You’ve eyed the rolls of holiday wrapping paper and aren’t very impressed. Or you found some lovely ones last year but wish for something different—fun, unique, classy, whatever your style.

Turns out it isn’t hard to achieve, without breaking the bank. And that includes making it show you care. Area experts explain how, in effects ranging from trendy to vintage to kid-friendly.

The Latest Thing

If trendy puts you in the mood, “This holiday season, burlap is out, plaid is in. Think about coordinating that with gift wraps,” says Michelle Samardzija, event planner and owner of MadMommaEvents.com. “Another trend this year is using black or chalkboard wrapping paper. You can tape chalk to it for kids to draw on it, or do the same with white paper and crayons.”

Adam Wiltfang says picking the right wrapping can be as much fun as picking out gifts for people. Owner of Designer Desserts Bakery in Valparaiso, and Sweetville by Designer Desserts in Chesterton, he says the delectable treats there are wrapped to be modern and trendy. But at home, “That doesn’t have to mean expensive to look expensive. You can use vintage items like old maps and blueprints, very inexpensive; for tags, use a darker blue or black in heavy-duty stock paper.” Vintage newspaper looks cool, too (vintage—not last week’s!).

Creative Accents

Wiltfang says smaller gifts, perhaps books for men, look dressy with a bow tie instead of ribbon, and those plus neck ties are thrifty at Goodwill. For a nautical theme, tie a slipknot in a rope instead of ribbon.

About those ribbons: Samardzija says she never peels the stickers off bows: too easy for them to fall off the package. Instead she puts a piece of tape across two sides of the sticker base. Still, “It drives me crazy that bows will be thrown away,” she says. “It’s wasteful. The ‘bow’ should have a purpose.” She chooses jewelry, ornaments, and Chicagoland Popcorn’s miniature bags of cranberry popcorn with caramel, because its red and green color “looks beautiful.” Add a couple of ribbons to ramp up a festive look. Samardzija also draws inspiration from Albanese Candy Company. “A miniature bag of the store’s gummy bears attached to a gift is fun.”

Over the Top

For glam, “We class it up,” Wiltfang says. “Clear packaging shows off (what’s inside). We use gold accents, with teal and turquoise and charcoal gray; it makes it pop and the gold plays off the darker colors.”

For presents under the tree for a couple of weeks, Samardzija suggests, ”You want them to look pretty, so coordinate those wrapping papers with the theme of the Christmas tree colors.”

Odds and Ends

Every year, some packages are in awkward shapes for wrapping. Wiltfang says people will try to wrap the item itself, “But you can go to UPS or the Fed-Ex store,” he says. “You spend money on the box, but you get a nice craft box, cover with brown wrapping paper, and use colored, patterned washi tape, which is lightweight but strong. I did all my presents that way.” He chose tapes in metallic: gold, silver, copper.

Samardzija says wrapping the odd-shaped present practically guarantees it’ll get holes poked into it. You can first wrap it in foam or tape bubble wrap around it to give it a more square shape, or “Just pop it into a pretty bag.”

About that clear tape? Samardzija urges, “Get good quality, name-brand gift wrapping tape. Cheap tape tends to not stick or gets dusty.”

The Personal Touch

Who hasn’t had to rush out for a last-minute gift but doesn’t want it to look like it? “For a generic gift the best thing you can do is make it personal,” Wiltfang advises. “Take the time to personalize the wrapping, so that it looks like you put effort into it. If someone loves cars, use a vintage paper with cars on it. For a gift card to an auto parts store, I went to a junkyard and got a couple of hood ornaments to put on the outside. Something like that can cost a dollar but says you cared.”

And if all else fails, some stores do wrap. The staff at Boric Religious Supply Inc. in St. John says their holiday wrappings reflect the season’s light. “We use gold paper with white crosses, and a real pretty silver paper with stars on it, like the star of Bethlehem, so it’s perfect for Christmas.” The store asks for a donation for gift wrapping—and the donation goes to a local food pantry, so you can walk out feeling pretty merry.

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