It looks like a scene straight out of The Holiday. A countryside cottage dressed up with a stunning door arch.
But this eye-catching festive decoration was surprisingly easy and cheap to create.
Sarah Whiteley, who is 41 and from East Yorkshire, made the incredible festive arch herself, and saved hundreds of pounds in the process.
‘I didn’t want to pay a fortune for the ones I’d seen in the shops,’ she told money-saving community LatestDeals.co.uk.
‘The best, most realistic-looking ones cost £250. Plus, I would have still needed to buy all the decorations to add to it.
‘After doing a bit of research, I decided to get creative and was able to make my own for just £47. Every time I look at it, I smile to myself knowing I saved some money. It feels really satisfying.’
Sarah has long been a fan of creative solutions, especially when it comes to decorating her home on a budget.
‘I have always been a bit of a wheeler dealer, buying and selling things on Facebook Marketplace,’ she says.
Sarah has sent Dean on all sorts or errands, from collecting a roll top bath from the middle of nowhere, to picking up some full-sized mannequins which barely fit in his car.
‘It has become a running joke between us,’ she says.
Her eye for a bargain has helped her to decorate her cottage from top to toe with second-hand finds. Armed with festive arch inspiration, and some extra help from Pinterest, Sarah put her plan into action.
‘We live next door to my mum and dad and my mum passes a lot of her gardening tips on to me,’ she says. ‘I explained to her what I was thinking of making, and she wanted to help so we set to work.’
Sarah bought the metal arch from Amazon for £10 and positioned it around the front door, standing it in the plant pots on the doorstep to help steady it.
‘I ordered some wet foam brick blocks online to use as a foundation for the foliage,’ she says. ‘These cost £1.29 a block and I needed about 20.
‘Using garden string, I tied the blocks to the front of the arch. This took a few hours, which was a bit frustrating, as I always like to get things done as quickly as possible. However, my mum advised that if I put the work in now I wouldn’t regret it and she was right.’
Next, she went on the hunt for the all-important foliage.
‘We are lucky that my garden has lots of foliage, such as fir trees, conifers, laurel, holly trees, and ferns. I simply started chopping away some of the overgrowth. My husband had got me some secateurs for Christmas but when he spotted me hacking about with some scissors he took pity on me and gave them to me early.’
Foliage collected, it was time to dress the arch.
‘I started from the bottom using the larger, bushiest off-cuts and worked my way up. The pieces I used were slightly larger than I originally thought I would have needed, but they helped to give it the rustic effect I was looking for.
‘Our local garden centre sells loose flowers and other odds and ends so I often have a stash of those at home. However, for this project I bought a red flower garland for £8 – you may be able to find a cheaper one at The Range – and cut it up to add a dash of colour to the arch. I secured the flowers with florist wire so they wouldn’t fly away in the wind.’
The twinkling fairy lights were leftover from last year.
‘We’d had them up for ages outside minus a plug,’ says Sarah. ‘I carefully wrapped them around the foliage and reattached a plug I’d found on another set of lights only to realise they weren’t switching on. I started unraveling them all, but the wires were pulling bits of foliage as I went.’
Exasperated, Sarah tried another plug on the off-chance the lights would work and, to her relief, it did the trick.
‘I took a deep breath and started wrapping the lights back round again,’ she says.
For a touch of festive sparkle, Sarah used glitter spray on some of the foliage, which cost £3 from B&Q.
‘From April onwards, my job has been very hectic,’ she says. ‘Since the first lockdown I have really got into gardening and discovered a new love for making things – especially upcycling.
‘For some people, lockdown has been a nightmare, but it has made me realise that I need to slow down and go back to basics. Now, I spend my weekends in my garden getting creative.
‘The children love getting involved and I now realise there’s more to life than racing around at the weekend. One day, if I am lucky enough, my dream would have a little shop that buys and sells interesting finds.’
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