Tis the season to throw a fabulous party.
But your Christmas decorations and dinner set-ups do not have to break the bank if you are on a budget. Simple do-it-yourself tricks are perfect to turn your tree and dining room into a party-ready set-up.
But if you have the cash to splash, go all out with your baubles and crystal to get a luxe look.
Life! parties with homeware brands Ikea and Crate & Barrel to see how they dress up a tree and create a dinner table for six on two different budgets.
'Tis the season to splurge: Table set for six
Items: Joy Wine Glass and Champagne Glass ($7.50 each), Teagan 5-Piece Placesetting ($44.95), Hyacinth Metallic Placemat ($10.95), Gemma Dinnerware ($17.95 for a platter and $6.95 for a plate), Aspen Dinner Plate ($7.95), Sateen Silver Napkin ($8.95), Zoe Round Gold Napkin Ring ($7.95), Plume Placecard Holder ($8.95), Set of 24 Silhouette Placecards ($10.95), Bark Candles (from $27.95), Teeny Pedestal ($17.95), Bubbled Glass Candle Holder ($17.95), and Silver Jingle Bell Garland ($30.95)
If you are going to spend hours slaving over a hot stove preparing a Christmas feast, why not glam up your dining table to wow guests too?
Crate & Barrel's team put together an elegant, six-seater dinner table setting, with a colour theme to match their gold-and-white shimmery Christmas tree in the background (see other story).
But even if you have a huge budget, general manager of Crate & Barrel Singapore Samuel Stephen Wright says home-owners do not have to buy everything new just for the season.
"Most people would already have some of the basic items that we've used for this set-up, such as white plates and simple glassware. The party budget often gets inflated if you're buying new tableware, as these items can be a big investment," says
Mr Wright, who is American.
"So, if you decide to spend on basic things such as plates and glasses, choose designs which can be used through the rest of the year," adds Mr Wright, who recommends items such as the wine and champagne glasses, which have their stems painted platinum.
To add a little drama to the table, he used creamy, white candles with a textured look and different heights, and a silver jingle-bell garland - in place of a table runner.
"You could use floral arrangements, but they tend to block people sitting on the other side of the table and you might not have enough space to put the dishes on the table if you're sharing food.
"With this candle and garland arrangement, you can push them a little out of the way, but they still add colour and shimmer to the table."
While the experienced team took about 15 minutes to put the display together, Mr Wright says: "If you have all your 'ingredients' ready, the table setting should be easy to put together, but you should give yourself time to experiment, in case something does not look right. I tried four different napkin rings before I settled on this one."
There is no right or wrong way to set your table, he adds, and party hosts can scale down their use of table ware such as doing away with a table charger if they do not own any.
To personalise the table, he used placeholders with guests' names written on namecards. He says: "It might be a formal setting, but it should be a relaxed party, so that guests don't feel like they can't have a good time."
'Tis the season to splurge: Christmas tree
Total: $495 for tree decorations. The budget does not include the price of the tree or the lights as Crate & Barrel does not sell these
Items: Frost and Clear Bead Garland ($17.30), Silver Glitter Multi Snowflake Tree Topper ($39.70), Gold Glitter Hinged Triple Snowflake Ornament ($10.80), Antiqued Glass Glitter Drop Ornament ($5.75), Glitter Ribbon Champagne Drop Ornament ($10.80), Curl Tree Gold Placecard Holder-Ornament ($3.60) and Silver Pearl Photo Frame Ornament with 2014 Charm ($9.35)
Even if you do not have to worry about the bill, it could be a Christmas nightmare trying to rein it all in - if the bauble buying goes overboard.
General manager of Crate & Barrel Singapore Samuel Stephen Wright suggests a mix of lavish and low-cost decorations to avoid over-spending on a single holiday.
Decide how you want your tree to look like first before buying your decorations, he advises.
"If you want a formal-looking tree, you should opt for a monochromatic tree. If you want a whimsical tree, choose ornaments which are more colourful and you don't have to stick strictly to a colour scheme."
The Crate & Barrel team decorated a seven-foot faux tree with a classic theme in mind.
They kept it simple with baubles that are not too ornate, but vary in size, shape and colour to keep the tree visually interesting. These are evenly spread on the tree.
Mr Wright adds: "We went for gold, bronze and light shimmery colours for the snow-like, Christmas feel. We also used white lights as a tree topper, to add to that effect."
For a personal touch, a photo-frame ornament, where a small photo can be tucked inside, was added.
Moving away from traditional-looking trees, the team opted for a snowflake tree topper, instead of a star, and crystal beads, strung through the tree, in place of tinsel. The metallic tree collar was not covered with skirting, lending an industrial vibe to the ensemble.
Mr Wright says: "As you're dressing the tree, you should step back and check it visually. It shouldn't be overly complicated. Of course, have fun with the decorating, even if it's a formal look."
Season's savings: Table set for six
Total: $197.50 for a table set for six
Items: Fargrik dark lilac 18-piece service set ($39.90), Fargrik white side plate ($2.90), Svalka red wine glass ($6.90 for six), Svalka champagne glass ($6.90 for six), Svalka white wine glass ($6.90 for six), Gullmaj tablecloth ($24.90), various Dragon cutlery ($44.90), Fantastisk purple paper napkin ($3.90 for 50 pieces), Hemsjo unscented block candle ($2.50 for four), gold hanging decoration in assorted designs (from $1.90 to $6.90), decoration stand ($5.90), garland in assorted colours ($0.90), and gift wrap roll ($3.90)
There can be sparkle at the table, even on a tight budget.
Opt for cheaper alternatives and style them well, says Ms Christel Bongco, a Filipino interior designer at Ikea Tampines.
For example, paper napkins are an affordable and convenient alternative to cloth napkins.
"For a more sophisticated setting, fold paper napkins in interesting and unique ways," she suggests.
And there is no need for fancy, ready-made table runners, which are long pieces of decorative cloth used to cover the middle of a table.
The styling team at Ikea used leftover gift wrapping paper, placed over a plain tablecloth, to add some colour and style. For pizzazz, they scattered shiny gift labels around the table.
Ms Bongco adds: "The makeshift table runner can also save your tablecloth from unwanted spills. And when the party is over, you can simply throw it away and reduce the hassle of having to wash the table runners and napkins."
If you do not have table chargers, the styling team recommends festive garlands, such as the Vintermys garland, which can be wrapped around your largest plate.
Items around the house can also be used for the dinner party. For example, turn wine glasses upside down to transform them into candle holders.
Ready-made bows can jazz up plain glassware, and add a fun and festive twist to drinks.
Decorating is not about filling the tree or dining table with many things, Ms Bongco adds.
"Less is more - even if you can't fill your home with festive bling-bling, you can still go modest and decorate like a Swede, and make your home extra cosy too."
Season's savings: Christmas tree
Total: $105.70 for tree decorations. The budget does not include the price of the 1.6m live tree and the base, which together cost $79.
Items: Decoration baubles ($17.90), red hanging decoration in assorted designs ($8.90 for three), 5m red garland ($3.90), Christmas cards with envelopes ($2.90 for four), lighting chain and clip-on decor ($47.60), star tree-topper ($5.90). Do note that some of the festive items have sold out or are selling fast
Even if this is not a cash-rich Christmas, every tree and party can still look festive. All it takes is a little creative spark and some DIY-genius to get a stylish tree, says Ms Christel Bongco, an interior designer at Ikea Tampines. She says: "Be creative and upcycle items you can find at home as decor pieces. For example, instead of classic baubles, cut gold wrapping paper to make decorative baubles or ribbons and bows. Gift tags can also be hung as an inexpensive alternative to baubles."
She also suggests hanging Christmas cards on the tree. Large square cards add volume to the tree, which helps if you do not have enough baubles to go around the whole tree.
The shape of a live tree may be uneven, unlike the symmetry of a faux tree. Ms Bongco suggests: "Choose the side of the tree you want to present and turn it to face your guests, so you know which side to focus your decorations on - especially if your tree is in a corner or against a wall."
This way, you do not need a range of ornaments to decorate the entire tree. Other ways to save include choosing an unusual tree topper, instead of the usual star-shaped ornament. She says: "The top star acts as a centrepiece of a tree and brings the focus to the tree. However, it doesn't necessarily have to be a star. It can be an item that has personal meaning, such as a favourite soft toy."
Go for glittery garlands and fairy lights to add sparkle to the tree if you do not have blinged-out baubles, which can be expensive. Ms Bongco adds: "After you are done with the festivities, the fairy lights can be used in other parts of the home."