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Newlyweds' nest  | 1 2 3
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So what in the world were we going to put in it? Certainly I couldn’t afford to keep it filled with fresh-cut calla lilies and other glamorous flowers you always see filling the vases in decorating magazines. I thought about curly willow branches, which I absolutely adore. (If you have access to any for free, consider yourself lucky.) They’re best when they’re fresh off the tree, and still flexible enough to allow you to bend them and shape them into all sorts of cool contortions. But the curly willow branches you find in most craft stores are dried to the point of being brittle, and quite expensive too. So those were out of the question.

Then I had an idea. One chilly day this fall, I bundled up my hubby and coaxed him across the street with me to a construction site where some beautiful trees had been axed. Sad for the trees, I know. But it was great fun to tromp over there and find the perfect – free! – solution to my vase problem. With the aid of our handy little hacksaw, we chopped off an armful of branches and happily hauled them home. I gave the bare branches a dusting of metallic silver spray paint, then accented their knobbiness by rubbing them with an old brush dunked in a tad of black India Ink. Voila! So long, empty vase; hello, pretty decorative piece. We put it next to our black entertainment center, and the funky, organic lines of the branches seemed to add some needed detail and life to the area. And bringing a little bit of nature indoors seemed to soften our modern décor a bit, giving it a more relaxed, homier feel. Inspired by our branch expedition, we’ve also gone out and collected some pretty, small pinecones and put them in one of those tall, glass cylinder vases (very cheap), tossed in some fake cranberries, gave it a sprinkle of sparkly faux snow, and TA-DAH! We’ve got a great seasonal centerpiece. Let Martha Stewart decorate with imported fresh flowers and expensive containers – in my opinion, it’s more fun to see what you can do with an armful of fall leaves, some branches of evergreen snipped from the very bottom of your fresh Christmas tree, or some grass seeds planted in a galvanized bucket. Go outside and see what you can find. And as an added bonus, the excursion provides an excellent excuse for even more bonding time between you and your better half.

Decorating your first love nest can seem like a daunting challenge at first, but don’t be intimidated. Just like most everything else in a relationship, successfully decorating as a couple requires a little give and take, a little compromising and a little creativity. But the results are well worth it. Even the most unlikely of pairings – in my case, Hello Kitty and Joe Montana – can live together as happily as you and your new mate.

Carrie Benes is a graphic designer in Lincoln, Nebraska. She enjoys traveling, decorating, and cooking, and is addicted to eBay and The Naked Chef.

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