied together, loop a longer piece of wire around them and tie the whole thing to the top of a lamp post, right underneath the light. Alternatively, a swag can be tied to a nail or hook on the front door. Add a waterproof ribbon for color. If you are an overachiever and not too clumsy, slice a pineapple in half and attach this traditional sign of hospitality to a nail on the front door.

An even easier decorative touch is to collect some pinecones and put them in a basket, poking a few smaller pieces of evergreen foliage between them. If you are really into the Williamsburg theme, scatter a few colorful apples or oranges in the basket as well. Try to use fruit that you already have languishing in the kitchen, but if you have to buy apples, buy the cheapest and the most colorful. To keep the fruit from going bad, repel insects, and to make it shine, coat it in Mop & Glo. Of course, don’t eat it; just discard it when the decorations are dismantled.

For an eye-catching but inexpensive arrangement for a table or sideboard, drag out any cake stands that may have been gathering dust. One is fine, but two or three on top of one another can be positively stunning. Cut small pieces of foliage (such as boxwood, holly, or the aforementioned evergreen) and place them artistically on the surface of however many cake stands you’ve gathered. Place a stemmed glass on the top cake stand to hold an apple or an orange.

Silver candelabra, brass ornaments, and glass dishes magnify the glow from nearby candles. However, it is the height of the arrangement that gives it presence. If you can’t find any cake stands, use an imposing bowl piled high with holly or fruit or striking figurines. Smile modestly when complimented.