This $20 IKEA Holiday Hack Is So Good, Even the White House Tried It

published Dec 1, 2023
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white fireplace with symmetrical Christmas trees in teal and red with large gold chandelier and presidential portrait
Credit: Courtesy of The White House

There’s probably no grander stage for holiday decor than the White House — at least not in the U.S.. And this year, Pinterest partnered with the Office of the First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, to help deck the halls at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for the chosen theme of “Magic, Wonder, and Joy” — essentially, seeing the season through the wide eyes and open hearts of children. 

With the First Lady and her staff, Pinterest selected 12 talented creators from a pool of hundreds to lend their skills in crafting and decorating alongside 300 volunteers that work tirelessly for about a week — including on Thanksgiving — to trim trees, top mantels, and create holiday vignettes from scratch.

Chosen for their technical know-how and can-do attitudes, the creators chosen span several categories of expertise, from crafting to home, and include the likes of Small/Cool NYC alum, designer, author, and licensed therapist Anita Yokota; decor expert Marite Espinoza; DIYers the Crafty Lumberjacks; decor and self-care expert Kelly Marcelo; maker extraordinaire Brittany Jepsen of The House That Lars Built; and more.

Credit: Courtesy of the Crafty Lumberjacks

Touring the glitzed and glammed-up White House during the holiday season is always a hot ticket, but through this partnership, you can get a glimpse behind the scenes — and without waiting in any lines. Each creator will be sharing static and video pins that chronicle some of the DIY projects and smart ideas that transformed the White House for the season. The collaboration will also be showcased on Pinterest’s search landing page starting on December 11. There, you’ll find tons of inspiration for your own crafting projects and holiday celebrations, and you’ll also be able to shop some of the looks straight from Pinterest as well.

I spoke to a few of the creators to get their tips on holiday decorating, White House style. Although the festive scenes in each of the 10 rooms on display were magnificent in scale and scope — 98 Christmas trees, 72 wreaths, over 350 candles, almost 15,000 feet of ribbon, 34,000 ornaments, and over 142,000 lights went into sprucing up the White House inside and out — many of the materials used and projects completed were quite simple and inexpensive. Each of the spaces riffed on a classic holiday trope or featured an iconic holiday symbol, from confectionary wintry wonderlands in the China Room to a grand menorah in the Cross Hall, but you’ll see a few holiday trends on the rise, from bows to books, at play, too.

Credit: Danielle Blundell

Go big with DIY ornaments that won’t break the bank.

“Larger ornaments can be so expensive, so I thought this was an amazing hack — all you have to do is cluster and hot glue a bunch of smaller ball ornaments together to create a statement ornament,” says Yokota, who was stationed in the State Dining Room (pictured at the top of the page and above), which featured an oversized gingerbread White House and a Santa’s workshop theme. To that end, she also suggests raiding a toy chest — or the toy aisle — for more inspiration and tree trimmings. “We used teddy bears, wrapped presents with bows, and even made these robots out of cardboard and washi tape,” says Yokota. 

Credit: Danielle Blundell

Another fun touch? IKEA stools that provide seating for the Elves’ workbenches, which Yokota helped paint in Scandi-inspired reds and teals and then stenciled snowflakes and other festive motifs on the top of. These exact seats appear to be discontinued, but at just $16, the KYRRE stool is another budget-friendly, perfect option for a DIY project like this. You can use stools like these as extra seating for a gathering or around your tree to create height and another surface to set gifts on. 

Credit: Danielle Blundell

Rethink classic crafting materials to give them a modern glow-up.

Traditional popcorn garlands are lovely, but you know what makes one less fragile and even cozier? Fashioning it from chenille and incorporating red beads in lieu of cranberries. The entire Red Room in the White House is dedicated to the joy of holiday crafting, so Pinterest made the perfect partner here. 

Credit: Danielle Blundell

Here, you’ll also find paper ornaments featuring drawings by military-connected children finished with a nostalgic holiday craft material: metallic spray-painted macaroni. And why not decorate with buttons? The volunteers covered small tree forms with various red and white buttons and filled terrarium-style glass containers with them as well to create the fun tabletop vignette pictured here. 

Credit: Danielle Blundell

Upcycle old book pages and volumes for a literary holiday look. 

What better theme for the White House Library than that of holiday bedtime stories? Whether you have a room or nook dedicated to reading in your home or not, plenty of easy DIY ideas were at work in this space, from decorating a tree skirt form with book pages tipped in gold foil to taking a few rows of hardcover titles and trimming them out with molding to create a bespoke tree collar. The crafters also used old book pages to make tabletop trees. 

Credit: Danielle Blundell

Cut lengths of ribbon can transform a mantel. 

Fancy fresh and faux garlands are gorgeous, but simple runs of ribbon can also pack plenty of festive punch when strung across a fireplace ledge, draped along a staircase, or even hung above a doorway or window. In the East Room, which featured an advent calendar motif, a fringe of colored ribbons added a handmade touch to swags of greenery adorned with oversized numbers that symbolize the anticipation of counting down to Christmas. And yes, each of the advent calendars in this room were fully functional, from the smaller ones pictured here to the larger-than-life ones also in the space.