Written and produced by Krissa Rossbund
Photography by Peter Krumhardt
It’s the thought that counts—but the head-turning presentation makes a gift especially memorable.
The rules of gift-giving—be it white elephant and Secret Santa exchanges or a loving remembrance for your nearest and dearest—dictate that the gift itself doesn’t much matter; only the sentiment really counts. Truth be told, a presentation that demonstrates both care and flair is often remembered long after the gift itself is forgotten.
To illustrate the power of over-the-top packaging, we enlisted a wrap artist extraordinaire: paper virtuoso Alton DuLaney, winner of the Scotch Brand Most Gifted Wrapper contest. DuLaney exemplifies artistry with parcels that achieve sculpture-like status. From wild to trendy to glamorous, their frills, finery, and finishing touches sing with the joy of gift-giving.
“Monica” armchair, Drexel Heritage.
“Woolverston Toast” wallpaper, Cole & Son through Lee Jofa.
“Any object can be turned into a gift with proper gift wrap,” says DuLaney. “A gorgeous ribbon or beautiful bow tied around clean corners and crisp edges can really make something out of nothing.”
Consider what ultimate accordion-style pleating can do for a well-mannered peplum. Use the same dressmaker technique to give a couture look to gift wrap. It’s the perfect opportunity to use a second or third paper with a pretty design. Elegant tonal patterns of damask prettified with embellishments of gold-toned ribbons, braided rope, passamenterie, and lavish tassels confirm that tradition and good taste are forever in style.
Animal patterns—untamed in the wilds of fashion and furniture—provide the perfect skin for an unexpected gift. A black zipper references fashion and is positioned to resemble a jacket that reveals a colorful T-shirt beneath. Layers of paper and ribbon in leopard, zebra, and cheetah patterns roar in both their natural colorings and palettes du jour. For instance, a pink-and-white zebra paper mixed with black-and-white ribbon of the same species is ideal for a lady with a little bit (or a lot!) of sass.
Painted “Zebra” bombé chest, French Heritage.
“Sweet Dreams” in steel damask wallpaper, York Wallcoverings.
Mixing two bows together in complementary colors creates a rocker-chic look that is both casual and easy to assemble. For a spunkier look, combine animal print with a contrasting bright color, like hot pink.
A pop of red lipstick and dynamite accessories dramatize the simplest of holiday garments: the little black dress. Following fashion’s lead, ebony-patterned papers flocked in luxurious velvet, printed in party dress patterns, and bejeweled with glittery crystals sparkle like stars on a midnight clear. Paper cut to form a motif or a colorful band creates a layered effect.
“Parker” console table, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams.
“Solas” mirror, Waterford Interiors.
“Dian” chair, French Heritage.
“Starbright” mica wallpaper in steel, Thibaut.
A handsome combination of black and gray makes the perfect presentation for a man’s gift. Frills are kept to a minimum: Papers rich in texture create drama, while layers of folded black-and-red paper add depth. Thick grosgrain ribbon is left in a loose knot for an unexpected and imperfect detail.
Echoing a trend in home furnishings, an ikat print paper with an ivory base and shots of fuchsia, washed indigo, and acid green exudes fashionable holiday cheer. Metallic ribbons gathered into pretty bows are tied around papers in paisley, hydrangea, and geometric patterns, making packages merrily au courant.
“Cocktail Bench 189,” Pearson.
“Roses” wallpaper in lipstick on rose, York Wallcoverings.
Holiday ornaments are the perfect way to accessorize a package while adding color and personality. Festive glass balls are both inexpensive and easy to string together on top of a wrapped gift. Word to the wise: The balls can break easily, so use caution when transporting packages!
Riff on chic fads for your favorite fashionista. Silhouettes, feathers, and houndstooth are all strutting the runways this year. Pink-and-silver overscaled houndstooth requires only a subtle, tailored bow on a package wrapped to look like an on-trend handbag. A silhouette of the recipient affixed to a solid-colored box makes a gift tag redundant. Peacock feathers on peacock-patterned gift wrap double the fun.
“Fontenay” striped commode, French Heritage.
“Floral Trail” wallpaper in fuchsia on pearl beige, York Wallcoverings.
Nature is often the world’s best craft store, as these color-rich peacock feathers can attest. For a more traditional holiday touch, consider using pinecones, sprigs of evergreen, or even cinnamon sticks for fragrance and a shot of color inspiration.
From blue willow china to handsome nautical stripes, the beloved combination of blue and white is perennially in style. Patterns of delicate toile, Moorish geometrics, and playful stripes inspire spirited gift boxes. “This combination can move from conservative to over the top,” says DuLaney. “For a limited palette, it offers such a variety of looks.”
“Ningbo” Asian-inspired lacquered console table, Century Furniture.
“Stone Trellis” wallpaper, Cole & Son through Lee Jofa.
Tails do not always have to end with a boring straight edge. When topping off a wrapped package with a patterned bow, trim the tail along the shape of the pattern for an alternative flourish.
One of modernism’s precepts is that even in its simplest form, a graphic element makes a statement. Here, ornamentation avoids fluff and fuss, with silver trim austerely outlining aqua-and-black paper, and metallic twine randomly wrapped around silvery paper for a textured look. Zigzag-cut paper adds a new angle to wrap with a linear motif.
“Lawson” white-lacquer console table, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams.
“Hicks Grand Green” wallpaper, Cole & Son through Lee Jofa.
Wind string or twine around a wrapped gift for a simple embellishment that doesn’t require much artistic skill. The silver twine pictured above highlights the colors of the paper while disguising any imperfections caused by tape, creasing, or tears in the wrapping paper. Consider using yarn, strips of faux fur, ribbon, or other inexpensive materials to create looks that range from casually rustic to drop-dead glamorous.