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The Globe and Mail

Last-minute decorating tips for your holiday party

Emilia Stasiak/Emilia Stasiak

Originally published on December 12, 2009.

The roast is cooking, the table is set and the flowers look . . . the flowers . . . you forgot the flowers.

And guests are due to arrive in 20 minutes, so running out is not an option.

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If company is coming and your place is looking less than festive, fret not: Fast fixes can be had using holiday stuff you have on hand. Here are our favourite last-minute decorating tricks.

Anything can be put in a vase. Pine cones from the backyard (good job for a pesky child hanging about the kitchen), mini candy canes, trimmed boughs from the tree, whole nuts, glass ornaments, clementines, fairy lights -- they all look good in a clear glass vase or bowl (but not mixed together).

Choose one element to fill a vase as a centrepiece for the table, and use the same filling for three more vases on the mantel. (If you can go all square or all round, that works best.)

Place cards don't have to be made of paper. Any sort of place card adds sophistication to a dinner table. Grab a Sharpie and write guests' names on silver Christmas balls. Use fancy gift tags. Or tie leftover fresh herbs into little bundles and place atop each plate.

Break out the good stuff. Remember that gorgeous platter you got for your anniversary? The one you so carefully put away? Use it.

Little touches go a long way: Tie satin ribbon around vases and candlesticks. Go for an unexpected colour such as orange for a more sophisticated look. Put candleholders on a tray covered with silver balls.

Update the poinsettia. There is nothing original about that red plant sitting in your living room. But you can make it work. Clip off some stems and make a bouquet in a clear glass vase. Use a single red leaf to decorate each plate.

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Get cozy. Candlelight hides a multitude of sins. Fill the living room with flickering, glowing candle flame and bring in the pretty throws and cushions from the bedroom.

Simmer oranges and cloves in a pot on the stove. Your place may not look perfect, but it will smell fantastic.

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