This season, we're Making Magic, bringing you a series of ideas to embellish already-wonderful things, from cakes to mantels to trees. Today, we're wrapping gifts: Slide back and forth on the image below to see the magic happen.
When it comes to gift wrapping, there are as many opinions on the subject as there are aisles of ribbon at Michael's. Glossy paper, kraft paper, or tea towel? Ribbon or decorative tape? Invisible seams or do-I-look-like-I-have-time-for-that? Or toss everything in a bag, smack a bow on the front, and call it a day?
As we're currently in peak gifting season, we decided to turn to our in-house expert, Amanda Hesser, to get her thoughts on the subject. Amanda's general rule when it comes to putting together pretty parcels: Keep it simple. "Gifts should have a feeling of specialness or formality, but they don’t need to be a party on the outside," she says. "They can still be special, even if your wrapping is understated."
Here are some of Amanda's go-to tips, complete with easy ideas to take something a little more pared-down and really make it pop.
1. Start with basic wrapping paper.
"I have one of those paper rollers of kraft paper at home, which comes in handy this time of year. There’s something very genuine about papers in flat, neutral colors. It’s not that I don’t like a little shine myself—once I found a matte metallic silver wrapping that was really nice. For my kids, I’ll add a little bit more color, usually in the form of Washi tape."
2. Keep it neat.
"Crisp edges and tight corners are signs that somebody took care—it's like, Hey, I made this thing for you. When my husband wraps gifts, he kind of just crumples the ends and there’s a lot of tape and it stresses me out! (It's gotten so bad it’s become a family joke.) But a gift with invisible seams is the most thoughtful way to present a present."
3. Add a ribbon (or two).
"I like cotton ribbons, or a nice twine that takes its own natural shape: You don’t have to worry about curling it or any wrapping techniques. I like the way ABC Carpet & Home does bows—they use ribbons in different thicknesses, like a thick velvet ribbon and a thin metallic twine, and tie them together to create the bow, which is beautiful. If you don’t know how to make a bow (or if you just don’t feel like tying one), you can take a ribbon and make a cross and just tape or glue the back of it to the wrapping so it’s flat, but it looks nice and neat. Sometimes I’ll tie a tree ornament into the bow, so it’s part of the wrapping and part of the gift."
4. Make it personal.
"Cards feel to me like a superfluous formality, but I like a gift tag. The sentiment that you write on the tag is part of the wrapping and packaging, but also part of the gift. I think sometimes people forget that the note you write is really the thing that’s going to stick with somebody. I like to make a little hint at the gift without telling what it is, or make a little joke."
5. Finish with a special something.
"Adding natural elements to wrapping can look really pretty. If I am going to embellish a gift, I like organic touches, like burning bush leaves, lotus pod, little kitten, and other fountain grasses—but there is the drying factor that you have to consider. These are the kind of things you have to do last-minute so they don't dry up. One year I decided to use magnolia leaves, but I was ahead of schedule and had things wrapped early, so by the time I went to give the gifts, the leaves were crunchy and it was a disaster! But it’s nice to have a little ooh and ahh."
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