Liz Gray

"In search of Eames-worthy style on a Craigslist budget. And pie."

Liz is a Senior Editor at HGTV.com. She lives in a midcentury tri-level that’s stuck in the ‘70s…for now. When she’s not working on remodeling projects with her boyfriend and mystery breed puppy, Miles, you can find her buying impractical hats, scheming mad scientist-style in her overworked kitchen and drooling over Danish modern furniture.

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POSTS BY Liz Gray

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Homemade gingerbread houses can be a bit intimidating, but you don’t have to be a professional baker or create a three-story Victorian house to get in on the fun. I make a gingerbread house almost every year — from scratch — but I don’t aim for perfection. Here’s a mini house I made this year:

Make Your Own Gingerbread House

Sure, the mortar is a little bit oozy and the roofline isn’t quite straight. Do I like it any less? Of course not! It’s about the process more than the result. (And its flaws give it character.) No matter what your baking skill level, all gingerbread houses start with a great gingerbread recipe, lots of royal icing and a pattern. Here are 5 houses to try out this weekend.

Five DIY Gingerbread Houses

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Sure, holiday decorations are nice (and so pretty), but let’s be real: It’s not a party without festive food and drink. A buffet table allows guests to flow through the food line  — perfect for the casual vibe of our holiday party.  Want to create your own? Follow these tips for success.

Find the right spot to set up your table. Food tables are kinda like real estate: that is, all about location, location, location. You want an out-of-the-way spot that still allows for an entry and exit point.  Skip spots like a kitchen island that create a bottleneck for a large group.

Holiday Food Table Setup Tips

Dress up a temporary table. You don’t need a dining room or even a buffet table to make this party setup work. We used a fold-up party table topped with a covering made from a dropcloth (!!!) and a small, hemmed piece of gorgeous marbled fabric.

DIY Holiday Tablecloth From DIY Network

Create a starting spot. Placing the plates and napkins at one end of the table creates a clear entry point. Copper string lights inside a footed cloche draw attention to the beginning of the line.

More Buffet-Table Tips

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Congratulations to our winner, Connie! Please stay tuned tuned for our next great giveaway.

There’s a reason why repurposed furniture projects and MacGyver-style crafts are fan favorites on HGTV.com: Beyond the budget-savvy benefits of reusing old pieces, it’s also satisfying to know that you kept an old table or glass jar out of a landfill by reinventing it.

That’s why we love eco-friendly retailer Bambeco’s recycled glassware and ornaments. You’d never guess that these sparkling gems started from recycled soda bottles! We’re offering one lucky Design Happens reader a chance to win their own set of these items, along with an organic wreath outfitted with enough thyme, rosemary and bay leaves to last long after the holiday season is over.

Win Christmas Decorations From Bambeco

One lucky winner will receive:

To enter for a chance to win this giveaway, leave a comment below. This giveaway’s question: How do you repurpose old items in your holiday decorations?

You may only comment once to be considered, and you don’t have to purchase anything to win; a purchase will not increase your chances of winning. Odds depend on total number of entries. Void where prohibited by law. Only open to legal residents of 50 U.S., D.C. or Puerto Rico, and you must be at least 18 years of age to win. All entries (comments) must be entered between 12:00 p.m. ET on December 6, 2013 and 12:00 p.m. ET on December 9, 2013. Subject to full official rules. By leaving a comment on the blog, you acknowledge your acceptance to the Official Rules. ARV of the prize: $150.00. Sponsor: Scripps Networks, LLC, d/b/a HGTV, 9721 Sherrill Boulevard, Knoxville, TN 37932

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Mmmmm…butternut squash. Sure, it’s delicious when roasted or blended into soup, but have you ever considered incorporating butternut squash into your fall decor? Add this oblong squash to your table in a new way this Thanksgiving — as an easy-to-make, inexpensive vase.

Butternut Squash Vases

It just takes a few minutes to make your own. To make an arrangement like you see above, you’ll want three or five butternut squash in varying heights. The smaller, the better; larger butternut squash have thicker flesh that makes them slightly more difficult to work with. I got these at a local farmers’ market.

Cut and Hollow Out Butternut Squash
After first trying a pumpkin-carving saw, I found that the best tool for hollowing out the squash was a long-handled spoon. Make a circle at the top of the squash’s oblong stem, leaving about 1/2 inch of flesh around the edge. Continue scooping chunks of squash until you reach the seeds. Scoop out what you can, then rap onto a cutting board a few times to remove remaining seeds.

Fall Butternut Squash Centerpiece
Next, add the flowers of your choice. I went with dahlias, sunflowers and cockscomb in purples, yellows and greens. Then, add water and display on your Thanksgiving table!

Turn Butternut Squash Into a Thanksgiving Centerpiece
Get full instructions for this project here, plus find even more Thanksgiving ideas on HGTV.com.

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With Thanksgiving around the corner and the holiday season in sight, ’tis the season for fresh cranberries. Sure, they make a mean cranberry sauce or upside-down cake, but if you’ve tried one straight from the bag, you know cranberries are nothing short of pucker-inducing. So, I was skeptical when I first heard that sugared cranberries made a great snack. As the kitchen investigator I try to be, I had to see for myself.

You guys. These things are addictive. Soaking cranberries overnight in a maple-scented simple syrup transforms them from pucker-worthy to perfectly sweet-tart. Rolling them in superfine sugar adds a satisfying crunch. As pretty as they are tasty, they make a great cake or cocktail garnish. Make a double batch and wait for the rave reviews.

Sugared Cranberry Recipe on HGTV.com

GET THE SUGARED CRANBERRIES RECIPE

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When Briana asked about the white pumpkin trend in a recent Defend the Trend post, a whopping 81 percent of you said you loved the look. I’m with the majority here — I adore the elegance a white pumpkin brings to the (Thanksgiving) table. Whether you have leftovers from Halloween or are picking up a few just for Thanksgiving, here are 7 of my favorite ways to use these fall gems.

Turn White Pumpkins Into a Fall Succulent Planter
Pint-sized white pumpkins make an adorable vessel for single succulents. Kelly Smith Trimble from DIY’s Made + Remade blog inspired me to use these as take-home place markers at a recent fall dinner party. She used the adorable succulents as part of this modern tablescape filled with assorted pumpkins, squash and sprigs of eucalyptus.

Fall Tablescape With Mini White Pumpkins

More Ways to Decorate With White Pumpkins

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There’s nothing like the threat of company — especially parents, grandparents and mother-in-laws — to create that extra motivation needed to finish those lingering home improvement projects. (Guest bedroom, I’m coming for you.) If you’re hosting Thanksgiving this year, it’s likely you’ve spent some quality time at the local paint store.

Once the drop cloth is up and the rollers cleaned (or safely stored in the garage…no judgement here), why not use up that collection of paint sticks? That’s the humble material this copper-coated herringbone runner started out as:

Make Paint Sticks Into a Herringbone Table Runner

Give them a second life — kind of like Grandma’s vintage coat — as a table runner that will last from Thanksgiving all the way through the holiday season. Read on to learn how to make this chic and affordable table accent.

How To Turn Paint Sticks Into a Table Runner

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We’ve told you all about our holiday party table setup, from Marianne’s gutter centerpiece to Deanne’s rustic-chic place card holders to Dan’s handmade farmhouse benches. But have you looked up yet? When you do, you’ll see one of my favorite projects from the whole party: A chandelier fashioned from a plain old branch and beautiful dried flowers.

Here’s a peek at the finished product if you’ve missed it so far:

Decorate for the Holidays With an Easy Branch Chandelier

I love how it started as, well, a branch (specifically, a drifter that landed on Marianne’s porch) and, with a little embellishment, became something gorgeous. It’s also an affordable holiday update — the branch is free, the other materials inexpensive — that can last throughout the holiday season. Want to make your own at home? I’ve got you covered. Read on.

MAKE YOUR OWN BRANCH CHANDELIER

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Have you enjoyed our holiday party posts so far? We have so much more to share with you! Last week, we talked all about the fireplace design in the rustic party space at Knoxville’s gorgeous Botanical Garden. This week, we’ll share our DIY project ideas for creating a perfect holiday table. Today, read on to find our top 8 tips to help you plan and create a table setting that sets a festive mood — without making you pull your hair out. But first, here’s a peek at the finished design:

Holiday Table Setting Ideas From HGTV and DIY Network

Let decorations do double (or triple!) duty. When we started planning a holiday celebration for the Design Happens and Made + Remade crews, we shied away from traditional colors. Why? Apart from the fact that we just wanted something a little bit different for our table design, using a plum and turquoise palette with lots of metallics makes these decorations feel perfectly appropriate from Thanksgiving all the way through New Year’s Eve. One set of DIY projects for the whole season? Yes, please!

Holiday Table Setting Ideas From HGTV and DIY Network

Low centerpieces keep the conversation flowing. We chose a short-in-stature, tall-on-style centerpiece (how-to video coming to tomorrow’s Weekday Crafternoon!) made from a length of gutter and winter florals, plus a hanging branch centerpiece strung with dried cockscomb. That left eye level open, making it easier for guests to chat and enjoy the party.

More Holiday Table Setting Tips

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I’m a DIYer to the core. (Also see: Obsessive Craigslister, craft store aficionado, Pinterest project beta tester.) My first thought when I see a vase or a bookshelf or a wreath I like is usually “How can I make this?” But I’ll admit, I’ve always been a bit intimidated when it comes to upholstery projects.

So when I saw a lampshade-making class on the schedule at Altitude Design Summit, I decided to give it a shot. That’s when I met HGTV.com and Design* Sponge contributor Amanda Brown for the first time.

We started with funky, amazing fabrics you wouldn’t find in most big-box stores. After gluing the fabric to plastic backing, we clamped it around metal rings and embellished it with ribbon. I went home with a pretty amazing lampshade, and a desire to learn more about the craft of upholstery. (Come back to Design Happens next week to learn this process!)

Amanda Brown - Spruce Upholstery

Just a few short years ago, Amanda was just where I am: Eager to put her own DIY stamp on furniture finds, but not sure where to start. She enrolled in some upholstery classes, and before she knew it she had jumped in with both feet. She started rehabbing furniture as a side project; then started Spruce Austin to make her side job her day job. Over the last several years, she’s learned the tricks of the trade. Luckily, you don’t have to start an upholstery shop to learn her process. She wrote the new book, Spruce: A Step-By-Step Guide to Upholstery and Design to be the textbook she wished she had when she was first starting out.

Spruce Design Book

The book delves into the step-by-step process of revamping the furniture pieces in Amanda’s real-life living room, from a bold wingback chair to an upholstered ottoman to modern-lined sofa. It’s full of practical knowledge like how to find and use the tools of the trade, plus tips to choose the right fabrics and figure out the proper yardage for each project. There’s also a handy glossary to help you decode upholstery terms.

EXCLUSIVE: SEE HOW AMANDA PREPS FURNITURE FOR UPHOLSTERY

Along the way, she also shares some of her favorite furniture transformations, and fun moments from the upholstery shop. Here are just a few of the items Amanda and her staff have recovered while reupholstering pieces (no diamond rings or pearl necklaces yet, though!):

New Upholstery Book by Amanda Brown

Ready to start your upholstery journey? Meet up with Amanda and the Spruce team in person on their cross-country book-signing tour, or attend a workshop and learn to make your own bench or lampshade. Find her in HGTV’s stomping ground of Knoxville, Tenn. on Tuesday, November 12. (See the full schedule here.)

RELATED: MAKE YOUR OWN UPHOLSTERED DOOR

But don’t just take my word for it…see more design bloggers’ thoughts on the book here:

Spruce: A Step-by-Step Guide to Upholstery And Design, is available now.

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